This is a question regarding the economist and political thinker Ludwig von Mises.
A short biography: Mises was born in 1881 in Lviv, then part of Austria-Hungary. He studied and worked in Vienna from 1900 until 1934, when he moved to Geneva, Switzerland (this was, I believe, due to the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria; Mises was Jewish). In 1940, Mises moved to the United States, and became a US citizen in 1946. He lived in New York until his death in 1973.
Mises is sometimes described as having been of Austrian nationality; the German Wikipedia page, for example, says that he was an “österreichisch-US-amerikanischer.” But if Mises had in fact been an Austrian citizen, he most likely would not have been able to retain the noble particle in his name (von) when the Austrian nobility was abolished in 1919. (Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian citizen, was called Friedrich von Hayek prior to 1919.)
After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Lviv (Mises' place of birth) became part of Poland and remained thus until 1945, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union and integrated into Ukraine. Was Mises perhaps a Polish citizen during that same period, and could that explain why his name remained unchanged?
I cannot offer definite proof right now, but I'm almost certain (von) Mises was an Austrian citizen at least sometimes before his forced emigration to Switzerland. Consider e.g. this:
He was working for the national chamber of commerce and consulting for the Austrian government. Such roles are usually filled by citizens even today.
Lots of people kept their noble titles casually, i.e. outside official documents. You can e.g. see evidence of this on graveyards of people who died past 1918. There are also many cases involving dual citizenships: e.g. the Prince of Schwarzenberg was allowed to keep his title by virtue being a Swiss citizen as well (in Austria he usually styled himself Karl Schwarzenberg, agronomist). I used to know a guy (born after 1970) who called himself "von" to impress local girls at the disco (or so he thought).
While this does not seem to apply to von Mises' case there are also names that sound as if indicating noble title, however their "von" carries a different, more verbatim meaning about locations: e.g. von der Tannen, von Grüningen.
UPDATE: Mises' biographer Jörg Guido Hülsmann relates that his subject e.g. served as an officer in the Austrian-Hungarian army (i.e. before 1918), that he held an Austrian passport (expired by 1939), and that he was issued an American passport (in 1964). The facsimile (included on p. 833 of the biography) shows that American officials considered Austria (e.g. not Poland) as his birthplace, perhaps again meaning that he had been in possession of an Austrian passport around or before the time when the application was made.
Knowledge of the effects of government interference with market prices makes us comprehend the economic causes of a momentous historical event, the decline of ancient civilization.
It may be left undecided whether or not it is correct to call the economic organization of the Roman Empire capitalism. At any rate it is certain that the Roman Empire in the second century, the age of the Antonines, the “good” emperors, had reached a high stage of the social division of labor and of interregional commerce. What brought about the decline of the empire and the decay of its civilization was the disintegration of this economic interconnectedness. Several metropolitan centers, a considerable number of middle-sized towns, and many small towns were the seats of a refined civilization. The inhabitants of these urban agglomerations were supplied with food and raw materials not only from the neighboring rural districts, but also from distant provinces. A part of these provisions flowed into the cities as revenue of their wealthy residents who owned landed property. But a considerable part was bought in exchange for the rural population’s purchases of the products of the city-dwellers’ processing activities. There was an extensive trade between the various regions of the vast empire. Not only in the processing industries, but also in agriculture there was a tendency toward further specialization. The various parts of the empire were no longer economically self-sufficient. They were mutually interdependent.
What brought about the decline of the empire and the decay of its civilization was the disintegration of this economic interconnectedness, not the barbarian invasions. The alien aggressors merely took advantage of an opportunity which the internal weakness of the empire offered to them. From a military point of view the tribes which invaded the empire in the fourth and fifth centuries were not more formidable than the armies which the legions had easily defeated in earlier times. But the empire had changed. Its economic and social structure was already medieval.
The freedom that Rome granted to commerce and trade had always been restricted. With regard to the marketing of cereals and other vital necessities it was even more restricted than with regard to other commodities. It was deemed unfair and immoral to ask for grain, oil, and wine, the staples of these ages, more than the customary prices, and the municipal authorities were quick to check what they considered profiteering. Thus the evolution of an efficient wholesale trade in these commodities was prevented. The policy of the annona, which was tantamount to a nationalization or municipalization of the grain trade, aimed at filling the gaps. But its effects were rather unsatisfactory. Grain was scarce in the urban agglomerations, and the agriculturists complained about the unremunerativeness of grain growing. The interference of the authorities upset the adjustment of supply to the rising demand.
