The Rise of the Mises Caucus

Ludwig von Mises

by Bruce Majors

Virginia had elections this week that garnered no media coverage: internal elections for offices in the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia.

Voters and the media pay little attention to Libertarian and other smaller party candidates except when they poll well enough to look like spoilers. That happened in the 2013 gubernatorial election when Robert Sarvis won 5% of the vote, tilting the election, many Republicans believed, from their candidate Ken Cuccinelli to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and in the 2016 presidential presidential campaign when Gary Johnson at one point polled in the double digits.

Libertarians played no such spoiler role in 2021, yet in off-year elections some 150 of them were elected to local offices across the country, mainly in smaller rural and suburban jurisdictions — doubling the number of elected Libertarians. (None were in Virginia.) Perhaps more significantly, Libertarians have been redefining themselves. In the past, the party had a left-leaning streak that stressed such ideas as legalizing all drugs, opening the borders to immigration, and eliminating taxes. Over the past year, though, the Libertarian Party has experienced an internal revolution led by a group called the Mises Caucus.

Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian Jew, fled the Nazis and became a professor of economics at New York University. There he founded a school of free market economics dubbed “Austrian economics,” along with his Nobel Laureate student Friedrich Hayek, author of the oft-cited book, “The Road to Serfdom.” (Austrian economics is a specialty of the economics department at Northern Virginia’s George Mason University.) The ideas of Mises, Hayek, and the Austrian economists have seeped out of the libertarian movement and infiltrated mainstream thinking among conservative Republicans and even some decentralists on the Left.

One of Mises’ chief concerns were how governments manipulated interest rates and money supplies by creating money and credit and government debt, which he argued causes business cycles. He also explained how government has imperfect knowledge about supply, demand, and opportunities in the economy, information captured by changing prices, and, so, cannot effectively plan an economy.

Hayek wrote more widely on social, political and philosophical topics, and argued that as government planning and intervention creates economic failure, leading to the rise of dishonest, grifting, and brutal politicians who will look for scapegoats to blame for their failed policies. These ideas may be abstract to most people, but they explain what Americans are seeing in the wreckage of the Biden economy.

To outsiders the Mises people might look Trumpian, or at least like a right-populist movement, compared to the left-libertarians. Most Mises libertarians would reject this characterization, pointing to, among other things, their radically pro-free trade advocacy. But they do tend to emphasize private property and free market economics as the core of their politics.  Many entered the libertarian movement by working on campaigns for former Congressman Ron Paul, a gold bug and promoter of Austrian economics, who was actually the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. However one might describe the Mises Caucus, it shares with many conservative groups de-platforming attacks from Facebook and other tech titans for “wrong thought” posts about COVID and other policies.

The Libertarian Party has had a decades-long internal struggle between “coastal elite” campaign consultants and think tank executives, often working in jobs funded by Charles and David Koch, and other libertarians who do not work professionally in politics and the media. The latter have long decried the former as variously “Beltway libertarians” (the Kochtopus, Craniacs, after former CATO Institute executive Ed Crane) or as “liberaltarians” because of their alleged need to ingratiate themselves with the Democratic media establishment. In the 1980s these outsider libertarians were led by Murray Rothbard, another Austrian economics professor who was a student of Ludwig von Mises.  The “professional libertarians” sometimes belittle the competence and messaging of their rivals.

On Saturday 50-odd Libertarian delegates elected new officers in an online convention, and a Mises or right-populist trend was discernible. It looked as if, as in many states, the Mises Caucus had conducted a recruitment drive, persuading Ron Paul fans and others who were not previously in the Libertarian Party to join and become delegates at state and local conventions. (One long-time local Libertarian activist and former LP candidate for Virginia state delegate summed it up: “I’m not anti-Mises, but I am concerned about a bunch of what are essentially random people populating the entire board.”)

Like the Virginia general election, where the GOP routed Democrats, several offices were taken for the first time by candidates who were women or African American.

Jake Berube, a lantern-jawed advertising sales man for conservative media sites like Human Events and the Washington Examiner, was elected chairman over incumbent Adam Theo, a government contractor who had just run as one of several independents for Arlington county council. Theo had identified himself in his race as a “progressive libertarian,” emphasizing issues like eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement.

