Ludwig von Mises
was born on September 29, 1881 in the city of Lemberg, Austria-Hungary, (now
Lviv, Ukraine), to Jewish parents Arthur Edler von Mises and Adele von Mises
(née Landau). Arthur was stationed there as a construction engineer with
Czernowitz railroad company. Mises had two younger brothers: physicist Richard
von Mises, and later Karl von Mises, who died in infancy from scarlet fever.
When Ludwig and Richard were small 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' father died
in 1903, and in 1906 he was awarded his doctorate.
In the years from 1904 to 1914,
Mises attended lectures given by the prominent Austrian economist Eugen von
Boehm-Bawerk. Mises taught as a Privatdozent at the Vienna University in the
years from 1913 to 1934, while also serving as a principal economic adviser to
the Austrian government during the Austrofascist regime of Engelbert Dollfuss.
To avoid the influence of Nazis in
his Austrian homeland, and fearing repression due to his Jewish ancestry,
in 1934 Mises left for Geneva, Switzerland, where he was a professor at the
Graduate Institute of International Studies until 1940. In 1940, he emigrated
to New York City. He was a visiting professor at New York University from 1945
until he retired in 1969, though he was not salaried by the university.
Instead, he earned his living from funding by businessmen such as Lawrence
Fertig. For part of this period Mises worked on currency issues for the
Pan-Europa movement led by a fellow NYU faculty member and Austrian exile,
Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi. He received an honorary doctorate from Grove
Despite his growing fame, Mises
listed himself plainly in the New York phone directory and he welcomed
students freely to his home. Mises died
at the age of 92 at St Vincent's hospital in New York.
Contributions to the field of economics
Mises wrote and lectured extensively
on behalf of classical liberalism and is seen as one of the leaders of the
Austrian School of economics. In his
treatise on economics, Human Action, Mises introduced praxeology as the
conceptual foundation of the science of human action, establishing economic
laws of apodictic certainty rejecting positivism and material causality. Many
of his works, including Human Action, were on two related economic themes:
monetary economicsand inflation;
2. the differences betweengovernment
controlled economiesand free trade.
Mises argued that money is demanded
for its usefulness in purchasing other goods, rather than for its own sake and
that any significant credit expansion causes business cycles. His other
notable contribution was his argument that socialism must fail economically
because of the economic calculation problem — the impossibility of a socialist
government being able to make the economic calculations required to organize a
complex economy. Mises projected that without a market economy there would be
no functional price system, which he held essential for achieving rational
allocation of capital goods to their most productive uses. Socialism would
fail as demand cannot be known without prices, according to Von Mises. Mises'
criticism of socialist paths of economic development is well-known.
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
These arguments were elaborated on
by subsequent Austrian economists such as Hayek.
In Interventionism, An Economic Analysis (1940), Ludwig von Mises
The usual terminology of political
language is stupid. What is 'left' and what is 'right'? Why should Hitler be
'right' and Stalin, his temporary friend, be 'left'? Who is 'reactionary' and
who is 'progressive'? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be
condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should
find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. 'Orthodoxy'
is not an evil if the doctrine on which the 'orthodox' stand is sound. Who is
anti-labor, those who want to lower labor to the Russian level, or those who
want for labor the capitalistic standard of the United States? Who is
'nationalist,' those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the
Nazis, or those who want to preserve its independence?
· The Theory of Money and Credit
· Nation, State, and Economy
An Economic and Sociological Analysis
(1922, 1932, 1951)
· Critique of Interventionism
· Liberalism (1927, 1962)
· Epistemological Problems of
· Notes and Recollections
Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War
· Bureaucracy (1944)
· Planning for Freedom
· Human Action: A Treatise on
Economics (1949, 1963, 1966, 1996)
o preceded by Nationalökonomie
· Theory and History: An
Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution
· The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality
· The Ultimate Foundation of
· Economic Policy: Thoughts for
Today and Tomorrow