Libertarianism and the Importance of Understanding Causality
Even though support for the free market has become stronger in the last decades, libertarianism can still only be considered a fringe movement. Most people still believe that many social problems are due to “market failure” and therefore require state intervention to be “solved.” Despite the obvious flaws of modern socialism—with its unlikely combination of a redistributive welfare state and globalist crony capitalism—and despite libertarianism’s robust philosophical and empirical foundations, the liberalism of Ludwig von Mises is still far from enjoying the majority support that it so amply deserves.
There are many reasons for this. Of course, media bias and public education prevent the dissemination of the ideas of freedom in society and limit the understanding of the free market. However, an often overlooked, yet equally important, reason is a general disregard for causality. When the real and underlying causes for social and economic problems are unknown or misunderstood, the public’s support for wrong-headed statist solutions to these problems is not surprising.
The Importance of Causes
The importance of causes to human inquiry has been grasped since early antiquity, crystalizing with Aristotle and his theory of causality. Following in this tradition, Herbert Spencer considered the discovery of causal laws the essence of science; those who disregard the importance of the identification of causes, whatever the subject matter, are liable to draw erroneous conclusions.
In the Twilight of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche chastised modern society for still making errors of causality; namely, “the error of false causality,” “the error of imaginary causes,” and “the error of the confusion of cause and effect.” Unfortunately, these errors are made frequently in all areas of economic and political life.
In the realm of international relations, for instance, a disregard for contemporary history has led to an ignorance of the real causes of serious political events. Today’s conflicts could arguably have been avoided if their many and deep causes had been soberly and objectively considered by decision-makers. When George Santayana said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and when George Orwell wrote in his masterpiece 1984
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