Adam Muller - The Early Nationalist

Adam Müller

The first to express this feeling of national­istic revolt so as to attract considerable attention, were the political economists called, in Germany, Romanticists, of whom the leading representative was Adam Heinrieh Miiller, and the two other most prominent adherents, Friedrich Gentz and Karl Ludwig von Haller. Gentz translated Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution, which work doubtless had its effect upon Miiller. Franz von Baader is also to be mentioned as one who, as Spann puts it, held "a genuinely organic conception of economic life," and "refuted the atomistic and individualist economics of Adam Smith."

Adam Miiller was born June 3, 1779, in Berlin. In 1799, he went to the University of Gottingen, where he studied law. Upon his return to Berlin, he received a government appoint­ment. Later he held various positions in Austria in what we would call the treasury department. His death occurred in 1829. While in Vienna, in 1805, he became a Roman Catholic, on which account he has been called a notorious apostate. Soon after this he went to Dresden and delivered lectures, which were published in that place in 1806, with the title, Vorlesungen vber die Deutsche Wissenschaft und Literatur (Lectures on Ger­man Science and Literature). A second edition appeared in 1807. In these lectures he advocated what is called the Schlegel'sche Romantik — the romanticism of Schlegel.
His writings are often mystical, Catholic, and reactionary. Indeed, they represent the reaction which followed the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

A leading thought in Muller's reaction against Adam Smith is the necessity of abandoning his cosmopolitanism and of found­ing a national political economy. Believing in the utility of a strong national feeling, he holds that opposition and contest among different countries are desirable. Protection to home industry, and even prohibition of certain exports and imports, are defended on the ground that they stimulate national feeling and give national character to the wealth of a people.

For the same reason, Muller advocates the use of paper money; the precious metals are too cosmopolitan for him. And a further argument which he makes in favor of paper money is that it furnishes the means of avoiding national debts, which tend to divide people into two antagonistic parties, those who possess wealth, and those who lack it.

In his system, the state is viewed in a very different light from that in which it has been regarded by any modern writer considered thus far. To him government, in itself, is a good and not an evil. In opposition to the atomistic individualism of Adam Smith, he emphasizes the organic character of the state. He even values war, because it brings into prominence the idea of the state, and the nation as a whole; thus the welfare of others becomes an object, and individual selfishness occupies a less prominent position than in times of peace. But, while Muller desired great centralization and solidarity, he did not wish to extinguish utterly individual freedom: the individual was not to be lost, but was to attain his best development as a closely-knit member of the national organism.

It is, moreover, the state which gives security to property. It is impossible to guarantee that one's wealth shall be inviola­ble save through the state. Man cannot be thought of as existing in any tolerable situation outside of the state. It is to the state that we must ascribe the continuity of society and of national economic life. Progress and accumulation are thus possible.

All this meant a different economic point of view. Take value theory, for example. Muller accuses Smith of over­emphasizing exchange value and the individual point of view. All things, he said, have a twofold usefulness: one for society; one for the individual. National power (Nationalkraft), how­ever, is the fundamental thing, all individual values being gained in and through this power, and existing subject to the effects of world and national movements.

"The problem of permanence is the most important of all political problems." On this account, Muller values the hered­itary nobility: it connects the past with the present. Adam Muller was a warm partisan and admirer of the Middle Ages, and longed for a return to them. The world, he thought, had been led astray by gold, Roman institutions, and the enjoy­ment of material luxuries. Change he hated. The permanence of institutions was dear to him above all things. He thought God had ordained that agricultural laborers should be bound to the soil. Feudal burdens and institutions of all kinds, includ­ing the gilds and corporations of the Middle Ages, seemed ad­mirable to him as binding men together and making them feel their unity. Such arrangements were better for the poorer classes, since our modern money system had made slaves of them.

Roscher considers that one of Muller's best characteristics was the earnestness with which he fought the tendency of modern political economists to overvalue economic goods and material enjoyment. He thought that the farmer should not labor exclusively for the promotion of his own material welfare, as Smith had represented him as doing: but, first of all, out of love to God, each man should consider himself a steward, admin­istering his affairs for Him who committed the stewardship unto him.

It was in accord with this general conception that Muller distinguished a geistiges Kapital (spiritual capital), which earlier generations hand down to posterity in the shape of a mass of experiences and ideas.

Although Miiller accused Smith of absolutism in neglecting the differences of place, his own work is not entirely exempt from this error. He did not recognize development in time. He regarded the Middle Ages as representing the normal con­dition of economic life for all times. He did not perceive that civilization had outgrown that period, but thought that his own time was simply an unhappy transitional state, and that the following generation would return to past institutions with a consciousness of their superiority. Muller may also be crit­icized for overlooking the part played by individuals and for recognizing them only as they work for the state.

While opposing Smith, Muller did not hesitate to express his admiration for him. He called Adam Smith "the incom­parable scholar and the greatest of politico-economic writers of all times." But Muller held that Smith in writing his Wealth of Nations, presupposed as a basis for his economic system a condition of affairs and an historical growth such as had taken place in England. This is true. Here, as in many other places, Muller corrected the one-sidedness of Smith. He did this again in calling attention to the evil effects of a division of labor, or, as he put it, "to the wicked tendency of the division of labor" {die lasterhafte Tendenz der A7,beitstheilung).