Ludwig von Mises believes that "in general, men the world over expect a social system to provide "peace and abundance."[sic] (from "Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order", Baumgarth, quoted in https://oll.libertyfund.org/page/mises-major-writings)

Do we have empirical data supporting the idea that people over the world expect a social system to provide "peace and abundance"? Encompassing very various societies, from, say Italy, to Afghanistan, to the Philippines.

I know of one research supporting it, which concerns Japan (Miwa 2018).

While Japanese voters highly prioritized economic stability and social order, Japanese political candidates tended to prioritize freedom and equality.

From one study to the other, "peace" and "abundance" might be translated into more precise or not 100% matching criteria, such as in the study above where "stable job and appropriate income" could be interpreted as a translation for "abundance".

Still, I understand "peace" as meaning "a society where the level of physical violence on a daily basis is low overall" and "abundance" as meaning "a society where people have relatively easy access to a relatively high quantity of material goods and services".


Voltaire held a different view:

All men are born with a sufficiently violent liking for domination, wealth and pleasure, and with much taste for idleness; consequently, all men want their money and the wives or daughters of others, to be their master, to subject them to all their caprices, and to do nothing, or at least to do only very agreeable things. You see clearly that with these fine inclinations it is as impossible for men to be equal as it is impossible for two predicants or two professors of theology not to be jealous of each other. (Voltaire, Philosophical dictionary, "Equality" article).


Miwa, H. (2018). Value preferences and structures among Japanese voters and political candidates. Japanese Political Science Review, 4, 61-85.

  • why limit "peace" to the absence of physical violence? Bullying, insults, harassment, while not physical in nature are definitely not part of a peaceful society.
    – armand
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 2:36
  • @armand because to me peace is still broadly understood as referring to the absence of physical violence. Most of human history is made of physical aggression, and relatively peaceful societies where people can start taking care about another, more subtile, kind of violence, are still new. IMK it was not until recently that debates started to raise concerning psychological harassment in developed countries
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 2:46
  • 2
    Dunno what you're asking... ppl don't like to get beaten up (or worse), ppl like assured food, shelter etc. Seems like a tautology to me. So what is the question really?
    – Rushi
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 10:45
  • @Rushi I think it is an important issue, and in the case of Mises it is one important bit of his argumentation, so I think it deserves an empirical investigation. Thx for your comment.
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 11:07
  • @Rushi See also my comments under haxor789 answer
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 13:37

3 Answers 3


On the Cyrus Cylinder, arguably the first reciprocal commitment between a ruler and their people, Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians.

The Mandate of Heaven, was a Chinese philosophy that there was a right of rebellion against rulers who were unjust, or in the face of famine flood and widespread poverty.

The Pax Romana was inaugurated by a ceremony by Emperor Augustus of Closing The Gates of Janus symbolising that Rome was at peace, and creation of the Ara Pacis, an altar to the Pax. The altar has a lower frieze depicting agricultural work meant to communicate the abundance and prosperity of the Peace. The monument and the significance of the Pax were the centrepiece of propaganda to ease the tensions around ending the Republic and formalising autocratic control, which had got Caesar assassinated. The concept led to many other examples of propaganda terms for justifying imperial control by peace, like the Pax Britannica.

What I think is interesting about these examples, is that they covered systems of absolute rule, but show a discourse engaging with justification to the ruled why they should accept a ruler and their system. These formal expectations of justification by peace and plenty also covered huge areas of the world, and vast spans of time.

Genghis Khan's rule was justified by him beating the other contenders for leadership, and uniting the tribes. In the face of two very cold winters and associated risk of starvation, he was able to secure fealty with the promise successful wars. It's interesting that while mainly known for vast destruction, his empire also secured what is called the Pax Mongolica, allowing the flourishing of trade, especially on the Silk Road. Trade generally produces far more wealth than conquest, and in the long run contentions between power blocks often come down to which has the stronger economy.

Religion has been a major source of state cohesion, like Pakistan meaning the "land of the spiritually pure and clean". Many states have been defined by and centred on commitment to religious rituals and traditions, not to delivery of peace or ptopserity. However, plagues and failed harvests were often interpreted as a state or ruler having lost favour with deity/ies, like the Plague of Thebes relating to the sins of Oeidipus, or the Black Death leading people to perform Bonfires of the Vanities.

Social Contract theory formalises the idea of consent by the governed to the government. For Hobbes it was the need above all for rule-of-law that forced people to accept an absolute monarchy forever, to avoid life being nasty brutish and short. For Rousseau who had a more positive picture of the State of Nature, it meant a more reciprocal obligation between ruled and rulers, creating a right to rebel against rule which no longer served a people. As Thomas Jefferson summarised it, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty."

