Long before he wrote his famous dystopian and prophetic novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, George Orwell knew exactly which way the wind was blowing. In his essay “Inside the Whale” (published 11th March 1940), which is mainly a review of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”, he writes, among many other clever observations:
“What is quite obviously happening, war or no war, is the break-up of laissez-faire capitalism and of the liberal-Christian culture.”
Interestingly, in the same year, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, one of the most clear-sighted thinkers of the 20th century, and one of the most staunch defenders of laissez-faire capitalism, wrote in his autobiography (quote found here):
“Occasionally I entertained the hope that my writings would bear practical fruit and show the way for policy. Constantly I have been looking for evidence of a change in ideology. But…I have come to realize that my theories explain the degeneration of a great civilization; they do not prevent it. I set out to be a reformer, but only became the historian of decline.”
Both, of course, were right. It remains to us, the people living through the horrors they saw coming, to change course.
Von Mises’ writings didn’t bear fruit politically in his lifetime. And, although his ideas now have a strong and dedicated following, still don’t bear any fruit. Despite the fact that his followers predicted the financial crisis of 2008/9, while other economists laughed at them.
Maybe the reason for this fruitlessness can be found in Orwell’s above quote. Maybe laissez-faire capitalism and the “liberal-Christian” culture stand and fall together. Maybe they are two sides of the same coin. Maybe the one cannot be revived without the other. Maybe, as long as they don’t realise that they need each other, they are both doomed to live in the shadows. And, until a sufficient amount of people realise this connection, and act upon it, the whole world is destined to live through a new dark age.