Josie Gallagher, a tax consultant for small businesses and a Ron Paul fan was elected vice chair for Arlington and Alexandria, over Alex Pilkington, a paralegal at the (in)famous Democrat-affiliated law firm Covington and Burling and a former CATO Institute intern who said open immigration would be a primary area of focus.

C.J. Cunningham, another Ron Paul fan, was elected vice chair for Fairfax and Falls Church. Dan Ford, a veteran and the only African American running, was elected vice chair for Loudoun County. William Ogle, a physicist who made his Mises affiliation explicit in his campaign speech, was elected treasurer over Theo associate Katie Wilson. James Waddell was elected secretary and Henry Baraket, an immigrant from the Middle East who said he had fled tyranny and appreciated liberty, was elected as the board’s at-large member. As the aforementioned long-term activist summed it up: “I don’t know anything at all about these guys. Literally never heard their names before today.”

Just as Virginia’s off-year election predicts the 2022 midterms, another long-term activist participating in the convention says it predicts what will happen at the Libertarians’ statewide convention later this year: “Obviously the notable thing is a clean sweep by the Mises Caucus folks. It speaks to the general trend of rapid increase in the size of the Mises Caucus and many small ‘l’ libertarians joining the Libertarian Party. … Based on today, I’d anticipate overwhelming support for the Mises Caucus at the statewide convention in a few months.” The Virginia Libertarian Party holds its convention in February in Glen Allen.

So, a new caucus is pulling new members into Virginia’s third largest party, which has shown itself able to affect Virginia elections. But are they just doing this to take over another state party, and its delegation, so they can decide who the Libertarians run as a Presidential candidate in 2024? Or will they use their new recruits to actually run in local and state offices in Virginia?

Northern Virginia resident Bruce Majors has written for The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, Reason, and other publications. He writes a Substack column, The Insurrection.

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40 responses to “The Rise of the Mises Caucus”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “These ideas may be abstract to most people, but they explain what Americans are seeing in the wreckage of the Biden economy.”

    Somebody missed the last jobs report…

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      At this moment, Republicans are fearful of, and as usual, promoting the fear of inflation. It is the crying towel they wave when the other team scores economic points.

      Like the medium who predicts the end of the world, they only need be correct once to gain credibility. But it has been nearly 50 years since there has been Nixonian inflation rates.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Both government spending on public infrastructure projects as well as Central Bank management of inflation are big NO NOs with Libertarians…

        I call the candidates as not real Libertarians – but Libertarian LITE where many of the underlying fundamentals are not brought up.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      and also some of the more wacko ideas of Mises and Hayek…IMHO. Simple things like public roads, public schools and public right-of-ways, and indeed how most zoning laws and urban settlement patterns would be problematical under fundamental Libertarian concepts.

      The closest thing to Libertarian principles in real economies exists in 3rd world countries.

      1. Bruce at Liberty Avatar
        Bruce at Liberty

        I am not sure that I would use government managed roads and schools – given their quality – as an argument for government control of the economy.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          as compared to what ? 3rd world countries?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            The “free market” does NOT benefit the middle class at all. In fact, in a libertarian economy there is NO middle class to speak of – like you see in most 3rd world countries.

          2. The middle class is disappearing now under a growing welfare state. Like all your posts, the opposite of what you say is true. The middle class only comes into being when markets organize the economy, which is evident over much of the world today wherever there is an emerging middle class. Unfortunately for you everything you “know” is fiction, and you see the world through those clouded lenses.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            I just look at facts and data and there is no ambiguity at all.

            The middle class is a main characteristic of all developed countries – all of which have health care and public education and public roads , electricity, water/sewer, modern hospitals, on and on.

            Libertarians live in LA LA LAND – what they advocate for is found in 3rd world and developing world countries – litt or no middle class at all… lower literacy, lower GDP and lower life expectancy, slums out the wazoo, no electricity, no water/sewer, roads are dirt, murder rates 10 times what it is in developed countries, etc.