So peace and prosperity are not the only modes of expectation from government, it may be the promise of war and conquest that brings people together though likely for hostorically short eras, or it may be religious rites although it can be argued these tacitly expect peace and prosperity for those 'right with the gods'.

Arguably the beginning of human cooperation into states, involves getting a group to risk death fighting to preserve a system of organisation. So there have to be benefits, materially or psycholigically at least for those committed to military service, which historically was the basis of citizenship. I would relate that bioligically, evolutionarily, to the expectation that descendents will be better off with the system, even if the 'ultimate sacrifice' is required.

So while peace and prosperity are not absolute expectations for all people in all times, the expectation of benefit (at very least to the elite) is the basis of human cooperation, which we now describe as the Social Contract. Wars consume vast resources, and lives, so peace and prosperity generally coincide. There needs to be a good reason for war, like a radical disagreement in world view, or explicit threats to those who will fight.

In short, yes I think Mises statement is justified.

  • You tackled the question in a very nice and interesting way, and broadly made your point. I am not sure about the Gengis Khan example. How does in fit? It says that he was supported because he promised war.
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 12:41
  • "the expectation of benefit" which benefit?
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 12:41
  • Starckman: Genghis Khan was a counterexample. Others like the first Qin Emperor & Alexander the Great also offered more total war, than peace. Benefit generally means security, & prosperity - enough to fight & die to secure
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 16:02
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    @ScottRowe: I'd say it's maybe the best reason. Some act of war, a grievance, is just contingent events, which often soldiers going to war had no say in. Whereas, whether your descendents will prosper under ruthless capricious autocracy, or a system where they have participation in decusions, that really matters. Russia and Ukraine have almost the same language, essentially the same culture. But which view wins, will impact generations of people, whether they can creatively contribute or only tow the line, whether they can be themselves or have to hide from death squads for being different.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:44
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    @ScottRowe: I heard it put also about Ukranians, that when a people refuse to accept not being free, their enemies can only leave them alone or kill them. Being 'unreasonable' in the face of oppression, brooking no compromise with it, is then the real basis of life without authoritarianism..
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 10:13

Ludwig von Mises believes that "in general, men the world over expect a social system to provide "peace and abundance."[sic] (from "Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order", Baumgarth, quoted in https://oll.libertyfund.org/page/mises-major-writings)

This encodes essentially two claims a) that people around the world expect their social systems to do something and b) what it is that they expect them to.

Now with regards to b) that seems rather inoffensive. "Not dying or suffering" has a pretty universally high appeal for humans and really just for most living things in general. So without any empirical study I'd argue that's a pretty safe guess.

One possible angle of attack would be the meaning of "abundance". Like while most people would place the lack of scarcity rather high in their list of priorities "abundance" goes a lot further than that. And from the top of my head I could think of religious and other groups who prioritize an ascetic and frugal lifestyle which may or may not cause a conflict with the assertion of "abundance" (depending on the definition and the intent of that statement).

And with regards to a), that is what people expect from a social system, well that makes the tacit assumption that the social system is the result of voluntary cooperation, but there are plenty of social systems that aren't and people might not expect anything or at least nothing positive from them in the first place.

  • ""Not dying or suffering" has a pretty universally high appeal" Far-left revolutionary anarchists and communists hold the hate of the bourgeois to drive people into extreme political violence, far-right hold the hate of other-races to drive people into extreme political violence, same for the Christians during the Crusades, or the Islamist groups today. And there are some tribes like the Jivaro, the Yanomami, the Dani, which are extremely violent. What would be your account for these cases?
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 13:07
  • One could argue that the revolutionary leftists and the religious extremists promised a perfect land of peace and prosperity (or at least lack of scarcity). But we could respond to that that they first hold other values (social equality and moral purity) has primary over other values (peace and prosperity).
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 13:12
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    @Starckman 2/ I'm not generally a fan of Mises and the Austrian School of Economics/Anarcho Capitalism/"Libertarianism" who wrap themselves in talks of liberty while often in effect shed any responsibility for their action and disregard how they squash the liberty of other people and you can argue that the way he formulates it makes it look like human relations are purely instrumental and meant for individual gains. While there are other factors in that. Like idk having children would for the longest part be a net negative if you looked at it just through the lens of material gains.
    – haxor789
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 14:42
  • 1
    @Starckman 3/ That being said humans do have urgent needs that they need to fulfill and safety and subsistence are among the most urgent ones and cooperative social groups help in advancing these goals. Now to argue it's about the means rather than the goals, is both true and false. I unfortunately have to go so I need to continue that idea later :(
    – haxor789
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 14:49
  • 1
    @haxor789: Not from a 'genes-eye' perspective, which from a game-theory perspective on morality, probably should be considered the 'player', at root
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 16:06

Mises was incorrect in believing that individuals universally search "peace and prosperity". I would contend that individuals universally, in part, search peace and prosperity (see other answers and comments).

