Monday, February 13, 2012

Is vs. Ought: Mises, DeLong, Callahan, and Birth Control

I wasn't quite sure what Gene was talking about when he offered this quote as evidence that Mises was an "enthusiastic" advocate of birth control. And I noted that I wasn't all that impressed with the DeLong smackdown attempt. Mises seems to be making true statements about the role of birth control in the modern world. I see nothing in this particular passage to assuage me about the other passage DeLong quotes that suggests Mises has a problematic (to say the least) take on feminism and birth control.

Apparently I'm not alone.

But what I do I know - I'm just a Paul Krugman/Brad DeLong lackey that agrees with whatever they say, right?

For all I know Mises was an enthusiastic advocate of birth control and a poster-child for feminism by the 1950s (the other passages were from decades earlier). I just know Gene's quote doesn't really prove that.


  1. I think he fell in the larger liberal tradition on that issue. I don't recall reading anywhere that he was personally against the use of birth control or the rise of feminism.

    Actually, he disagreed with feminism in as much as it supported socialist government policy. He was happy to grant legitimacy to feminism in the larger context of a liberal society - ie, where all are equal under the law.

  2. But would he agree with the statement "husband and wife are coequals"? The only answer I can give is "By the end of his life - I don't know, but that doesn't seem to be the case in the 1920s".

    The 1920s were a long time ago. The 1950s were a long time ago. And one can question whether Mises is really at the cutting edge of social thought without labeling him a monster. But let's not give him credit simply because that seems like what the libertarian position ought to be (not saying this is what you're doing).

  3. Relevant links at

  4. Is it just me or does Mises talk about everything under the sun in his books?

    Nothing against it, but in Omnipotent Government - his discussion of the economic causes of WW2 - he discussed the irrationality of various nationalist movements, including the Israeli national movement (despite being Jewish!).

    Here, one treatise on economics takes an unusual turn towards discussing birth control, and so does a book on socialism.

  5. Mises thought birth control was a big positive. He was not a feminist. Is there some difficulty in thinking both are true?

  6. "And one can question whether Mises is really at the cutting edge of social thought without labeling him a monster."

    Yes, and I have repeatedly said at the blog where this originally showed up that Mises was NOT a progressive, and not a feminist... he was just not anti-birth control, as originally claimed.

    Who would WANT to be on the cutting edge of social thought, when we've got the knife we do?!


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