Ludwig von Mises

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Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises.jpg
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises

(1881-09-29)29 September 1881
Died10 October 1973(1973-10-10) (aged 92)
New York City, New York, U.S.
SpouseMargit von Mises
Field Economics, political economy, philosophy of science, epistemology, methodology, rationalism, logic, classical liberalism, right-libertarianism
School or
Austrian School
Alma mater University of Vienna
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk
Other notable students
Ludwig von Mises signature.png

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises [1] (German: [ˈluːtvɪç fɔn ˈmiːzəs] ; 29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was an Austrian School economist, historian, logician, and sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on the societal contributions of classical liberalism. He is best known for his work on praxeology studies comparing communism and capitalism. He is considered one of the most influential economic and political thinkers of the 20th century. [2]


Mises emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1940. [3] Since the mid-20th century, libertarian movements have been strongly influenced by Mises's writings. Mises' 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. [4]

Mises's Private Seminar was a leading group of economists. [5] Many of its alumni, including Friedrich 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. [6]


Early life

Coat of arms of Ludwig von Mises's great-grandfather, Mayer Rachmiel Mises, awarded upon his 1881 ennoblement by Franz Joseph I of Austria Coat of arms of von Mises.gif
Coat of arms of Ludwig von Mises's great-grandfather, Mayer Rachmiel Mises, awarded upon his 1881 ennoblement by Franz Joseph I of Austria

Ludwig von Mises was born to Jewish parents in the city of Lemberg, Galicia, Austria-Hungary. The family of his father, Arthur Edler von Mises, had been elevated to the Austrian nobility in the 19th century (Edler indicates a noble landless family), and they had been involved in financing and constructing railroads. His mother Adele (née Landau) was a niece of Joachim Landau, a Liberal Party deputy to the Austrian Parliament. [7] :3–9 Arthur von Mises was stationed in Lemberg as a construction engineer with the Czernowitz railway company.

By the age of 12, Mises spoke fluent German, Russian, Polish and French, read Latin and could understand Ukrainian. [8] Mises had a younger brother, Richard von Mises, who became a mathematician and a member of the Vienna Circle, and a probability theorist. [9] When Ludwig and Richard were still children, their family moved back to Vienna.[ citation needed ]

In 1900, Mises attended the University of Vienna, [10] becoming influenced by the works of Carl Menger. Mises's father died in 1903. Three years later, Mises was awarded his doctorate from the school of law in 1906. [11]

Life in Europe

In the years from 1904 to 1914, Mises attended lectures given by Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk. [12] He graduated in February 1906 (Juris Doctor) and started a career as a civil servant in Austria's financial administration.

After a few months, he left to take a trainee position in a Vienna law firm. During that time, Mises began lecturing on economics and in early 1909 joined the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, serving as economic adviser to the Austrian government until he left Austria in 1934. [13] During World War I, Mises served as a front officer in the Austro-Hungarian artillery and as an economic adviser to the War Department. [14]

Mises was chief economist for the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and was an economic adviser of Engelbert Dollfuss, the austrofascist Austrian Chancellor. [15] Later, Mises was economic adviser to Otto von Habsburg, the Christian democratic politician and claimant to the throne of Austria (which had been legally abolished in 1918 following the Great War). [16] In 1934, Mises left Austria for Geneva, Switzerland, where he was a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies until 1940.

While in Switzerland, Mises married Margit Herzfeld Serény, a former actress and widow of Ferdinand Serény. She was the mother of Gitta Sereny.

Work in the United States

External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Bettina Greaves on Ludwig von Mises's Life (1994)

In 1940, Mises and his wife fled the German advance in Europe and emigrated to New York City in the United States. [7] :xi He had come to the United States under a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation. Like many other classical liberal scholars who fled to the United States, he received support from the William Volker Fund to obtain a position in American universities. [17] Mises became a visiting professor at New York University and held this position from 1945 until his retirement in 1969, though he was not salaried by the university. [11] Businessman and libertarian commentator Lawrence Fertig, a member of the New York University Board of Trustees, funded Mises and his work. [18] [19]

For part of this period, Mises studied currency issues for the Pan-Europa movement, which was led by Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, a fellow New York University faculty member and Austrian exile. [20] In 1947, Mises became one of the founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society.

In 1962, Mises received the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art for political economy [21] at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. [7] :1034

Mises retired from teaching at the age of 87 [22] and died at the age of 92 in New York. He is buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Grove City College houses the 20,000-page archive of Mises papers and unpublished works. [23] The personal library of Mises was given to Hillsdale College as bequeathed in his will. [24] [25]

At one time, Mises praised the work of writer Ayn Rand, and she generally looked on his work with favor, but the two had a volatile relationship, with strong disagreements for example over the moral basis of capitalism. [26]

Contributions and influence in economics

Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. [27] In his magnum opus Human Action , Mises adopted praxeology as a general conceptual foundation of the social sciences and set forth his methodological approach to economics.

