Introduction: Redmond Weissenberger is Chairman, Executive Director and a Founding Director of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, which was founded in 2010 and is one of the Mises Institutes now operating in over 20 countries. The mission of Mises Canada is “to educate the public on the importance of placing human choice at the center of economic theory, to encourage a revival of critical historical research, and to advance the Misesian tradition of thought through the defense of the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations.”
While studying fine art at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Redmond read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, beginning his study of economics that culminated in the discovery of the Austrian School. After graduation Redmond spent seven years as an industrial designer, working for a company involved in manufacturing residential lighting in China for sale in North America, and then a boutique design/build architectural firm involved with projects such as Norman Foster’s Bow skyscraper in Calgary, Alberta. The effects of the US housing bubble and central bank monetary policy were deeply felt in these sectors, and the Austrian School provided the answers to questions he had about the business cycle. Redmond founded Mises Canada in 2010 to address the lack of knowledge about the true cause of our booms and busts of the last 100 years and the need for sound money and sound economics to be applied to the Canadian and global economy.
Daily Bell: Give us some background on yourself. Where did you grow up? What were your formative economic influences?
Redmond Weissenberger: I was born in Ottawa. My father had been born in post-WW2 Germany, his mother and father being ethnic German refugees from the Sudentenland and Hungary respectively, and immigrated to Canada soon after. My mother was born in Sault Ste Marie to a Canadian soldier and a Dutch war bride. My father was in the Canadian foreign service and after I was born we lived in Paris, France and Melbourne, Australia. After we returned to Canada my parents divorced and my father was then stationed in Washington DC so I have had an international perspective on the world – not necessarily a rootlessness, but certainly the ability to put my "citizenship" in and identity as "Canadian" within this context of travel.
Living within these two capitals and travelling between the two jurisdictions gave me an ability to see the styles of governance and their effect on the populace and how each of those populations saw themselves.
As for my formative economic influences, I was inundated with the radio signal of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation growing up and so naturally it instilled in me the sort of bourgeois elitist bureaucratic mentality that a state run media organization sweats out of its pores. But I was so surrounded by it that it just became the background. I would say that my basic sense of economics was based on the
Daily Bell: You are director of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and we'll ask much more about that in our next interview. For now, any comment on the good work of the Mises Institute in the US?
Redmond Weissenberger: Without the work that Lew Rockwell, Burt Blumert and Murray Rothbard have done to launch and grow the Mises Institute in Auburn Alabama, the worldwide resurgence of the Austrian School, of which Mises Canada is but a small part, would not exist.
Daily Bell: Why has Austrian free-market thinking swept the world? Did the Internet play a role?
Redmond Weissenberger: As far as I am concerned, "Austrian free-market thinking" is simply common sense – it takes years of indoctrination to believe that you can get something for nothing. When I happened upon the teachings of the Austrian School I came to the understanding that I had been an Austrian for all my life, but simply hadn't realized it.
The Internet has certainly played a role in the spreading of the Austrian School. In fact, without the "Google alerts" tool who knows how long it would have been before I discovered the Austrian School? The Internet has enabled the spread of ideas throughout the world at what can be called "the click of a button," to indulge in a cliché.
Daily Bell: Are people desperate for alternatives to the current system?
Redmond Weissenberger: Certain people are always desperate for alternatives, and I would say that certain individuals such as the politicians, bureaucrats, union members, state welfare recipients, Wall Street and Bay Street, beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex, etc. are not desperate for an alternative to the current system. In fact, they are desperate to keep the current system afloat through whatever means necessary.
Then there are the "great unwashed masses," as one might put it, who generally go with the flow and might not understand who benefits from the current system, or who may not even understand that a "system" exists that they are part of. These people might grow angry when the current system slowly disintegrates, but they may simply pine for the earlier days when the system "functioned" for the many and do not demand change, except for a restoration of what previously existed. As the current Social-Democratic Welfare state declines they may grow desperate if they don't find an alternative to state largesse.
