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Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism Hardcover – September 4, 2007
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About the Author
Jorg Guido Hulsmann, professor of economics at the University of Paris (Angers), tells the full story of his dramatic and inspiring life and contributions – and in the course of it, provides not only a reconstruction of the history of the Austrian School of economics of which Mises was the leading expositor, and not only of the entire history of economic thought on the Continent and the United States, but also of the political and intellectual history of the 20th century.
Virtually everything in this book is new, a result of ten years of combing archives in five countries but of an unprecedented access to the voluminous Mises’s papers and to those of Mises’s colleagues, written by an author who himself is a master of the discipline and all the languages involved (German, English, and French). And though the book is huge (1,200 pages) it reads like a great novel, with a fast pace and high drama.
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‘All act within a framework’. Don’t leaders lead people their way?
“A statesman can succeed only insofar as his plans are adjusted to the climate of opinion of his time, that is to the ideas that have got hold of his fellows’ minds. He can become a leader only if he is prepared to guide people along the paths they want to walk and toward the goal they want to attain. A statesman who antagonizes public opinion is doomed to failure. No matter whether he is an autocrat or an officer of a democracy, the politician must give the people what they wish to get, very much as a businessman must supply the customers with the things they wish to acquire.’’
‘Lead where people want to go’! Well, then how do things change, progress?
“It is different with the pioneers of new ways of thinking and new modes of art and literature. The path-breaker who disdains the applause he may get from the crowd of his contemporaries does not depend on his own age's ideas.... The genius’ work too is embedded in the sequence of historical events, is conditioned by the achievements of preceding generations, and is merely a chapter in the evolution of ideas. But it adds something new and unheard of to the treasure of thoughts and may in this sense be called creative.’’
‘Path-breaker adds something new’! What?
“The genuine history of mankind is the history of ideas”
This deep rooted belief sustained Mises throughout his life.
Ideas matter! Wrong ideas destroy! Correct ideas repair! Such as . . .
Contending with socialism in prewar Vienna, struggles with ‘Red Vienna’ afterward, fighting with nazism before the war, advocating freedom afterward, explaining the danger of worshiping the state, etc., etc..
His determination to keep integrity, never to be intimidated, is an inspiring story!
PART I YOUNG LUDWIG
2. School Years
Socialisms, Austrian Style
3. Alma Mater Rudolphina
Military Service and Death of His Father
Birth of an Economist
PART II THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOL
4. Fin de siècle Economic Science
Carl Menger—Pioneer of “Empirical Theory”
The Breakthrough of the Austrian School
Joseph A. Schumpeter
5. Early Professions
6. Treatise on Money
PART III OFFICER, GENTLEMAN, SCHOLAR
7. The Great War
8. Nation, State, and Economy
The Utilitarian Method of Social Analysis
The Fallacies of German Socialism in War and Peace
9. 1919 New Battlefields
Postwar Socialism and the Specter of Anarchy
10. A Copernican Shift
11. A Treatise on Socialism
Benefits Derived from the Means of Production under Capitalism
Implications of the Calculation Problem
Moral Hazard—The Other Nemesis of Socialism
The Feeble and Compromising John Stuart Mill
PART IV MISES IN HIS PRIME
12. Winds of War
13. A System of Political Philosophy
The Transformation of Economic Science
14. Booms 1926
The Theory of Value Reconsidered
Toward a New Epistemology of the Social Sciences
The Causes of the Great Depression
PART V MISES IN GENEVA
16. The Geneva Years
Alienation from Former Associates
Mises and the Neo-Liberals
Escape from Europe
17. A Treatise on Economics
The System in an Overview
Capitalism and Liberalism are Rational
Consumer Sovereignty and Interest
PART VI MISES IN AMERICA
19. Birth of a Movement
A Conference at Mont Pèlerin
20. Human Action and Its Consequences
21. The Epistemological Case for Capitalism
Science and the Culture of Salutary Dissent
Heroic Elites in a Mass Democracy
The Study of History
The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality
This work is overwhelmingly more than a biography of one famous scholar. It serves more as a biography of the Austrian school. Starts with Menger and then step-by-step follows the development down to Mises death. Spends way more pages on the ideas, than the people.
Author does an absolutely marvelous job of presenting profound concepts clearly and succinctly. I didn’t get them all, but I never felt completely lost or discouraged. I learned a lot!
This book could be used as a reference for history of Austrian economic thought. In fact, it also serves a description of the manner that collectivism, socialism, statism, communism, nationalism all replaced the older prewar Liberalism.
Another treasure is the explanation of the hundreds of famous people Mises worked with, argued with, helped, taught, supported, condemned, praised; along with the world famous scholars he analyzed.
Includes - Bukharin, Oscar Lange, Böhm-Bawerk, Friedman, Hayek, Hazlitt, Keynes, Pareto, Lionel Robbins, Schumpeter, Werner Sombart, Max Weber, Ayn Rand and hundreds more!
Epilogue . . .
“More than thirty years after his death his writings still strike the reader, academic and layman alike, as relevant and thought provoking. His books and articles are still bought by the thousands each year and—most of all—read. How many economics students today actually read something Adam Smith or David Ricardo have written?’’
Right! But why Mises?
“Mises's work stands for the idea or hypothesis that some aspects of social reality cannot be adequately analyzed with the methods used in the natural sciences and in historical investigation. Yet this layer of the social world can be described with praxeology and economics. There are time-invariant causes and effects in human action. Praxeology is the descriptive knowledge of these causes and effects.’’
This ‘scientism’ still has a grip on minds. What choice?
“Whoever wishes to engage in the analysis of the causes and effects that prevail in the social world would do well to start with Mises, unless he wishes to go even further back and find his own way from the classical economists or from the School of Salamanca. As things stand today, Mises's writings provide the only continuous link between modern economic thought and the long tradition of realist social analysis that reaches back to Nicolas Oresme in the fourteenth century.’’
What a gift!
About 700 references in bibliography (not linked). Tremendous!
More than 1000 excellent notes (linked). Wonderful!
Index of 800 plus names (linked). Amazing!
Index of 1200 plus subjects (linked). Overwhelming!
(The recent work: “Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science” by Karl Sigmund, adds depth to Hülsmann’s book. Outstanding!)
In the preface to his excellent book, "The Growth of Biological Thought," Ernst Mayer states that "MUCH OF MODERN BIOLOGY, particularly the various controversies between different schools of thought, cannot be fully understood without a knowledge of the historical background of the problems." In reading MISES I discovered the truth of his admonition as it applies to economics.
There are undoubtedly many like myself with no formal training in economics who have at times struggled to understand von Mises. In reading MISES you will find that some of those issues fall into place. For example, in The Theory of Money and Credit von Mises classifies in tedious detail the things people think of as money. It seemed rather boring. What was his point? In reading MISES I learned that there was a school of thought that considered money just a place holder for value. It was in part a response to such views that he had to sort out money from certificates for money before he could proceed.
A point of interest for those who keep books and may wish to pass them on to heirs. It has a waterproof cover and a binding which is superior. That seems to be a trademark of the Mises Institute press.
I was heartened to discover at the end of MISES that my review of "The Betrayal of the American Right" by Murray Rothbard might well have been written by von Mises himself in substance if not in style. Amazon posted my review. The Mises Institute refused to post it, but I am pleased that they didn't ask me to separate from my wife.