Mises was for economic non-interventionism [28] and was an anti-imperialist. [29] He referred to the Great War as such a watershed event in human history and wrote that "war has become more fearful and destructive than ever before because it is now waged with all the means of the highly developed technique that the free economy has created. Bourgeois civilization has built railroads and electric power plants, has invented explosives and airplanes, in order to create wealth. Imperialism has placed the tools of peace in the service of destruction. With modern means it would be easy to wipe out humanity at one blow." [30]

In 1920, Mises introduced in an article his Economic Calculation Problem as a critique of socialisms which are based on planned economies and renunciations of the price mechanism. [31] In his first article "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth", Mises describes the nature of the price system under capitalism and describes how individual subjective values are translated into the objective information necessary for rational allocation of resources in society. [31] Mises argued that the pricing systems in socialist economies were necessarily deficient because, if a public entity owned all the means of production, no rational prices could be obtained for capital goods, as they were merely internal transfers of goods and not "objects of exchange", unlike final goods. Therefore, they were unpriced, and hence the system would be necessarily irrational, as the central planners would not know how to allocate the available resources efficiently. [31] He wrote that "rational economic activity is impossible in a socialist commonwealth". [31] Mises developed his critique of socialism more completely in his 1922 book Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis , arguing that the market price system is an expression of praxeology and cannot be replicated by any form of bureaucracy.

Friends and students of Mises in Europe included Wilhelm Röpke and Alfred Müller-Armack (advisors to German chancellor Ludwig Erhard), Jacques Rueff (monetary advisor to Charles de Gaulle), Gottfried Haberler (later a professor at Harvard), Lionel, Lord Robbins (of the London School of Economics), Italian President Luigi Einaudi, and Leonid Hurwicz, recipient of the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. [32] Economist and political theorist Friedrich Hayek first came to know Mises while working as his subordinate at a government office dealing with Austria's post-World War I debt. While toasting Mises at a party in 1956, Hayek said: "I came to know him as one of the best educated and informed men I have ever known". [16] :219–220 Mises's seminars in Vienna fostered lively discussion among established economists there. The meetings were also visited by other important economists who happened to be traveling through Vienna.

At his New York University seminar and at informal meetings at his apartment, Mises attracted college and high school students who had heard of his European reputation. They listened while he gave carefully prepared lectures from notes. [33] [34] Among those who attended his informal seminar over the course of two decades in New York were: Israel Kirzner, Hans Sennholz, Ralph Raico, Leonard Liggio, George Reisman, and Murray Rothbard. [35] Mises's work also influenced other Americans, including Benjamin Anderson, Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, Max Eastman, legal scholar Sylvester J. Petro and novelist Ayn Rand.

Creation of the Mises Institute

As a result of the economic works of Ludwig Von Mises, the Mises Institute was founded in 1982 by Lew Rockwell, Burton Blumert, and Murray Rothbard, following a split between the Cato Institute and Rothbard, who had been one of the founders of the Cato Institute.[ non-primary source needed ] It was funded by Ron Paul.

The Mises Institute offers thousands of free books written by Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and other prominent economists in e-book and audiobook format. [36] For those unfamiliar with the concepts of Austrian Economics, it has a section designed for beginners that summarizes the main concepts in thirty minutes. [37] The Mises Institute also offers a graduate school program.[ citation needed ]


Debates about Mises's arguments

Economic historian Bruce Caldwell wrote that in the mid-20th century, with the ascendance of positivism and Keynesianism, Mises came to be regarded by many as the "archetypal 'unscientific' economist". [38] In a 1957 review of his book The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality , The Economist said of Mises: "Professor von Mises has a splendid analytical mind and an admirable passion for liberty; but as a student of human nature he is worse than null and as a debater he is of Hyde Park standard". [39] Conservative commentator Whittaker Chambers published a similarly negative review of that book in the National Review, stating that Mises's thesis that anti-capitalist sentiment was rooted in "envy" epitomized "know-nothing conservatism" at its "know-nothingest". [40]

Scholar Scott Scheall called economist Terence Hutchison "the most persistent critic of Mises's apriorism", [41] :233 starting in Hutchison's 1938 book The Significance and Basic Postulates of Economic Theory and in later publications such as his 1981 book The Politics and Philosophy of Economics: Marxians, Keynesians, and Austrians. [41] :242 Scheall noted that Friedrich Hayek, later in his life (after Mises died), also expressed reservations about Mises's apriorism, such as in a 1978 interview where Hayek said that he "never could accept the ... almost eighteenth-century rationalism in his [Mises's] argument". [41] :233–234

In a 1978 interview, Hayek said about Mises's book Socialism :

