Ludwig von Mises

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This article is about the austrian economist. It is not to be confused with his brother, statistician Richard von Mises.
Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises.jpg
Born (1881-09-29)29 September 1881
Lemberg, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Lviv, Ukraine)
Died 10 October 1973(1973-10-10) (aged 92)
New York City, New York, USA
Institution University of Vienna (1919–1934)
Institut Universitaire des Hautes Études Internationales, Geneva, Switzerland (1934–1940)
New York University (1945–1969)
School/tradition Austrian School
Influences Böhm-Bawerk, Menger, Turgot
Influenced Anderson, Block, Hayek, Hazlitt, Huerta de Soto, Kirzner, Paul, Peterson, Raico, Reisman, Rockwell, Rothbard, Salerno, Schiff, Schutz, Sennholz, Spitznagel, Woods

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (German: [ˈluːtvɪç fɔn ˈmiːzəs]; 29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was a philosopher, Austrian School economist, sociologist, and classical liberal. He became a prominent figure in the Austrian School of economic thought and is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action. Fearing a Nazi takeover of Switzerland, where he was living at the time, Mises emigrated to the United States in 1940. Mises' thought has exerted significant influence on the libertarian movement in the United States in the mid-20th century.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

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, in Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now L'viv, Ukraine). The family of his father Arthur Edler von Mises had been elevated to the Austrian nobility in the 19th century, and was involved in building and financing railroads. Ludwig's mother, Adele (born Landau), was a niece of Joachim Landau, a Liberal Party deputy to the Austrian Parliament.[1]:3–9 Arthur was stationed there as a construction engineer with Czernowitz railway company. At the age of twelve Ludwig spoke fluent German, Polish, and French, read Latin, and could understand Ukrainian.[2] Mises was the older brother of mathematician[3] Richard von Mises, a member of the Vienna Circle. When Ludwig and Richard were children, his family moved back to Vienna.[citation needed]

In 1900, he attended the University of Vienna,[4] becoming influenced by the works of Carl Menger. Mises's father died in 1903, and in 1906, Mises was awarded his doctorate from the school of law.[5]

Mises' life in Europe[edit]

In the years from 1904 to 1914, Mises attended lectures given by Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk.[6] He graduated in February 1906 (Juris Doctor) and started a career as a civil servant in Austria's financial administration, leaving after a few months to take a trainee position in a Vienna law firm. During that time, Mises began lecturing on economics, and in early 1909, he joined the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry. During World War I, Mises served as a front officer in the Austro-Hungarian artillery and as an economic adviser to the War Department.

Mises was chief economist for the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and was an economic adviser of Engelbert Dollfuss, the austrofascist but strongly anti-Nazi Austrian Chancellor,[7] and later to Otto von Habsburg, the Christian democratic politician and claimant to the throne of Austria (which had been legally abolished in 1918).[8] 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.

Work in the United States[edit]

In 1940 Mises and his wife fled the German advance in Europe and emigrated to New York City.[1]:xi There he became a visiting professor at New York University. He held this position from 1945 until his retirement in 1969, though he was not salaried by the university.[5] Businessman and libertarian commentator Lawrence Fertig, a member of the NYU Board of Trustees, funded Mises and his work.[9][10] For part of this period, Mises studied currency issues for the Pan-Europa movement, which was led by a fellow NYU faculty member and Austrian exile, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi.[11] In 1947, Mises became one of the founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society. In 1962, von Mises received the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art for political economy[12] at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C.[1]:1034

Mises retired from teaching at the age of 87.[13] Mises 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.[14]

At one time, Mises praised the work of philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand and Rand's view of Mises was generally favorable; however, the two had a volatile relationship with strong disagreements, for example over the moral basis of capitalism.[15]

Contributions and influence in economics[edit]

Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism.[16] In his treatise Human Action, Mises adopted praxeology as a general conceptual foundation of the social sciences and set forth his methodological approach to economics.[citation needed]

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), Lord Lionel Robbins (of the London School of Economics), and Italian President Luigi Einaudi.[17] Economist and political theorist F. A. Hayek first came to know Mises while working as Mises's subordinate at a government office dealing with Austria's post-World War I debt. In 1956, while toasting Mises at a party, Hayek said, "I came to know him as one of the best educated and informed men I have ever known..."[8]:219–20

Mises' seminars in Vienna fostered lively discussion among established economists there, and the meetings were also visited by other important economists who happened to be traveling through Vienna. In New York, at his NYU seminar and at informal meetings at Mises' apartment, he attracted college and high school students who listened reverentially while Mises recited carefully prepared lectures from notes.[18][19] 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.[20] 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. In his years in America, Mises was surrounded by followers who agreed with his views and did not press him to explain or moderate his positions. He thus became increasingly isolated. Mises' New York University seminar had little impact on the economics profession, and among the attendees, only Israel Kirzner has achieved mainstream respectability among economists.[18]

Criticisms[edit]

Economic historian Bruce Caldwell writes 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."[21] In a 1957 review of his book The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, The Economist said of von 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."[22] 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."[23]

In a 1978 interview, Friedrich 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."[24]

Economist Milton Friedman considered Mises inflexible in his thinking:[25]

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.

