04 Feb

Mises: Last Knight of Liberalism

Mises: Last Knight of LiberalismI just finished the most amazing book.  This book is a 1000 page behemoth.  It’s half biography, half economics treatise.  Ludwig von Mises represented the third generation of the Austrian School of Economics.  His student, F.A. Hayek would go on to win the Nobel prize.  This book chronicles his life, some of which reads like an adventure novel.

Mises and his wife escaped Vienna and fled to Switzerland one step ahead of the Nazis.  They traveled just behind the German army in France to make it to Portugal where they could get a ship to America.  Once in America, he and his Classical Liberal views and uncompromising position on the free market seemed old fashioned in a post-New Deal America.  The Nazis had confiscated all his research and writings.  So he re-wrote his major German-language work in English, becoming the classic Human Action.

It was also enlightening to learn what Academic Freedom meant in Vienna (that police and government agents were not allowed to set foot on the grounds), and to see World War I from an Austrian’s perspective.

The other half of the book (intertwined with the biography) is an exposition and summary of Mises’ major economics works.  The economics might be a bit intimidating with no background, but you can skip it if you find it dull, tedious, or bewildering.  The book was written with original source materials that were discovered when the Soviet Union broke apart.  When the Soviet Army took Vienna back from the Nazis, they took Mises’ letters notes, writings, and personal effects back to Moscow for Soviet economists to study.

As with all Mises publications, you can get the Ebook online for free or purchase it from their bookstore.  There is also a free audio version available narrated by a German speaker, which really adds a nice touch.

I highly recommend reading or listening to this book for anyone interested in history or economics.

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