And then there are the ones who are able to see the current system for what it is and how it operates and call for an alternative. I don't see them as desperate, as they recognize what must be done and act in certain ways to secure their own quality of life over the long term, be that supporting opposing politics, preparing in a financial way for the inevitable collapse of the welfare state or other more radical actions.
Daily Bell: There are still impediments, of course.
Redmond Weissenberger: Yes, there are.
Daily Bell: You quote Prime Minister Bennet of Canada who in 1935 spoke of his then-radical plan to solve the Great Depression and declared: "… reform means Government intervention. It means Government control and regulation. It means the end of laissez faire. Reform heralds certain recovery. There can be no permanent recovery without reform. Reform or no reform! I raise that issue squarely. I nail the flag of progress to the masthead. I summon the power of the State to its support." Has the "power of the state" benefited Canada?
Redmond Weissenberger: Well, what is "Canada"? I am sorry if I must quibble, but we need to define terms. The territorial monopoly on the use of force known as the Canadian state and the various interest groups that are affiliated with it have certainly benefitted from the expansion of this power, but have the individuals who reside within this state benefitted?
I would argue no.
The current Federal Canadian state and its vassals have restricted the market from what would be considered as mundane as eggs and milk to something as critical to survival as open heart surgery. The average Bob and Doug McKenzie have not benefitted; the concentrated special interest groups have.
Daily Bell: How would you describe Canada today? We describe the US as having a corporatist system, which is a kind of authoritarianism verging on soft totalitarianism. Your view?
Redmond Weissenberger: I would say that Canada has a very similar system with some slight variations, that of Corporatism. At all levels of the economy, you are required to consult with and receive approval from the State (and by extension the special interests) for your potentially mutually beneficial transactions. I would equate the Corporatism that we currently live under with Italian Fascism under Mussolini as opposed to the National Socialism of the Germans under Hitler. (That being said, excepting the racial hatred, when reading the party platform of the Nazis it would be hard to see how we differ from the National Socialists.)
Effectively, the West went to war against the Axis powers so we could adopt their economic systems.
We exist within a technocratic, social democratic paradigm. As Mussolini put it, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."
Daily Bell: You worked as an industrial designer in Canada's private sector. Your thoughts on that experience?
Redmond Weissenberger: I studied fine art at the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCADU) after being denied entry with Advanced Standing into the Industrial Design program, but always had the attitude that if I could do the work, I would get the job. And so I did after teaching myself the necessary skills after graduation.
From the micro point of view: I worked at a relatively small company that was early into the Chinese manufacturing market and I learned much from being exposed to all aspects of the business. We sold into the residential lighting market and so were exposed to the effects of the housing bubble of the 2000s. The almost daily fluctuations in the commodities markets directly affected our pricing, and the massive malinvestment in housing directly affected the industry and was key in opening my eyes to the fact that I was involved in an Austrian Business Cycle.
From the macro point of view: Overall as an industry, the Industrial Design Market in Canada is quite lacklustre, but I could write an entire book on my ideas on that.
Daily Bell: What do you do now? Are you with the Mises Institute full time?
Redmond Weissenberger: I currently have several endeavors. I am the Founding Director of the Mises Institute of Canada. It is in what I would call startup phase, and is still run by a skeleton crew. That being said, I like to think that we are punching above our weight with two scholars conferences and an academic journal under our belt.
I also work as the Managing Editor of the Dollar Vigilante website and investment newsletter. The Dollar Vigilante is dedicated to preparing its subscribers for the inevitable collapse of the USD.
And finally I am currently involved in building a private equity fund that will invest in markets that are on the edge of what is permissible by the State.
Daily Bell: You've written positively about bitcoin. Have you changed your mind? What's your perspective?
Redmond Weissenberger: As for bitcoin, I would not say that I have written positively about it per se, but I have written positively about the spirit that is driving the individuals who are working in the bitcoin space and I have drawn attention to the actions of the State that have necessitated the creation of cryptocurrencies.
