The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, by Ludwig Von Mises
There’s a lot about this book that is dead-on accurate, but this is not the sort of book one writes if one wants to make friends. In reading a book, especially a bracing book like this one , it is most important to me to figure out what the audience for this book is and what the author is trying to accomplish. And here, I think, the author is writing to the wealthy socialites of the United States and letting them know that the envious haters who want to bring them down through corrupting government and society largely due so because there is no social connection between cultural and economic elites in the United States as there is in other countries. Moreover, those who are the most interested in making money in the United States are often not very enjoyable people to talk to, being interested only in money and not in history or culture or philosophy or all of the other generally non remunerative subjects I happen to be deeply interested in personally. I didn’t take this book personally–although some of it certainly applied to me–largely because I saw that the author was seeking to encourage wealthy Americans to be more sensitive to the role of envy in anti-capitalist hostility, and those who are able to successfully handle the envy of those who struggle are less likely to use this book and its argument as a bragging tool.
This short book of about 100 pages is divided into five chapters and numerous sub-sections. The author begins with the social characteristics of capitalism and the psychological causes of its vilification (1), looking at the urge for economic benefit that ends up benefiting society as a whole and the way that an open and free society makes life harder on those who do not succeed because it removes external factors they would want to blame and replaces them with that internal voice of self-blame that can be intolerable to deal with as well as resentment and envy towards those who succeed where one fails. After this the author turns to the social philosophy of the ordinary man (2), a brief examination of a largely non-capitalistic mindset. Then von Mises turns his attention to literature under Capitalism, looking at detective stories and their anti-Capitalist mindset and the bigotry and bias of many literati. Next the author looks at non-economic objections to capitalism, namely happiness, materialism, injustice, and questions about liberty, before closing with a smackdown of socialist “anti-communism” that is particularly amusing.
A great deal of importance in properly understanding this book is realizing who this book is aimed at. Von Mises is no dummy, and shows himself quite well-versed in history and culture and literature, but it does not appear that he is (here) attempting to persuade people to have a more capitalist mindset. Rather, he is ruthless in skinning those who are opposed to capitalism on psychological or personal grounds and is writing to the people who have largely succeeded thanks to capitalism. He is writing oppo research for successful capitalists to clue them in on the envy and resentment that their success is likely to bring from their own less capitalistic relatives, their resentful subordinates, intellectual and cultural elites who have not found themselves as popular and as financially successful, and with the common man who benefits from their profitable efforts but does not trust those who think and act differently than they do. On that level, this book can be appreciated no matter how much it stings, for it has a cynical but essentially accurate view of a hypercompetitive capitalist mindset and those who would oppose it for one reason or another.
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