The showdown came when in the political troubles of the third and fourth centuries the emperors resorted to currency debasement. With the system of maximum prices the practice of debasement completely paralyzed both the production and the marketing of the vital foodstuffs and disintegrated society’s economic organization. The more eagerness the authorities displayed in enforcing the maximum prices, the more desperate became the conditions of the urban masses dependent on the purchase of food. Commerce in grain and other necessities vanished altogether. The compulsion and coercion to which they resorted could not reverse the trend toward social disintegration which was caused precisely by too much compulsion and coercion. To avoid starving, people deserted the cities, settled on the countryside, and tried to grow grain, oil, wine, and other necessities for themselves. On the other hand, the owners of the big estates restricted their excess production of cereals and began to produce in their farmhouses—the villae—the products of handicraft which they needed. For their big-scale farming, which was already seriously jeopardized because of the inefficiency of slave labor, lost its rationality completely when the opportunity to sell at remunerative prices disappeared. As the owner of the estate could no longer sell in the cities, he could no longer patronize the urban artisans either. He was forced to look for a substitute to meet his needs by employing handicraftsmen on his own account in his villa. He discontinued big-scale farming and became a landlord receiving rents from tenants or sharecroppers. These coloni were either freed slaves or urban proletarians who settled in the villages and turned to tilling the soil. A tendency toward the establishment of autarky of each landlord’s estate emerged. The economic function of the cities, of commerce, trade, and urban handicrafts, shrank. Italy and the provinces of the empire returned to a less advanced state of the social division of labor. The highly developed economic structure of ancient civilization retrograded to what is now known as the manorial organization of the Middle Ages.
The emperors were alarmed with that outcome, which undermined the financial and military power of their government. But their counteraction was futile as it did not affect the root of the evil. The compulsion and coercion to which they resorted could not reverse the trend toward social disintegration which, on the contrary, was caused precisely by too much compulsion and coercion. No Roman was aware of the fact that the process was induced by the government’s interference with prices and by currency debasement. It was vain for the emperors to promulgate laws against the city-dweller who “relicta civitate rus habitare maluerit.” The system of the leiturgia, the public services to be rendered by the wealthy citizens, only accelerated the retrogression of the division of labor. The laws concerning the special obligations of the shipowners, the navicularii, were no more successful in checking the decline of navigation than the laws concerning grain dealing in checking the shrinkage in the cities’ supply of agricultural products.
The marvelous civilization of antiquity perished because it did not adjust its moral code and its legal system to the requirements of the market economy. A social order is doomed if the actions which its normal functioning requires are rejected by the standards of morality, are declared illegal by the laws of the country, and are prosecuted as criminal by the courts and the police. The Roman Empire crumbled to dust because it lacked the spirit of liberalism and free enterprise. The policy of interventionism and its political corollary, the Führer principle, decomposed the mighty empire as they will by necessity always disintegrate and destroy any social entity.
Mises was born on Sept 29, 1881, in the city of Lemberg (now Lvov) in Galicia, where his father, a Viennese construction engineer working for the Austrian railroads, was then stationed. Both Mises’s father and mother came from prominent Viennese families his mother’s uncle, Dr Joachim Landau, served as deputy from the Liberal Party in the Austrian Parliament.
Entering the University of Vienna at the turn of the century as a leftist interventionist, the young Mises discovered Principles of Economics (text, pdf) by Carl Menger, the founding work of the Austrian School of economics, and was quickly converted to the Austrian emphasis on individual action rather than unrealistic mechanistic equations as the unit of economics analysis, and to the importance of a free-market economy.
Mises became a prominent post-doctoral student in the famous University of Vienna seminar of the great Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (among whose many accomplishments was the devastating refutation of the Marxian labor theory of value).
