December 4, 2014
What Ludwig von Mises would have thought of ISIS?
Talk about ISIS dominates the news media. How must we stop them? Are we too late? Why are we standing back? Questions like this are fruitful grounds for ethical debate, but when it comes to discussions about actual threat ISIS is to the United States or ISIS's longevity, author John Tamny from Forbes, proclaimed that Ludwig von Mises would be rather unconcerned about ISIS as a threat.
After all, what source of monetary income does ISIS have? What is their governmental framework? From what has been observed, governmental income of ISIS seems to be limited to exerting force to take wealth from proclaimed subjects in exchange for protection (which happens to be protection from ISIS themselves), which sounds similar to taxation. While there is existing wealth that can be accrued from the region of Iraq and Syria, what sources of income are there from this region? According to Tamny, none besides oil. But by strengthening the dollar, the US could effectively price out ISIS oil, so that source could be eliminated.
So, according to Tamny, any society with no source of increasing income cannot field a large threat due to monetary constraints. While it may seem scary to see ISIS's sudden acquisition of funds, those funds will not last forever. A government which expels all economic freedom or freedom of action by either legal means or through extortion of funds, or unjust taxation, will inevitably stifle the economic growth of that society or political realm.
But the amount of capital or money that ISIS has already gained would pose a sizable threat if it was used to its full potential. However, Tamny relates to an earlier quote by Mises in Socialism, "Only temporarily do the nations in a lower state of organization manage to co-operate for great military enterprises. Internal disunity has always dispersed their armies very quickly." This suggests that the funds ISIS can obtain will eventually be squabbled out among factions or leaders seeking access to those funds. Internal strife will occur when everybody wishes to seize ownership over a fixed amount of resources through use of force. In a free economy, resources and goods are always expanding, so there is room for a continually expanding wealth of its members without only taking it from other owners. It's safe to say that Mises would flip the channel and grumble and go for a snack when the news hysteria about ISIS's threats were aired.