At first we all felt he was frightfully exaggerating and even offensive in tone. You see, he hurt all our deepest feelings, but gradually he won us around, although for a long time I had to – I just learned he was usually right in his conclusions, but I was not completely satisfied with his argument. [42]

Economist Milton Friedman considered Mises inflexible in his thinking, but added that Mises's difficult life and lack of acceptance by academia are the likely culprits:

The story I remember best happened at the initial Mont Pelerin meeting when he got up and said, "You're all a bunch of socialists." We were discussing the distribution of income, and whether you should have progressive income taxes. Some of the people there were expressing the view that there could be a justification for it. Another occasion which is equally telling: Fritz Machlup was a student of Mises's, one of his most faithful disciples. At one of the Mont Pelerin meetings, Machlup gave a talk in which I think he questioned the idea of a gold standard; he came out in favor of floating exchange rates. Mises was so mad he wouldn't speak to Machlup for three years. Some people had to come around and bring them together again. It's hard to understand; you can get some understanding of it by taking into account how people like Mises were persecuted in their lives. [43]

Economist Murray Rothbard, who studied under Mises, agreed he was uncompromising, but disputes reports of his abrasiveness. In his words, Mises was "unbelievably sweet, constantly finding research projects for students to do, unfailingly courteous, and never bitter" about the discrimination he received at the hands of the economic establishment of his time. [44]

After Mises died, his widow Margit quoted a passage that he had written about Benjamin Anderson. She said it best described Mises's own personality:

His most eminent qualities were his inflexible honesty, his unhesitating sincerity. He never yielded. He always freely enunciated what he considered to be true. If he had been prepared to suppress or only to soften his criticisms of popular, but irresponsible, policies, the most influential positions and offices would have been offered him. But he never compromised. [45]

Comments about fascism

Marxists Herbert Marcuse and Perry Anderson as well as German writer Claus-Dieter Krohn criticized Mises for writing approvingly of Italian fascism, especially for its suppression of leftist elements, in his 1927 book Liberalism . [46] In 2009, economist J. Bradford DeLong and sociologist Richard Seymour repeated the criticism. [47]

Mises, in his 1927 book Liberalism, wrote: [48]

It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.

Mises biographer Jörg Guido Hülsmann says that critics who suggest that Mises supported fascism are "absurd" as he notes that the full quote describes fascism as dangerous. He notes that Mises said it was a "fatal error" to think that it was more than an "emergency makeshift" against up and coming communism and socialism as exemplified by the Bolsheviks in Russia and the surging communists of Germany. [7] :560 Hülsmann writes in Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism that Mises had been a card-carrying member of the Fatherland Front party and that this was "probably mandatory for all employees of public and semi-public organizations." [49]

In regards to Nazism, Mises called on the Allies in his 1944 book Omnipotent Government to "smash Nazism" and to "fight desperately until the Nazi power is completely broken". [50]