The Mises Institute's coat of arms (see full view) is that of the Mises family, awarded in 1881 when Ludwig von Mises's great-grandfather Mayer Rachmiel Mises was ennobled by the Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. In the upper right-hand quadrant is the staff of Mercury, god of commerce and communication (the Mises family was successful in both they were merchants and bankers). In the lower left-hand quadrant is a representation of the Ten Commandments. Mayer Rachmiel, as well as his father, presided over various Jewish cultural organizations in Lemberg, the city where Ludwig was born. The red banner displays the Rose of Sharon, which in the litany is one of the names given to the Blessed Mother, as well as the Stars of the Royal House of David, a symbol of the Jewish people. Ludwig's lifelong motto was from Virgil: tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito ("do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it").
Ludwig von Mises and The Vienna of His Time (Part 1)
Ludwig von Mises was a passionate advocate of reason who deeply believed in the value of human freedom. He also was a patriotic cosmopolitan that is, in the years before he left Europe in 1940, Mises was deeply loyal to the Austria of his birth, while adhering to a philosophy and an outlook on life that was universalistic in its principles. In other words, Ludwig von Mises was an Austrian Jew. 1
This may seem like a strange statement to anyone familiar with Mises&rsquos writings. In his memoirs, Notes and Recollections, he never once mentions the faith of his ancestors. 2 Nor does he speak in favor of Judaism&ndashindeed, in his treatise on Socialism, he refers to Judaism as one of the stagnant and backward religions. 3 And only in Omnipotent Government, written during World War II from his exile in America, does he discuss and criticize anti-Semitism in Germany in particular and in Europe in general. 4 Yet, F. A. Hayek once commented that Mises considered himself to have been a victim of anti-Semitism in having never been awarded the academic position at the University of Vienna for which he considered himself rightfully qualified. 5
Still, in many ways Mises&rsquos life from his birth in Lemberg in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire to his departure from the Austria of the interwar period reflects and parallels the triumphs and tragedies of the Jews of Austria. Mises was born September 29, 1881, in Austrian Poland, or Galicia, as it was called. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, 50 percent of the population of some parts of Galicia was Jewish, with the center of Jewish life and culture being in the province&rsquos capital, Mises&rsquos birthplace. 6
The documents that Ludwig von Mises&rsquos great-grandfather, Mayer Rachmiel Mises, prepared as background for his ennoblement by the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph in June 1881 (just a few months before Ludwig was born) record the history of the Mises family in Lemberg going back to the 1700s. Mayer&rsquos father, Fischel Mises, had been a wholesaler and real estate owner who had received permission to live and conduct business in the so-called &ldquorestricted district&rdquo reserved for non-Jews. At the age of 18, Mayer married a daughter of Hirsch Halberstamm, the leading Russian-German export trader in the Galician city of Brody.
Mayer took over the family business following his father&rsquos death and also served for 25 years as a commissioner in the commercial court of Lemberg. For a time he also was on the city council and served as a full member of the Lemberg Chamber of Commerce. He also was a cofounder of the Lemberg Savings Bank, and later was a member of the board of the Lemberg branch of the Austrian National Bank. In addition, he was a founder of a Jewish orphanage, a reform school, a secondary school, a charitable institution for infant orphans, and a library in the Jewish community. Some of these charities were begun with funds provided by Mayer for their endowment. Indeed, it was for his service to the Emperor as a leader of the Jewish community in Lemberg that Mayer Mises, great-grandfather of Ludwig von Mises, was ennobled.
Mayer&rsquos oldest son, Abraham Oscar Mises, ran the Vienna office of the family business until 1860, when he was appointed director of the Lemberg branch of the Creditanstalt bank. Abraham also was the director of the Galician Carl-Ludwig Railroad. It is perhaps because of Abraham&rsquos connection with this railroad that his own son, Arthur Edler Mises, took up civil engineering with a degree from the Zurich Polytechnic in Switzerland, and then worked for the Lemberg-Czernowitz Railroad Company. Arthur married Adele Landau, the granddaughter of Moses Kallir and the grandniece of Mayer Kallir, a prominent Jewish merchant family in Brody. Arthur and Adele had three sons, of whom Ludwig was the oldest. His brother, Richard, became an internationally renowned mathematician who later taught at Harvard University. The third child died at an early age.