    3. Bruce at Liberty Avatar
      Bruce at Liberty

      I suspect most Republicans are hoping that Democrats continue to whistle in the dark or chat amongst themselves in the insular bubbles of media etc. that they control.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    My savings and checking accounts are flush. I’m evaluating and negotiating three job offers. This economy sucks!

    1. Bruce at Liberty Avatar
      Bruce at Liberty

      That must be why Democrats were re-elected everywhere last week, Because so many people – not just Northern Virginia bureaucrats and lobbyists – are doing so well.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          All 3 ATHs

        2. how_it_works Avatar

          Stock prices keeping up with inflation.

          1. Bruce at Liberty Avatar
            Bruce at Liberty

            It’s funny how the “party of working people” points to price inflation in luxury real estate and stocks as proof the economy is good. They should really point out how much Hunter Biden paintings have appreciated in the past year.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            and there you have the real “libertarian” philosophy!

          3. how_it_works Avatar

            By that measure, the economy in the late 70s must have been booming!

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: the “party of working people” and health insurance.

            The Libs, as far as I can tell, oppose any govt involvement in health insurance. Not Medicare nor Medicaid but also not tax incentives for employer-provided nor Govt rules that insurance companies have to accept all subscribers and for the same premium price for employer provided.

            The Libs would make everyone take care of their own health insurance, right and allow insurance companies to decide who they would insure (or not) and for how much.


          5. Bruce at Liberty Avatar
            Bruce at Liberty

            You should read about Certificates of Need, which are a real issue in Virginia. I suspect you have never heard of them. Government restricts the supply – and thus drives up the price – of healthcare just as it does with housing. One gets the feeling Democrats cannot see much beyond the feed trough with their blinders on.

          6. I Love Libertarians Avatar
            I Love Libertarians

            Wrong. They’re against coerced regulations and taxations, including the offical monopolies proposed by the far-left. They also don’t confuse government with public or commons entities.

            They favor unions owning health foundations, presently illegal. They favor commons trusts and endowments funded voluntarily that would help everyone.

          7. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Given the loss of defined pension plans and the rape thereof in the 1990s by large employers, the markets are now more important measures of the economy than they were when you learned what you don’t know.

          8. Bruce at Liberty Avatar
            Bruce at Liberty

            Oh, with Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax and the Loudoun County school board, I thought the Virginia Democrat Party had told you all you can’t use the word “rape.” People who use the word rape are all white supremacists.

          9. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Male chauvinist pig. Big difference.

          10. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            From the last jobs report… 11.2% in year-over-year nominal wage gains for leisure and hospitality workers… Way to go Brandon!!

          11. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Sorry, stocks are far outstripping inflation. YTD DOW is 19% while inflation is around 5%.

          12. how_it_works Avatar

            Inflation is around 5% in a normal year.

          13. Eric the half a troll Avatar
            Eric the half a troll

            Untrue, inflation typically runs around 2-3% per year. It is currently at 5% year to year.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    As an aside, I keep my resume on file with my professional society. On a monthly basis, they provide an email that indicates the number of searches that it appears in, and the number of times the full resume was downloaded for review.

    Usually the numbers are 2 to 5 on searches and 0 (mostly, since I limited interest to home consulting work) to 2 maximum on the downloads.

    Last month the search appearance number was 19. That, BTW, is a 20+ year high number by easily 6-sigma. Zero downloads.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        More than likely. But, let’s just say a percentage. Pick a number between 10 and 70. I respect you too much to haggle.

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          That’s way above my pay grade.

  4. Fred Costello Avatar
    Fred Costello

    Third-party candidates should run within the Democrat or Republican parties; otherwise, they are simply spoilers. Spoilers get funds from either Democrats or Republicans, depending on which party they hurt.

    1. I’m not sure I understand your point.

      If a candidate runs as either a democrat or a republican then by definition he/she is not a third party candidate.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Let it go. He’s on a roll.

    2. I Love Libertarians Avatar
      I Love Libertarians

      Libertarians are in all parties and vote to a specific strategy that assures deadlock.

      Libertarian candidates win, and often the numbers show the libertarian voters have the balance of power so they get serious love.

      Don’t recycle communist talking points.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Me too? The rise of the misses caucus?

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