Ludwig von Mises


Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig von Mises (Lemberg, 1881 - New York, 1973) is the most important representative of the "Austrian" School of Law and Economics in the twentieth century, true beacon for the lovers of rigor and epistemological discernment in the realm of the sciences of human action, and the author of the most stark utilitarian defense of laissez-faire capitalism.

After studying under Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, he received his doctoral degree in 1906 from the University of Vienna. He taught at the University of Vienna (1913 and 1918-1938), he was economic adviser of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce (1909-1934) and was director of the Austrian Commission for Reparations at the League of Nations (1918-1920). In 1927 he founded the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research. He also taught at the Geneva Superior Institute for International Studies (1934-1940) and at the New York University (1945-1969).

In Carl Menger and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk's tradition, he refuted neoclassical mechanicism, historicism and empirical relativism and systematically reconstructed the theory of social cooperation based on the division of labor, around the key concept of entrepreneurial profit calculation. Explicating the solidarity of sound money with the institutions of private property, Mises elucidated inflation as an insidious redistribution process that destabilizes and disintegrates the social-economic tissue, tracing its causes to the politicization of money and banking. At the same time, he demonstrated that the abolition of private property over the factors of production renders literally impossible the forming of prices and entrepreneurial calculation in terms of money. This way, the rigorous implementation of socialism, far from allowing for economic planning - the selection of the most important projects realizable in a system of division of labor, from a central planner's viewpoint -, implies the disintegration of the production structures up to the point of the most abject primitivism. And he showed that clinging to interventionist measures, i.e. socialism not consistently assumed, combined with mass frustration recurrently induced by statist meddling in the economic sphere, tends to install, or restorate, the socialist chaos. The survival of western civilization depends, according to Mises, on the thorough understanding and institutional realization, economically and legally, of the private property order.

Among the most important Misesian works, are Human Action. A Treatise on Economics (1949), called "the economic bible of civilized man" by Murray N. Rothbard, The Theory of Money and Credit (1912), Socialism (1922) and Theory and History (1957).

The best introduction to Ludwig von Mises' life and work continues, probably, to be M. N. Rothbard, The Essential Von Mises (Libertarian Press, 1973), translated into Romanian as a postscript to Mises' 1958 lectures in Argentina. You can also consult M. N. Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero, (LvMI, 1988) and I. Kirzner, Ludwig von Mises (ISI Books, 2001).