As I pointed out in my editorial in the Journal of Prices and Markets, Bitcoin is a reaction to the destruction of sound money that we have witnessed around the world in the 20th century. Now, if there was no state monopoly on the issuance of currency and credit as is demanded by the 5th plank of the Communist Manifesto (Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly) would there be a need for bitcoin? Maybe it would simply be a more secure method of accounting for transactions, but certainly not as the base monetary unit.
In our current paradigm it is essential to gauge what the state will allow to see, whether it feels threated by it or not. At the moment we see a continuing war on cash, the prosecution of those such as Bernard von Nothaus who attempt to create gold and silver currency and at the same time the signals coming from the establishment are that Bitcoin is A-Ok. The Royal Canadian Mint has already embarked on the creation of a state sanctioned E-Cash.
Daily Bell: Give us an update on Canada's nationalized health care system. Is it a model that the US should follow?
Redmond Weissenberger: The Social Democratic Welfare State that was built for the baby boomers by the parents and grandparents is dying along with them and the Soviet style health care system that Canadians currently endure is no exception. Within the province of Ontario for example, 50 percent of the budget is currently consumed by health care and interest on debt. And this is before the baby boomers have entered this system in a real way.
Already services are being delisted and there have been court challenges to the socialized system that have declared it unconstitutional to keep Canadians from purchasing their own health care. I see a slow quiet shift from total socialization to a parallel private system as exists in many European countries.
I would say unequivocally that the US should not go down the road of socialization but it would seem that it is headed that way.
Daily Bell: Give us some more insight into Canada. Where is it heading economically?
Redmond Weissenberger: The Canadian economy has many of the same features as the rest of the other Western states – sluggish growth, over regulation, buried in debt and unfunded liabilities, with various power centres bound and determined to stand in the way of sane fiscal policy, etc. That being said, Canada certainly has potential for long-term success. It is the largest country in the world and has a vast array of natural resources, but is virtually empty. There still remains a tradition of the English common law system and at least some desire to recognize property rights among the populace, so you could see the government say "Canada is open for business" and really open the floodgates.
Daily Bell: Any other points you want to make?
Redmond Weissenberger: Only that I'd like to return and provide an update on the Canadian Mises Institute.
Daily Bell: That would be great. Thanks for your time.
Congratulations to Redmond Weissenberger on the emergent Mises Canada. We recently interviewed Seth Daniels who has started a real-estate hedge fund, and Daniels expects a 30-50% price drop in certain Canadian areas and also made the point that this would surprise many in the market. Obviously, the message of free-market economics and business cycles has yet to fully penetrate the Canadian investment community. Redmond's work in Canada will no doubt aid with economic enlightenment, and that will be a positive step. What stands out in this interview beyond Redmond's organizational work is his grasp of the reality of the Canadian system, which he calls "corporatism."
He puts it this way:
"I would equate the Corporatism that we currently live under with Italian Fascism under Mussolini as opposed to the National Socialism of the Germans under Hitler. (That being said, excepting the racial hatred, when reading the party platform of the Nazis it would be hard to see how we differ from the National Socialists)."
We've also pointed out recently that the corporate personhood mandated by judicial fiat in the US – and around the world at this point – contributes significantly to Leviathan. It's not only government that is distorted by judicial mandates but the private sector, as well.
People do tend to think that Western societies are "capitalist," but step back a bit and the reality of the distortions becomes clear. No significant element of society has escaped the organizational recalibration of state force. The combination of corporate personhood and expansive government power continues to drive Western democracies toward ever more Draconian centralization.
If these trends are to be stopped or slowed – and the Internet has certainly provided a countervailing force – it will be because of the efforts of an awakened minority that sees what has taken place. Redmond not only perceives what is going on; he's actually doing something about it. What we call the Internet Reformation continues to expand, and Redmond and his work are an example of that.