New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 2: The Significance of Austrian Economics in 20th Century Economic Thought
CHAPTER 2 9/4/03 1:16 PM Page 1 2. The significance of Austrian economics in 20th-century economic thought SOCIAL ENGINEERING AND ECONOMIC ENGINEERS The 20th century was the era of the ‘social engineer.’ Few beliefs have been as unshakable in our times as the belief that man has it in his power to transform society in any manner that he desires. Political institutions, economic systems, social customs and even the human spirit itself have been conceived as merely so many parts of a child’s erector set that can be taken apart and reassembled in any manner seen fit by those who possess the will and the power to do so. The totalitarian states of the 20th century, of course, offered the most dramatic examples of this mentality. Marxism was imposed on the Russian people as the result of a ‘grand vision’ which claimed that man’s nature was only a product of social and economic forces. Change the property relationships in society, eradicate certain ‘undesirable’ human types manifesting a ‘bourgeois’ mode of thought, ‘re-educate’ the masses into a proper ‘class consciousness’ and a ‘new man’ and a ‘new society’ would be born. The human being was just so much ‘materialistic’ putty to be refashioned by those who had the insight and foresight to know what kind of culture and society the realization of this ‘brave new world’ required. National Socialism in Germany merely changed the ingredients in this social chemistry; the formula for preparing the final solution, however, was the same...
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