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.[26]

Von Mises' 1927 book Liberalism has been largely ignored, except for its comments on 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.[27] More recently economist J. Bradford DeLong[28] and sociologist Richard Seymour,[29] repeated the criticism. Mises wrote in the book:[30]

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 calls criticism that Mises supported fascism "absurd", pointing to the rest of the quote that called fascism dangerous and described as a "fatal error" the view that it was more than an "emergency makeshift" against the looming threat of communism and socialism as exemplified by the Bolsheviks in Russia.[1]:560

After his death, Mises's wife quoted a passage that Mises had written about Benjamin Anderson, and said that 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."[31]

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

*Note regarding personal names: 'Edler' (in English: 'noble') is a German title, in rank similar to that of a baronet. It is not a first or middle name. The female form is 'Edle'. Similarly, below, 'Ritter' is German for 'knight' and 'Graf' for 'count'.

  1. ^ a b c d Hülsmann, Jörg Guido (2007). Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism. Ludwig von Mises Institute. ISBN 978-1-933550-18-3. 
  2. ^ Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "The Cultural Background of Ludwig von Mises", The Ludwig von Mises Institute, page 1
  3. ^ "Richard von Mises". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Von Mises, Ludwig; Goddard, Arthur (1979). Liberalism: a socio-economic exposition (2 ed.). ISBN 0-8362-5106-7. 
  5. ^ a b "Biography of Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) ('Chronology')". Mises.org. Retrieved July 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ Mises, Ludwig von, The Historical Setting of the Austrian School of Economics, Arlington Houise, 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.
  7. ^ "The Free Market: Meaning of the Mises Papers, The". Mises.org. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  8. ^ a b Mises, Margit von, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, Arlington House, 1976; 2nd enlarged ed., Cedar Falls, IA: Center for Futures Education, 1984. ISBN 978-0915513000. OCLC 11668538
  9. ^ Moss, Laurence S. "Introduction". The Economics of Ludwig von Mises: Toward a Critical Reappraisal. Sheed and Ward, 1976. [1]
  10. ^ North, Gary. "Mises on Money". LewRockwell.com. 21 January 2002 [2]
  11. ^ Coudenhove-Kalergi, Richard Nikolaus, Graf von (1953). An idea conquers the world. London: Hutchinson. p. 247. 
  12. ^ Kurien Society of Science and Art website, Listing of recipients of the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art; Google Translated page, accessed June 5, 2013.
  13. ^ Rothbard, Murray, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 61.
  14. ^ Austrian Student Scholars Conference Announcement, Grove City College website, 2013, accessed June 8, 2013.
  15. ^ Jennifer Burns (2009). Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. Oxford University Press. pp. 106, 141. 
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Rothbard, Murray, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 67.
  18. ^ a b Vaughn, Karen I (1998). Austrian Economics in America. Cambridge University Press. p. 66-67.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Caldwell, Bruce (2004). Hayek's Challenge. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 125–6. ISBN 978-0-226-09191-4. 
  22. ^ "Liberalism in Caricature", The Economist
  23. ^ Quoted in Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, (Random House, New York, 1997), p. 500. ISBN 978-0-375-75145-5.
  24. ^ UCLA Oral History (Interview with Friedrich Hayek), American Libraries/Internet Archive, 1978. Retrieved on 4 April 2009 (Blog.Mises.org), source with quotes
  25. ^ "Best of Both Worlds (Interview with Milton Friedman)". Reason. June 1995. 
  26. ^ Murray Rothbard, "The Future of Austrian Economics" on YouTube, 1990 talk at Mises University at Stanford, at MisesMedia Youtube channel.
  27. ^ Ralph Raico, "Mises on Fascism, Democracy, and Other Questions, Journal of Libertarian Studies (1996) 12:1 pp. 1–27
  28. ^ J. Bradford DeLong, "Dictatorships and Double Standards: Jeet Heer Has a Ludwig Von Mises Quote...", personal blog entry,
  29. ^ Richard Seymour, [ The Meaning of Cameron], (Zero Books, John Hunt, London, 2010), p. 32, ISBN 1846944562
  30. ^ Ludwig von Mises, "Liberalism", Chapter 10, The Argument of Fascism, 927.
  31. ^ Kirzner, Israel M. (2001). Ludwig von Mises: The Man and his Economics. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books. p. 31. ISBN 9781882926688. OCLC 47734733. 

Further reading[edit]

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