Libertarian Law by Democratic Means: The Power of Ideologies and Public Opinion
Previously I explained Ludwig von Mises’s descriptive philosophy of the consent of individuals as the only thing that gives value to norms and authority. Individuals interpret norms and authority as useful—whether or not they are useful in reality for individuals’ purposes of coexistence. I continue with the explanation of how group consent originates and how it sustains norms and authorities with the help of ideologies and public opinion.
Ideologies and Ideological Entrepreneurs
In the first place, the consent of the governed refers to individual consent to ideas, more specifically to systems of ideas that Mises calls “ideologies.” From Misesian theory, the act of consenting to norms and authorities is influenced by an ideology that guides action. Ideologies are standardized sets of purposes and means that facilitate the creation of groups by simplifying individual choices. In Mises’s words:
What creates a group activity is a definite end sought by individuals and the belief of these individuals that cooperating in this group is a suitable means to attain the end sought. A group is a product of human wishes and the ideas about the means to realize these wishes. Its roots are in the value judgments of individuals and in the opinions held by individuals about the effects to be expected from definite means. To deal with social groups adequately and completely, one must start from the actions of the individuals. No group activity can be understood without analyzing the ideology that forms the group and makes it live and work.
Mises’s subjectivist-utilitarian individualism helps us to understand social phenomena on the basis of minimum certainties and by avoiding metaphysical speculations: only individuals exist in a real way, while groups exist only as the action of individuals who share the same ideologies.
In Misesian philosophical individualism, since individuals act, there are no “natural” forms of organization of society; all forms of organization are ideological, and ideologies are human inventions and choices. Therefore, ideologies are explained as immaterial products or social technologies created by concrete individuals and not by an anony
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