But there are too many counter-examples where other values are hold also highly, or even come first.

Far-left revolutionary anarchists and communists hold the hate of the bourgeois to drive people into extreme political violence (for seek of ethical purity, or perfect equality), far-right activists hold the hate of other races to drive people into extreme political violence (for sake of ethnical purity), same for the Christians during the Crusades, or the Islamist groups today (for sake of ethical purity). And there are some tribes like the Jivaro, the Yanomami, the Dani, which are extremely violent (for sake of ethical and ethnical purity, I suppose).

One could argue that the revolutionary leftists and the religious extremists promised a perfect land of peace and prosperity (or at least lack of scarcity). The nazis had the idea of "Lebensraum" which is like a promised land for their race, and is supposed to be like a Garden of Eden.

But what we could respond to that is that they first hold other values (ethical and/or ethical purity) as primary over other values (peace and prosperity).

What would be the rational? The rational would be that moral or ethnical purity is not the goal in and for itself pursued by the individual, but a means and an excuse for domination. Why? Because such societies are hierarchical and oppressive (no individual liberty) societies, in which the individual can seek hierarchical domination by exhibiting a higher morality than others, or a higher devotion to the group than others. The group to which they belong can also develop the belief of its superiority to other groups, and impose itself on other groups via force.

This kind of society do indeed allow people to fulfill a universal motive for domination, but the lack of civil, political, and economic freedom has the consequence of preventing prosperity, and therefore peace (scarcity often leading to physical violence). And at the end, there is even not much domination, because most people live very short and brutish lives.

So I would say that Mises was wrong, individuals search peace and prosperity, AND dominance (or status). And what classical liberals propose is to alleviate that problem by allowing people to fulfill these goals, but in a non violent way, via entrepreneurship and individualism. So classical liberal societies do not need to pretend and force people in being ethically or ethnically pure.

Via entrepreneurship, people can impose themselves, but ‘peacefully’ (being richer than others). This brings material prosperity. And people who do not want to seek dominance can simply not seek social dominance.

Via individualism, people can compete via a lot of different means, instead of via a closed set of values. They can quit and form different little communities indefinitely, instead of getting stuck in one monolithic community. This may prevent individuals from accumulating grievance toward other people.

And finally classical liberals settled the rule of law, which prevents individuals to take charge of injustice retaliation by themself (revenge), often leading to infinite violence.

  • Then Marx and French postmodernists crushed this classical liberal revolution by saying that their principles pretending to be defending freedom against domination are themselves tools of domination. But their argumentation is based on a non-falsifiable idea, which is that of "fausse conscience". Also, if individuals speak and act on a "fausse conscience", then these authors also do. Therefore I do not know why I should believe them.
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 11:47
  • 1/ So your argument is essentially that "these are not the ONLY motivating factors of an individual". Well there's a concept called "Maslow's hierarchy of needs" essentially survival being foundational, then the individual would try to seek a niche for itself so belonging, love, acceptance, esteem, and then it would try to comprehend its world and optimize itself and later the world itself. Now there's seem to be some criticism about the order of needs and whether it's a hierarchy or how to group it or how they evolve with personal development, but sure there is more than pure survival.
    – haxor789
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 13:07
  • 2/ Also it's not so much domination that people seek, but "freedom" and "agency", the ability to act and influence one's self and one's environment. Which can in the extreme take the form of domination, but doesn't have to and isn't fully captured with domination. The problem being that if you go towards domination, this whole thing becomes a zero sum game where freedom for one is only to be achieved at the expense of another. Meaning if they all want individual freedom they will end up in conflict. So you'd be at a crossroad, ignore the rest or find ways to compromise with each other.
    – haxor789
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 13:14
  • "I would not and did not say that." ??? I mean you did just say that "I would not and did not say that. ", right? The thing is I was somewhat confused where you think Mises is wrong about peace and abundance and so far your argument is that there is more than that. I thought that was just an affirmation of fact, if it isn't than you might want to specify your goal a bit more.
    – haxor789
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 13:22
  • @haxor789 I would say that peace, prosperity and status are the 3 major motivations of human beings. On status, see the work of psychologist Cameron Anderson. Maybe because domination is also associated to abundance (in material goods, in mates, etc.), and also to peace (if you dominate, maybe could you afford a higher protection?)
    – Starckman
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 13:25

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