Ludwig von Mises
29 September 1881|
Lemberg, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Lviv, Ukraine)
|Died||10 October 1973
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)
|Influences||Kant, Bastiat, Böhm-Bawerk, Brentano, Husserl, Menger, Say, Turgot, Weber, Wieser, Wicksell, Lord Overstone|
|Influenced||Allais, Anderson, Bauer, Block, Buchanan, Friedman, Hayek, Hazlitt, Hicks, Hoppe, Huerta de Soto, Hutt, Kirzner, Lachmann, Lange, Paul, Peterson, Raico, Rand, Reisman, Robbins, Rockwell, Rothbard, Salerno, Schiff, Schumpeter, Schutz, Sennholz, Simons, Smith, 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. Fearing a Nazi takeover of Switzerland, where he was living at the time, Mises emigrated to the United States in 1940. Mises had a significant influence on the libertarian movement in the United States in the mid-20th century.
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Ludwig von Mises was born to wealthy Jewish parents in the city of Lemberg, in Galicia, Austria-Hungary (Lwów, Poland between the first and second world wars, now Lviv in 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 (née Landau), was a niece of Dr. Joachim Landau, a Liberal Party deputy to the Austrian Parliament. Arthur was stationed there as a construction engineer with Czernowitz railway company. At the age of twelve Ludwig spoke fluent Yiddish, German, Polish, and French, read Latin, and could understand Ukrainian. Mises was the older brother of applied physicist Richard von Mises, a member of the Vienna Circle. When Ludwig and Richard were children, his family moved back to their ancestral home of Vienna.
In 1900, he attended the University of Vienna, 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.
Mises life in Europe
In the years from 1904 to 1914, Mises attended lectures given by Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk. He graduated in February 1906 (Juris Doctor) and started a career as a civil servant in Austria's financial administration, quitting in disgust with bureaucracy after only 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. In the latter role he saw firsthand the operations of war socialism, gaining experience critical to his understanding of the dynamics of interventionism and his theory of socialism. The final year of the war saw Mises accorded an unpaid but prestigious appointment to the University of Vienna as professor extraordinarius.
Mises taught as a Privatdozent at the Vienna University in the years from 1913 to 1934 while formally serving as secretary at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce until 1934. In these roles, he became one of the closest economic advisers of Engelbert Dollfuss, the austrofascist but strongly anti-Nazi Austrian Chancellor, and later to Otto von Habsburg, the Christian democratic politician and claimant to the throne of Austria (which had been legally abolished in 1918). 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. Mises' step-daughter, biographer and journalist Gitta Sereny (1921–2012), was later known for her interviews and profiles of controversial figures. Friends and students of Mises in Europe included Wilhelm Röpke and Alfred Müller-Armack (influential 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.
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, "there I came to know him mainly as a tremendously efficient executive, the kind of man who, as was said of John Stuart Mill, because he does a normal day's work in two hours, always has a clear desk and time to talk about anything. I came to know him as one of the best educated and informed men I have ever known..."
Work in the United States
In 1940 Mises and his wife fled the German advance in Europe and emigrated to New York City. 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. Businessman and libertarian ideologue Lawrence Fertig, a member of the NYU Board of Trustees, funded Mises and his work. 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. In 1947, Mises became one of the founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society. Despite fleeing Europe, Mises is credited for having an influential role in the economic reconstruction of Europe after World War II through his professional relationships with Ludwig Erhard, Charles de Gaulle and Luigi Einaudi. In 1962, von Mises received the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art for political economy at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
In America, Mises's work first influenced that of economists such as Benjamin Anderson, Leonard Read and Henry Hazlitt, as well as writers such as former radical Max Eastman, legal scholar Sylvester J. Petro, and novelist Ayn Rand were also among his friends and admirers. His American students included Israel Kirzner, Hans Sennholz, Ralph Raico, Leonard Liggio, George Reisman and Murray Rothbard.
Mises welcomed students into his home in New York. He retired from teaching at the age of 87, then the oldest active professor in America. Mises died at the age of 92 at St. Vincent's hospital in New York. He is buried at Ferncliff Cemetery, in Hartsdale, New York. Following his death, his personal library and desk were donated to Hillsdale College. Grove City College houses the 20,000 page archive of Mises papers and unpublished works.
Contributions to economics
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Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. In his treatise Human Action, Mises introduced praxeology as a general conceptual foundation of the social sciences and set forth his methodological approach to economics.
Much of Mises' writing concerned two subjects:
- monetary economics and inflation;
- advocacy of market economies over government controlled economies.