Members of the Mises family also were devout practitioners of their Jewish faith. The vast majority of the Galician Jews were Hasidic, with all the religious customs and rituals that entailed. 7 As a small boy, Ludwig would have heard and spoken Yiddish, Polish, and German, and studied Hebrew in preparation for his bar mitzvah.
Ludwig&rsquos father, Arthur, like many of his generation, chose to leave Galicia and make his life and career in the secular and German cultural world of Vienna. But from the documents among Ludwig von Mises&rsquos &ldquolost papers&rdquo in the Moscow archives, 8 it is clear that his mother maintained ties to her birthplace, contributing money to several charities in Brody, including a Jewish orphanage. 9 In Vienna in the 1890s, Arthur was an active member of the Israelite Community&rsquos Board, a focal point for Jewish cultural and political life in the Austrian capital. 10
Denied Civil Liberties
Until the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century, Jews throughout many parts of Europe were denied civil liberties, often being severely restricted in their economic freedom and, especially in Eastern Europe, confined to certain geographical areas. In the 1820s Jews were still not permitted to live and work freely in Vienna special permission from the Emperor was required. 11 Commercial and civil liberation of the Austrian Jews only occurred in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1848, most especially with the new Constitution of 1867, which created the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy following Austria&rsquos defeat in its 1866 war with Prussia. 12 The spirit and content of the 1867 constitution, which remained the fundamental law of the Empire until the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, reflected the classical liberal ideas of the time. 13 Every subject of the Emperor was secure in his life and private property freedom of speech and the press was guaranteed freedom of occupation and enterprise was permitted all religious faiths were respected and allowed to be practiced freedom of movement and residence within the Empire was a guaranteed right and all national groups were declared to have equal status before the law. 14
No group within the Austro-Hungarian Empire took as much advantage of the new liberal environment as the Jews. In the early decades of the nineteenth century a transformation had begun among the Jewish community in Galicia. Reformers arose arguing for a revision in the practices and customs of orthodox Jewry. Jews needed to enter the modern world and to secularize in terms of dress, manner, attitudes, and culture. The faith had to be stripped of its medieval characteristics and ritualism. Jews should immerse themselves in the German language and German culture. All things &ldquoGerman&rdquo were distinguished as representing freedom and progress. 15
With the freedoms of the 1867 constitution, Austrian and especially Galician Jews began a cultural as well as a geographical migration. In 1869 Jews made up about 6 percent of the population of Vienna. By the 1890s, when the young Ludwig von Mises moved to Vienna with his family, Jews made up 12 percent of the city&rsquos population. In District I, the center of the city where the Mises family lived, Jews made up over 20 percent of the population. In the neighboring District II, the portion was over 30 percent. 16
But in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, there was a stark contrast between these two districts of the city. In District I the vast majority of the Jewish population had attempted to assimilate with their non-Jewish neighbors in dress, manners, and cultural outlook. On the other hand, in District II, bordering on the Danube, the Jewish residents were more likely to have retained their Hasidic practices and orthodox manners, including their traditional dress. It was the visible difference of these Jews, who often had more recently arrived from Galicia, which so revolted the young Adolf Hitler&ndashwho was shocked and wondered how people acting and appearing as they did could ever be considered &ldquoreal Germans.&rdquo They seemed such an obviously alien element in Hitler&rsquos eyes. 17
The characteristic mark of most of the Jews who migrated to Vienna (and other large cities of the Empire, such as Budapest and Prague) was their desire and drive for assimilation in many ways they tried to be more German than the German-Austrians. The Czechs, Hungarians, and Slavs, on the other hand, often were still focused on their traditional ways the Hungarians in particular were suspicious of the Enlightenment, civil liberties, and equality&ndashthese threatened their dominance over the subject peoples in their portions of the Empire. To constrain the Hungarians, the Emperor increasingly put the Czechs, Poles, and Slavs under direct imperial administration on an equal legal footing with the German-Austrians. 18 For the Jews, Austrian imperial policy meant the end of official prejudice and legal restrictions, and the advent of civil rights and educational opportunities. 19 Their continuing and generally steadfast loyalty to the Habsburgs, however, led many of the other nationalities to be suspicious and anti-Semitic as the years went by. The Jews were viewed as apologists and blind supporters of the Habsburg Emperor, without whose indulgence and protection the Jews might have been kept within the ghetto walls. 20
