Literature under Capitalism is perhaps my favorite chapter in Mises’ book The Anti-capitalistic mentality. Not only did this book show me Mises’ superior and unrivaled understanding of the human condition, his insights on literature was probably something that really struck me and changed the way I look at the world.
At the time, of course, Mises was referring to novels, stories, and plays. He had no concept of how literature and technology has evolved especially because of new media and yet in spite of all that, I still find his insights very relevant.
In TV shows and movies I watch, people’s statist mentality and adherence to folklore economics remain very prevalent just as he explained it would be. And this is something he explained ever so beautifully: the reasons why statist ideology will always be favored and popularly accepted by the mainstream.
The reason I am writing this would probably because of my love for the TV show Fringe. I noticed that libertarian ideas are suppressed and many times even portrayed as the immoral choice. It annoyed me, of course, but Mises already taught me that I shouldn’t even be surprised (a friend and fellow libertarian even pointed out that it’s expected since the show is about the FBI and the many bureaucracies tied up with it).
Since season 1, the question I would always ask would be who pays for all their expenses? When Olivia Dunham would fly somewhere or when Walter would need new lab equipment or a cow or any of his other shenanigans, the burden is on the taxpayer!
You know there’s that misleading idea that governments are assumed to always be financially solvent and spending is justified because it’s for the safety and defense of the citizens. But you see, governments don’t have their own money—it is all acquired through coercive taxation and inflation.
There was this bureaucrat character in season 1 who was assigned to streamline the fringe department’s budget and spending and he was deemed as the enemy—the concept that the fiscal conservatives who want to audit and cut down spending on defense is unpatriotic—thus justifying that giving more money and power to bureaucracies will make people safer.
And even I was swayed, many times finding myself saying, “No! Don’t cut their budget or abolish their department, Olivia won’t be able to save the world!”
But you see, I based this assumption merely on what’s apparent or visible and now I shall move on to recommend another brilliant book That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen by Frederic Bastiat. Here it is explained once more just why it is so hard to rid the masses of the statist mentality because the promises and arguments are so seemingly beneficial and so ingeniously disguised with good intentions that doubting them becomes easily ridiculous and shrugged off even by most intellectuals.
Of course, Fringe is fiction. But we’ve seen how fiction can shape our history and the way people think. Rizal’s fearless and provoking novels, for instance, helped ignite a revolution. Fiction, through whatever medium, can really be an effective method of spreading ideology.
I love Fringe. I really don’t know what I’d do without it. But it’s a really good thing that Mises along with many other classical liberal authors and even modern-day libertarian bloggers have equipped me with some sort of immune system against the conditioning of statist propaganda in mainstream media and literature.