Mises observed that money is demanded for its usefulness in purchasing other goods rather than for its own sake, and that unsound credit expansion causes business cycles. He also concluded that socialist economies must fail because of the economic calculation problem – the impossibility of a socialist government being able to make the calculations required to operate a complex economy. Mises held that without a market economy there could be no price system and no monetary unit of account, both of which he argued were needed to achieve the allocation of economic goods to their most productive uses.
Mises's criticism of socialism is well-known, manifest in his 1922 work Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis:
The only certain fact about Russian affairs under the Soviet regime with regard to which all people agree is: that the standard of living of the Russian masses is much lower than that of the masses in the country which is universally considered as the paragon of capitalism, the United States of America. If we were to regard the Soviet regime as an experiment, we would have to say that the experiment has clearly demonstrated the superiority of capitalism and the inferiority of socialism.
Mises supported Carl Menger's theory of the 'sovereignty of the consumer' in a free-market economy. In his view, the consumer ultimately dictates everything that happens. This argument was explicated in Human Action:
The captain is the consumer…the consumers determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities…They are merciless egoistic bosses, full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. For them nothing counts other than their own satisfaction…In their capacity as buyers and consumers they are hard-hearted and callous, without consideration for other people…Capitalists…can only preserve and increase their wealth by filling best the orders of the consumers… In the conduct of their business affairs they must be unfeeling and stony-hearted because the consumers, their bosses, are themselves unfeeling and stony-hearted.
Economic historian Bruce Caldwell writes that in the mid-20th century, with the ascendance of positivism and Keynesianism, Mises came to be perceived by many as the "archetypal 'unscientific' economist." 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." [i.e., an irritating or contentious personality.] 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."
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."
Economist Milton Friedman considered Mises inflexible in his thinking:
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.
Von Mises 1927 book Liberalism has been largely ignored, except for its comments on facism. 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. More recently economist J. Bradford DeLong and sociologist Richard Seymour, repeated the criticism. Mises wrote in the book:
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.
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."
- The Theory of Money and Credit (1912, enlarged US edition 1953)
- Nation, State, and Economy (1919)
- "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" (1920) (article)
- Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (1922, 1932, 1951)
- Liberalismus (1927, 1962 – translated into English, with the new title The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth)
- A Critique of Interventionism (1929)
- Epistemological Problems of Economics (1933, 1960)
- Memoirs (1940)
- Interventionism: An Economic Analysis (1941, 1998)
- Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War (1944)
- Bureaucracy (1944, 1962)
- Planned Chaos (1947, added to 1951 edition of Socialism)
- Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (1949, 1963, 1966, 1996)
- Planning for Freedom (1952, enlarged editions in 1962, 1974, and 1980)
- The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (1956)
- Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution (1957)
- The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science (1962)
- The Historical Setting of the Austrian School of Economics (1969)
- Notes and Recollections (1978)
- The Clash of Group Interests and Other Essays (1978)
- On the Manipulation of Money and Credit (1978)
- The Causes of the Economic Crisis, reissue
- Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow (1979, lectures given in 1959)
- Money, Method, and the Market Process (1990)
- Economic Freedom and Interventionism (1990)
- The Free Market and Its Enemies (2004, lectures given in 1951)
- Marxism Unmasked: From Delusion to Destruction (2006, lectures given in 1952)
- Ludwig von Mises on Money and Inflation (2010, lectures given in the 1960s)
*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'.
- Roger W. Garrison, Ludwig Edler von Mises, in: David Glasner (ed.), Business Cycles and Depressions, New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1997, pp. 440–42.
- Hulsmann, Jörg Guido (2007). Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism. Ludwig von Mises Institute. pp. 3–9. ISBN 1-933550-18-X.
- Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "The Cultural Background of Ludwig von Mises", The Ludwig von Mises Institute, page 1
- Von Mises, Ludwig; Goddard, Arthur (1979). Liberalism: a socio-economic exposition (2 ed.). ISBN 0-8362-5106-7.
- 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.
- Jörg Guido Hülsmann, "Who was Ludwig von Mises?" (2003), access date 17 June 2013
- "The Free Market: Meaning of the Mises Papers, The". Mises.org. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
- Mises, Margit von, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, Arlington House, 1976, 2nd enlarged edit., Center for Future Education, 1984.
- Rothbard, Murray, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p. 67.
- Mises, Margit von, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, Arlington House, 1976, 2nd enlarged edit., Center for Future Education, 1984, pp. 219–220.
- Hulsmann, Jorg Guido (2007). Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. xi. ISBN 1-933550-18-X.
- Coudenhove-Kalergi, Richard Nikolaus, Graf von (1953). An idea conquers the world. London: Hutchinson. p. 247.
