Mises’ Lessons for Activists

Ludwig von Mises "Tu ne cede malis."Ludwig von Mises is the white knight of the Austrian School. His life and work have shaped and guided classical liberalism, libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, and volutaryism in profound ways. A careful reading of his magnum opus, Human Action, can radically alter and improve our approach to activism, fundraising, and recruiting. 

In the first chapter of Human Action, “Acting Man,” Mises identifies three necessary conditions for a man to act. First, he must feel discontent or uneasiness; there must be something he doesn’t like about his life.  Second, he must have an image of a more satisfying state of affairs. Third, and most vital, he must have some expectation that his actions “will remove or at least alleviate the felt uneasiness.”

Mises’s analysis can serve as a template for building events. Our job as activists is, essentially, to get people to act. Therefore our activities should be geared towards Mises’s prerequisites of action.  When you plan your activism, use the Misesian matrix.  

1. A State of Discontent or Uneasiness

How does our issue affect people personally? How can we show them why they should feel uneasy, outraged, or discontented about the current situation? 

2.  An Image of a More Satisfying State of Affairs

What is the solution to the problem? What would the country/state/city look like in our proposed world? How would the removal of the problem make our audience happier? 

3. A Reasonable Expectation that Action Will Be Effective

We have to show people that their involvement will matter.  People want to be a part of a solution. If they don’t feel like they can make a difference, they won’t get involved. It’s our job to show them that they can.

The Misesian matrix is simple but effective. Make sure these elements are in your activism, and you’ll inspire people to act. That’s the measure of an activist’s success.  

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