Ludwig von Mises

ludwig von mises

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was an Austrian School economisthistorian, and sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. He is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action.

Mises emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1940. Since the mid-20th century, the libertarian movement in the United States has been strongly influenced by Mises’s writings. Mises’s student Friedrich Hayek viewed Mises as one of the major figures in the revival of classical liberalism in the post-war era. Hayek’s work “The Transmission of the Ideals of Freedom” (1951) pays high tribute to the influence of Mises in the 20th century libertarian movement.

Mises’s Private Seminar was a leading group of economists. Many of its alumni, including Hayek and Oskar Morgenstern, emigrated from Austria to the United States and Great Britain. Mises has been described as having approximately seventy close students in Austria. The Ludwig von Mises Institute was founded in the United States to continue his teachings.

Works

The Theory of Money and Credit

Economist and philosopher, Ludwig von Mises present his “Theory of Money and Credit” by first looking at the nature and value of money, why there is a demand for money, and how it is used as currency. He goes on to explain the purchasing power of money and how it determines economic and monetary policy, often in a way that results in financial melt-downs.

Nation, State, and Economy

Ludwig von Mises wrote Nation, State and Economy in the same year, 1919, as John Maynard Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace, a better-known diagnosis of and a prescription for the postwar economic situation. Mises, writing a few months earlier, presumably had less detailed knowledge of the Versailles Treaty and so was less concerned with its specific provisions. Keynes went into more detail than Mises in estimating such things as the wealth of the belligerents, the amount of destruction suffered, and the capacity of the Germans to pay reparations. His focus was narrower than that of Mises, who regarded his own analysis as one particular instance of applying lessons derived from both history and economic theory.

Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth

This is the essay that overthrew the socialist paradigm in economics and provided the foundation for modern Austrian price theory. When it first appeared in 1920, Mises was alone in challenging the socialists to explain how their pricing system would actually work in practice.

Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis

This masterwork is much more than a refutation of the economics of socialism (although on that front, nothing else compares). It is also a critique of the implicit religious doctrines behind Western socialist thinking, a cultural critique of socialist teaching on sex and marriage, an examination of the implications of radical human inequality, an attack on war, socialism, and refutation of collectivist methodology.

In short, Mises set out to refute socialism, and instead yanked out the collectivist mentality from its very roots. For that reason, Socialism led dozens of famous intellectuals, including a young F.A. Hayek, into a crisis of faith and a realist/libertarian political orientation. All the collectivist literature combined cannot equal the intellectual achievement of this one volume.

The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth

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A Critique of Interventionism

In this collection of essays Ludwig von Mises emphasizes again and again that society must choose between two systems of social organization: either it can create a social order that is built on private property in the means of production, or it can establish a command system in which government owns or manages all production and distribution. There is no logical third system of a private property order subject to government regulation. The “middle of the road” leads to socialism because government intervention is not only superfluous and useless, but also harmful. It is superfluous because the interdependence of market phenomena narrowly circumscribes individual action and economic relations. It is useless because government regulation cannot achieve the objectives it is supposed to achieve. And it is harmful because it hampers man’s productive efforts where, from the consumers’ viewpoint, they are most useful and valuable. It lowers labor productivity and redirects production along lines of political command, rather than consumer satisfaction.

Epistemological Problems of Economics

So writes Ludwig von Mises in his most thorough defense of the method and scope of economic science. In this treatise, he argues that the core intellectual errors of statism, socialism, protectionism, racism, irrationalism can be found in a revolt against economic logic and its special character.

Interventionism: An Economic Analysis

Shortly after arriving in the United States, having fled a war-torn Europe, Ludwig von Mises sat down to complete his trilogy on economic systems. The result was this remarkably concise treatise, which tragically was not published until 1998. What Mises had foreseen was a world trapped between fully planned economies, which were clearly failing, and fully free markets, which were a casualty of depression and war. He warned that mixed systems give rise of political instability and economic stagnation, and proved that this was the case through a general model of interventionism and a specific analysis of price control, credit expansion, subsidies, welfare, corporatism, and the war economy. Particularly interesting is his discussion of the draft, which he sees as a species of socialism itself. A crucial book to understand in the post-socialist age. Note: This book is not to be confused with his earlier book on price control entitled A Critique of Interventionism.

Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War

Omnipotent Government was published in 1944, when the battle against Nazism held the world’s attention. How had this terrible system gained power? Mises considers and rejects several explanations popular at the time he wrote, such as inherent defects in the German national character. Instead, he looks to the rise of a malignant ideology, which he terms etatism.

Bureaucracy

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Planned Chaos

The title comes from Mises’s description of the reality of central planning and socialism, whether of the national variety (Nazism) or the international variety (communism). Rather than create an orderly society, the attempt to central plan has precisely the opposite effect. By short-circuiting the price mechanism and forcing people into economic lives contrary to their own chosing, central planning destroys the capital base and creates economic randomness that eventually ends in killing prosperity.