- Doherty, Brian, "Radicals for Capitalism", PublicAffairs, 2007, p.10.
- 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.
- Hulsmann, Jörg Guido (2007). Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 1034. ISBN 1-933550-18-X.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rothbard, Murray, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1988, p.61.
- Austrian Student Scholars Conference Announcement, Grove City College website, 2013, accessed June 8, 2013.
- 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.
- Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis by Ludwig von Mises.
- F. A. Hayek, (1935) who wrote the introduction to a later edition of Socialism and went on to author "The Nature and History of the Problem" and "The Present State of the Debate," in F. A. Hayek, ed. Collectivist Economic Planning, pp. 1–40, 201–43.
- 'Human Action' chap. 15, sect. 4
- Caldwell, Bruce (2004). Hayek's Challenge. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 125–6. ISBN 978-0-226-09191-4.
- "Liberalism in Caricature", The Economist
- Quoted in Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, (Random House, New York, 1997), p. 500. ISBN 978-0-375-75145-5.
- UCLA Oral History (Interview with Friedrich Hayek), American Libraries/Internet Archive, 1978. Retrieved on 4 April 2009 (Blog.Mises.org), source with quotes
- "Best of Both Worlds (Interview with Milton Friedman)". Reason. June 1995.
- Murray Rothbard, "The Future of Austrian Economics", 1990 talk at Mises University at Stanford, at MisesMedia Youtube channel.
- Ralph Raico, "Mises on Fascism, Democracy, and Other Questions, Journal of Libertarian Studies (1996) 12:1 pp. 1–27
- J. Bradford DeLong, "Dictatorships and Double Standards: Jeet Heer Has a Ludwig Von Mises Quote...", personal blog entry,
- Richard Seymour, [ The Meaning of Cameron], (Zero Books, John Hunt, London, 2010), p. 32, ISBN 1846944562
- Ludwig von Mises, "Liberalism", Chapter 10, The Argument of Fascism, 927.
- Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Mises: the last knight of liberalism (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007), p. 560. ISBN 193355018X.
- Ludwig von Mises, Israel M. Kirzner, (Library of Modern Thinkers, 2001), page 31
- Butler, Eamonn, Ludwig von Mises – A Primer, Institute of Economic Affairs (2010)
- Doherty, Brian, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (2007)
- Ebeling, Richard M. Political Economy, Public Policy, and Monetary Economics: Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian Tradition, (London/New York: Routledge, 2010) 354 pages, ISBN 978-0-415-77951-7.
- Ebeling, Richard M. "Ludwig von Mises: The Political Economist of Liberty, Part II", (The Freeman, June 2006)
- Ebeling, Richard M. "Ludwig von Mises: The Political Economist of Liberty, Part I", (The Freeman, May 2006)
- Ebeling, Richard M. "Ludwig von Mises and the Vienna of His Time, Part II", (The Freeman, April 2005)
- Ebeling, Richard M. "Ludwig von Mises and the Vienna of His Time, Part I", (The Freeman, March 2005)
- Ebeling, Richard M. "Austrian Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom", (The Freeman, June 2004)
- Gordon, David (2011-02-23) Mises's Epistemology, Ludwig von Mises Institute
- Hülsmann, Jörg Guido. Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institut, 2007) ISBN 978-1-933550-18-3
- Hülsmann, Jörg Guido. "Who was Ludwig von Mises?"; Ludwig von Mises Institute (access date: 17 June 2013).
- Kirzner, Israel M. Ludwig von Mises: the man and his economics (2001)
- Paul, Ron. "Mises and Austrian economics: A personal view" The Ludwig von Mises Institute of Auburn University (1984), 31 pages.
- Rothbard, Murray N. "Mises. Ludwig Edler von," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, 1987, v. 3, pp. 479–80.
- Shelton, Judy (1994). Money Meltdown: Restoring Order to the Global Currency System. New York, NY: Free Press. p. 399. ISBN 978-0029291122. OCLC 797359731.
- Von Mises, Margit. My Years With Ludwig von Mises, Arlington House, 1976, rereleased in 1984 by Libertarian Press. ISBN 0-915513-00-5
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- Ludwig von Mises Institute Europe
- Mises.org, Ludwig von Mises Institute USA
- Mises.de, Books and Articles in the original German versions by Ludwig von Mises and other Authors of the Austrian School
- Ludwig von Mises at the Open Directory Project
- Audio of von Mises subtitled in Spanish and English "Do wage earners and their employers have interests in conflict?"
- "A Tribute to Ludwig Von Mises". A list of works by and on Ludwig Von Mises by the Foundation for Economic Education
- Ludwig von Mises at Find a Grave