Thomas DiLorenzo discusses his course:
It is a testament to the power of government propaganda that several generations of self-described conservatives have held as their core belief that war and militarism are consistent with limited, constitutional government. These conservatives think they are “defending freedom” by supporting every military adventure that the state concocts. They are not.
Even just, defensive wars inevitably empower the state far beyond anything any strict constructionist would approve of. Prowar conservatives, in other words, are walking contradictions. They may pay lip service to limited constitutional government, but their prowar positions belie their rhetoric.
“War is the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne said in his famous essay of that title. Statism, moreover, means central planning, heavy taxation, fascist or socialist economics, attacks on free speech and other civil liberties, and the suffocation and destruction of private enterprise. Classical liberals have always understood this, but conservatives never have. (Neoconservatives either don’t understand it or don’t care.)
Thus, you have the celebrated neoconservative writer Victor Davis Hanson writing in the December 2, 2009, issue of Imprimis that antiwar activism and other “factors” that make people “reluctant” to resort to war are “lethal combinations” that supposedly threaten the existence of society. Hanson was merely repeating the conservative party line first enunciated by the self-proclaimed founder of the modern conservative (really neoconservative) movement, William F. Buckley Jr. Murray Rothbard quoted Buckley as saying in the January 25, 1952 issue ofCommonweal magazine that the Cold War required that
we have got to accept Big Government for the duration — for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged … except through the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.… [We must support] large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington.
“We” must advocate the destruction of the free society in the name of defending the free society, said “Mr. Conservative,” a former CIA employee.
In reality, antiwar “factors” are a threat only to the military/industrial/congressional complex, which profits from war; they are not a threat to society as a whole. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Seeing through the dense murk of such war propaganda is one of the purposes of my five-week, online Mises Academy course The Political Economy of War, which begins on March 15. Students will learn about the economics and politics of war from some of the giants of classical liberalism, such as Ludwig von Mises, Frederic Bastiat, Lionell Robbins, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, Robert Higgs, and others. Among the topics to be discussed are
- Why capitalism is the very opposite of war
- The economic causes of war
- Why nationalism is always a threat to peace and prosperity
- Why Marx was wrong about war and imperialism, but the Austrian economists got it right
- Why and how war is the health of the state, always ratcheting up governmental power at the expense of individual liberty and prosperity
- The role of free trade in deterring war
- The evils of military conscription
- How war cripples a nation’s economy, benefiting only a small group of war profiteers in the process
- How the state employs the Fed to hide and disguise the costs of war
- The role of statist intellectuals in promoting war precisely because they, too, understand that war is the health of the state
- Why conservatives love war and the state
- The dangerous myth that democracy promotes peace
- Private alternatives to a massive “national-defense” establishment
- What is a just war?
Each class will consist of a 45–50 minute lecture followed by 30 minutes of Q&A with students. My lectures will cover the topics listed on the syllabus for the course, but will be more than rehashes of the readings that are listed — I will concentrate on both my understanding of the readings (and other literature) and my own research and writings.
The video lectures are online. Lectures will be Thursday evenings, 7:30 – 9:00 pm Eastern Time. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.
All readings for the course will be free and available online.
Grades and Certificates
The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.
If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.