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

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Planning for Freedom

An enduring collection of Mises’s essays, some popular and others scholarly, but always engaging and provocative. The first edition came out in 1952, and headlined the essay “Planning for Freedom,” which makes the point that the choice isn’t between a planned economy and an unplanned one but rather one between government planning and planning by property owners. It was an address given in 1945 before the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Mises had legendarily shocked the audience by contrasting the “Bismarck orthodoxy” and the “Jefferson orthodoxy,” and using bad American economists to prove his point.

The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality

The substitution of laissez-faire capitalism for the pre- capitalistic methods of economic management has multiplied population figures and raised in an unprecedented way the average standard of living. A nation is the more prosperous today the less it has tried to put obstacles in the way of the spirit of free enterprise and private initiative. The people of the United States are more prosperous than the inhabitants of all other countries because their government embarked later than the governments in other parts of the world upon the policy of obstructing business. Nonetheless many people, and especially intellectuals, passionately loathe capitalism. As they see it, this ghastly mode of society’s economic organization has brought about nothing but mischief and misery. Men were once happy and prosperous in the good old days preceding the “Industrial Revolution.” Now under capitalism, the immense majority are starving paupers ruthlessly exploited by rugged individualists. For these scoundrels, nothing counts but their moneyed interests. They do not produce good and really useful things, but only what will yield the highest profits. They poison bodies with alcoholic beverages and tobacco, and souls and minds with tabloids, lascivious books and silly moving pictures. The “ideological superstructure” of capitalism is a literature of decay and degradation, the burlesque show and the art of strip-tease, the Hollywood pictures and the detective stories. 

Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution

Like Hayek, Mises moved beyond economics in his later years to address questions regarding the foundation of all social science. But unlike Hayek’s attempts, Mises’s writings on these matters have received less attention than they deserve. Theory and History, writes Rothbard in his introduction, “remains by far the most neglected masterwork of Mises.

The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science

If Mises has an unheralded masterpiece, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science is it. There are two senses in which this book is indeed ultimate: it deals with the very core of economics as a science, and it is the last book that he wrote.

The Historical Setting of the Austrian School of Economics

This essay offers something spectacular: an intellectual history of Mises’s own tradition, with first person accounts of conversations with the greats. And truly, Mises turns out to have written the best single account of the origin and early growth of the Austrian School.

The Clash of Group Interests and Other Essays

In “The Clash of Group Interests,” the most important of the little-known essays reprinted here, Ludwig von Mises, the outstanding champion of the free market in this century, avoids the naive trap embraced by so many of his colleagues. Instead, Mises sets forth a highly sophisticated and libertarian theory of classes and of class conflict, by distinguishing sharply between the free market and government intervention. It is true that on the free market there are no clashes of class or group interest; all participants benefit from the market and therefore all their interests are in harmony. But the matter changes drastically, Mises points but, when we move to the intervention of government. For that very intervention necessarily creates conflict between those classes of people who are benefited or privileged by the State, and those who are burdened by it. These conflicting classes created by State intervention Mises calls castes.

The Causes of the Economic Crisis

In this world before and after the Great Depression, there was a lone voice for sanity and freedom: Ludwig von Mises. He speaks in The Causes of the Economic Crisis, a collection of newly in print essays by Mises that have been very hard to come by, and are published for the first time in this format.

Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow

This might be Mises’s best-selling book. It is a very clear explanation of the basics of economic policy: private property, free trade, exchange, prices, interest, money and inflation, socialism, fascism, investment, and much more. As Mises discusses each topic, he addresses the many merits of market institutions and the dangers of intervention.

Money, Method, and the Market Process

This volume might be called the Mises Reader, for it contains a wide sampling of his academic essays on money, trade, and economic systems. Some of them, like “Observations on the Cooperative Movement,” have not been published previously. Others, like “The Idea of Liberty Is Western,” have already made their mark on intellectual history.

Economic Freedom and Interventionism

An enduring collection of Mises’s essays, some popular and others scholarly, but always engaging and provocative. The first edition came out in 1952, and headlined the essay “Planning for Freedom,” which makes the point that the choice isn’t between a planned economy and an unplanned one but rather one between government planning and planning by property owners. It was an address given in 1945 before the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Mises had legendarily shocked the audience by contrasting the “Bismarck orthodoxy” and the “Jefferson orthodoxy,” and using bad American economists to prove his point.

The Free Market and Its Enemies

This is a “new” book by Ludwig von Mises, the first of a series of lecture transcripts drawn from careful notes taken by Bettina Bien Greaves in the summer of 1951. It features Mises in a role in which we do not usually find him, not as a writer but as a speaker of enormous erudition and power.

Marxism Unmasked: From Delusion to Destruction

We can’t sit under Mises at his famous Vienna private seminar. We can’t go back in time and attend his New York seminar or follow him to his speaking engagements that he held in the 50s and 60s.

But thanks to this second volume in a thrilling series (here is volume one), we do have access to what he said. He is warm, funny, passionate, and learned. This book provides a candid look at the man and his teaching style. It demonstrates his dazzling command over the material and teaches in a breezier way than his treatises.

Ludwig von Mises on Money and Inflation

In the 1960s, Ludwig von Mises lectured often on money and inflation. Bettina Bien Greaves was there taking shorthand. She has been working to transcribe them for a very long time. At last the results are here and they are fantastic.