All Commentary
Saturday, September 1, 1984

The Religion of Statolatry


1.   Ludgwig von Mises, Human Action (Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc.), p. 693.

2.   Mises, p. 854.


1.   Ludgwig von Mises, Human Action (Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc.), p. 693.

2.   Mises, p. 854.

Mr. Aguilar is a free-lance writer in Santa Barbara, California.

“People frequently call socialism a religion,” said Mises. “It is indeed the religion of self-deification.”[1] Ozymandias of Percy Shelley’s famous poem exemplifies this self-deification. “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Clearly he was a man who believed in his own omnipotence: such power that even the Mighty would despair. Yet the Mighty did not despair, as the poem states, “Nothing beside remains . . . boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.” All that remains is the wreckage of his statue, a monument no longer to his greatness but merely to his vanity.

Ozymandias was unique only for his audacity and not for his subsequent failure. His fate is shared by anyone who would put himself above the rule of God. As surely as the engineer is limited by the laws of physics, so the politician is limited by the laws of human action. It is not the “frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” which directs people to thrive and create the monuments we see; rather it is their regard for their own self-interest. And these are monuments to the human spirit, not to the “cold command” of some ruler, no more endowed than his subjects.

“The market economy needs no apologists and propagandists. It can apply to itself the words of Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St. Paul’s: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. (If you seek his monument, look around.)”[2]

Ozymandias was mocked by his sculptor, his monument shattered, and whatever works he refers to in his epitaph are long ago buried by the endless sand. There could be no more fitting end for a man who would put himself above God. His monument should stand as a warning to whoever would espouse as progressive the dogma of this king of kings from an antique land. []


1.   Ludgwig von Mises, Human Action (Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc.), p. 693.

2.   Mises, p. 854.

Mr. Aguilar is a free-lance writer in Santa Barbara, California.

“People frequently call socialism a religion,” said Mises. “It is indeed the religion of self-deification.”[1] Ozymandias of Percy Shelley’s famous poem exemplifies this self-deification. “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Clearly he was a man who believed in his own omnipotence: such power that even the Mighty would despair. Yet the Mighty did not despair, as the poem states, “Nothing beside remains . . . boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.” All that remains is the wreckage of his statue, a monument no longer to his greatness but merely to his vanity.

Ozymandias was unique only for his audacity and not for his subsequent failure. His fate is shared by anyone who would put himself above the rule of God. As surely as the engineer is limited by the laws of physics, so the politician is limited by the laws of human action. It is not the “frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” which directs people to thrive and create the monuments we see; rather it is their regard for their own self-interest. And these are monuments to the human spirit, not to the “cold command” of some ruler, no more endowed than his subjects.

“The market economy needs no apologists and propagandists. It can apply to itself the words of Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St. Paul’s: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. (If you seek his monument, look around.)”[2]

Ozymandias was mocked by his sculptor, his monument shattered, and whatever works he refers to in his epitaph are long ago buried by the endless sand. There could be no more fitting end for a man who would put himself above God. His monument should stand as a warning to whoever would espouse as progressive the dogma of this king of kings from an antique land. []


1.   Ludgwig von Mises, Human Action (Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc.), p. 693.

2.   Mises, p. 854.