Book reviews

See also

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  1. Regarding personal names: Edler was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as a noble (one). Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine form is Edle.
  2. Butler, Eamonn (2010). Ludwig von Mises: a primer. Occasional paper. London: Institute of Economic Affairs. ISBN   978-0255366298.
  3. "Profiles: Ludwig von Mises". Mises Institutes. 28 July 2014.
  4. Hayek, Friedrich A. (2012). "The Transmission of the Ideals of Economic Freedom". Econ Journal Watch. 9 (2): 163–169.
  5. Mises, Ludwig von (2013). Notes and Recollections (PDF). Liberty Fund. p. 69. ISBN   978-0865978539.
  6. Beller, Steven (1989). Vienna and the Jews, 1867–1938: A Cultural History. Cambridge University Press.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Hülsmann, Jörg Guido (2007). Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism. Ludwig von Mises Institute. ISBN   978-1933550183.
  8. Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "The Cultural Background of Ludwig von Mises", The Ludwig von Mises Institute, p. 1
  9. "Richard von Mises". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  10. Von Mises, Ludwig; Goddard, Arthur (1979). Liberalism: A Socio-Economic Exposition (2 ed.). ISBN   978-0836251067.
  11. 1 2 "Biography of Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) ('Chronology')". Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  12. Mises, Ludwig von, The Historical Setting of the Austrian School of Economics, Arlington House, 1969, reprinted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1984, p. 10, Rothbard, Murray, The Essential Ludwig von Mises, 2nd printing, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1983, p. 30.
  13. Rothbard, Murray, The Essential Ludwig von Mises, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 25.
  14. Mises in Wartime, Mises Institute
  15. "The Free Market: Meaning of the Mises Papers, The". Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  16. 1 2 Mises, Margit von, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, Arlington House Publishers, 1976; 2nd enlarged ed., Cedar Falls, IA: Center for Futures Education, 1984. ISBN   978-0915513000. OCLC   11668538
  17. Kitch, Edmund W. (April 1983). "The Fire of Truth: A Remembrance of Law and Economics at Chicago, 1932–1970". Journal of Law and Economics. 26 (1): 163–234. doi:10.1086/467030. S2CID   153525815.
  18. Moss, Laurence S. "Introduction". The Economics of Ludwig von Mises: Toward a Critical Reappraisal. Sheed and Ward, 1976.
  19. North, Gary. "Mises on Money". . 21 January 2002
  20. Coudenhove-Kalergi, Richard Nikolaus, Graf von (1953). An idea conquers the world. London: Hutchinson. p. 247.
  21. Kurien Society of Science and Art website Archived 2020-10-30 at the Wayback Machine , Listing of recipients of the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art; Google Translated page, accessed June 5, 2013.
  22. Rothbard, Murray, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 61.
  23. Austrian Student Scholars Conference Announcement, Grove City College website, 2013, accessed June 8, 2013.
  24. "About – Collections – Mossey Library". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  25. [ bare URL PDF ]
  26. Jennifer Burns (2009). Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. Oxford University Press. pp. 106, 141. ISBN   978-0199740895.
  27. For example, Murray Rothbard, a leading Austrian school economist, has written that, by the 1920s, "Mises was clearly the outstanding bearer of the great Austrian tradition." Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 25.
  28. "Why Intervention Persists". 2005-03-16.
  29. "The Anti-Imperialism of Mises". 2013-06-24.
  30. "Ludwig von Mises on World War I | Ludwig von Mises". 2017-04-06.
  31. 1 2 3 4 Von Mises, Ludwig (1990). Economic calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (PDF). Ludwig von Mises Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  32. Rothbard, Murray, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 67.
  33. Vaughn, Karen I (1998). Austrian Economics in America. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0521637657. pp. 66–67.
  34. Reisman, George, Capitalism: a Treatise on Economics, "Introduction," Jameson Books, 1996; and Mises, Margit von, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, 2nd enlarged edit., Center for Future Education, 1984, pp. 136–137.
  35. On Mises's influence, see Rothbard, Murray, The Essential Ludwig von Mises, 2nd printing, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1983; on Eastman's conversion "from Marx to Mises," see Diggins, John P., Up From Communism Harper & Row, 1975, pp. 201–233; on Mises's students and seminar attendees, see Mises, Margit von, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, Arlington House, 1976, 2nd enlarged edit., Center for Future Education, 1984.
  36. "Books & Library". 5 September 2019. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  37. "Economics for Beginners Series". 4 June 2020. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  38. Caldwell, Bruce (2004). Hayek's Challenge. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 125–126. ISBN   978-0226091914.
  39. "Liberalism in Caricature", The Economist
  40. Quoted in Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, (Random House, New York, 1997), p. 500. ISBN   978-0375751455.
  41. 1 2 3 Scheall, Scott (July 2017). "What is extreme about Mises's extreme apriorism?". Journal of Economic Methodology . 24 (3): 226–249. doi:10.1080/1350178X.2017.1356439. S2CID   151703666.
  42. UCLA Oral History (Interview with Friedrich Hayek), American Libraries / Internet Archive , 1978. Retrieved on 4 April 2009 ( Archived 2009-06-27 at the Wayback Machine ), source with quotes
  43. "Best of Both Worlds (Interview with Milton Friedman)". Reason. June 1995.
  44. Murray Rothbard, "The Future of Austrian Economics" on YouTube, 1990 talk at Mises University at Stanford, at MisesMedia Youtube channel.
  45. Kirzner, Israel M. (2001). Ludwig von Mises: The Man and his Economics . Wilmington, DE: ISI Books. p.  31. ISBN   978-1882926688. OCLC   47734733.
  46. Ralph Raico, "Mises on Fascism, Democracy, and Other Questions, Journal of Libertarian Studies (1996) 12:1 pp. 1–27
  47. Richard Seymour, [The Meaning of Cameron], (Zero Books, John Hunt, London, 2010), p. 32, ISBN   1846944562
  48. Ludwig von Mises, "Liberalism", Chapter 10, The Argument of Fascism, 1927.
  49. Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism (2007) p. 677
  50. von Mises, Ludwig (1944). Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War (PDF). United States: Liberty Fund. p. 264 (282 for the pdf). ISBN   978-0865977549.
  51. “...we must greet enthusiastically the recent publishing of six essays written by Ludwig von Mises in the 1920s. Arlington House Publishers and translator Professor Hans Sennholz are to be congratulated for making these essays available to a whole new generation of economists and policymakers who could still profit, apparently, from their insightful analysis.”

    Armentano, D. “Review of A Critique of Interventionism, by Ludwig von Mises”. Reason , May 1978

Further reading