von Mises Remembered

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Daniel Sanchez, editor of the Ludwig von Mises Institute newsletter “The Free Market,”does a great job in remembering this great economist.

Sanchez outlines the many major challenges that von Mises faced in his earlier years as a young economist in an ever-changing European landscape. He served as an artillery officer in the First World War, and most likely was placed on the front lines due to his issues with the anti-liberal economic establishment in Austria, with whom he disagreed. Most other scholars and economists were in planning offices, or rather, in safer positions during the war. If you think about it, isn’t that preposterous, to put a young budding economic mind at the front lines instead of behind a desk? As Sanchez said, could you imagine one of the greatest modern economists dying on the front lines during the First World War? The world would have never have benefited from his analyses of the advantages of capitalism over central planning.

The old guard of German economists, the Kathedersozialisten, were victorious in their push to obtain the German chancellorship for their disciple Adolf Hitler. Soon after, von Mises had to flee from his native Austria (being a Jewish liberal) to Switzerland. As Sanchez puts it, German police soon took possession of his apartment and confiscated all his papers, knowing that “an office full of the written ideas of von Mises was more potentially dangerous to their kind than any Allied weapons cache.” Switzerland proved to not be safe for very long and Mises escaped to Portugal and then to New York City.

In America he was able to survive, though it was tough initially as his wealth had been seized by Nazi Germany. The saddest part of his first years in America was how American economists in academia did not hire him, as they were staunchly against his liberal free-market thinking. This is no surprise to AIA, seeing that academia has not changed very much from von Mises’ day in leaning towards socialism and against the American ideals of capitalism and free markets. However, much to the benefit of von Mises, several benefactors came forward and helped him get on his feet. These events inspired him to write a book called Human Action that some consider his greatest achievement.

Since then, Mises has influenced the lives of countless thousands, if not millions. He helped display the many faults of socialism and their related policies such as sparing Austria for a brief moment before the rise of Nazism, due to his strong methods of persuasion through logic and theory. But how did von Mises do it? His guiding principle, which was derived from Virgil, was “do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it” and he did exactly that. In the article’s words, he was “an intellectual Leonidas,” which refers to the Spartan king who sacrificed 300 Spartans to stall a Persian invasion.

Spencer Irvine is a research assistant at Accuracy in Academia.

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