Civil liberties and practically unrestrained commercial and professional opportunity soon saw the Jews rise to prominence in a wide array of areas of Viennese life. 21 By the beginning of the twentieth century more than 50 percent of the lawyers and medical doctors in Vienna were Jewish. The leading liberal and socialist newspapers in the capital were either owned or edited by those of Jewish descent, including the New Free Press, the Viennese newspaper for which Mises often wrote in the 1920s and 1930s. The membership of the journalists&rsquo association in Vienna was more than 50 percent Jewish. At the University of Vienna in 1910, professors of Jewish descent constituted 37 percent of the law faculty, 51 percent of the medical faculty, and 21 percent of the philosophical faculty. At the time Mises attended the university in the first decade of the twentieth century, almost 21 percent of the student body was Jewish. The high proportion of Jews in literature, theatre, music and the arts was equally pronounced. 22
German High-School System
The main avenue for social and professional advancement was education in the gymnasium system&mdashthe high-school system in the German-speaking world. The gymnasium education not only offered the path to higher education and a university degree for many Jews, but it also was an avenue for acculturation and assimilation into European and especially German culture. For example, Mises and his fellow student Hans Kelsen (who later became an internationally renowned philosopher of law and the author of the 1920 constitution of the Republic of Austria) attended the Akademisches Gymnasium in the center of Vienna. It was meant for students preparing for the university and professional careers. Here a wide liberal-arts education was acquired with mandatory courses in Latin, Greek, German language and literature, history, geography, mathematics, physics, and religion, with electives in either French or English&ndashMises selected French. At the core of the curriculum also was the study of the ancient Greek and Roman classics. Mises and other Jewish students at the Akademisches Gymnasium, as a part of their religion training, had courses in Hebrew. 23
According to memoirs written by people who attended the Akademisches Gymnasium in the 1880s and 1890s, most of the students ridiculed the religion classes as &ldquosuperstition.&rdquo The Greek and Roman classics were considered literary avenues to the mainstream of modern European and Western culture. And while contemporary writings in history, social criticism, literature, and the sciences were not assigned, the students absorbed these works on their own as a way to integrate themselves into modern and &ldquoprogressive&rdquo society. 24
In the 1890s, during Mises&rsquos time at the school, 44 percent of the student body was Jewish. But there were some gymnasiums at which Jewish admission was informally restricted. For example, the Maria Theresa Academy of Knights in Vienna was reserved for the children of the nobility and senior officials. Joseph Schumpeter attended it in the 1890s, but only because his stepfather was a lieutenant field-marshal. No matter what his academic qualification, Mises would have had virtually no chance of having been accepted there. There were clusters of these gymnasiums that were clearly closed to Jews, even if they were converts to Christianity, while other clusters represented the high schools where middle-class Jewish businessmen, professionals, and civil servants sent their children. 25
But for all their assimilationist strivings&ndashtheir conscious attempts to be German-Austrians in thought, philosophy, outlook, and manner&ndashthey remained distinct and separate. Not only was this because they belonged to schools, professions, and occupations in which they as Jews were concentrated, but because non-Jewish German-Austrians viewed them as separate and distinct. However eloquent and perfect the Jews&rsquo German in literature and the spoken word, no matter how valuable their contributions to Viennese society and culture, most non-Jewish Viennese considered these to be Jewish contributions to and influences on German-Austrian cultural life.
In the Habsburg domains, part of this anti-Semitism was fed by conservative and reactionary forces in society that often resented the Emperor&rsquos diminishment or abolition of the privileges, favors, and status of the Catholic Church and the traditional landed aristocracy. The high proportion of Austrian Jews involved in liberal or socialist politics made them targets of the conservatives who said they were carriers of modernity, with its presumption of civil equality, unrestrained market competition, and a secularization that was said to be anti-Christian and therefore immoral and decadent. Preservation and restoration of traditional and Christian society, it was claimed, required opposition to and elimination of the Jewish influence on society. Jews were the rootless &ldquopeddlers&rdquo who undermined traditional occupations and ways of earning a living, as well as the established social order of things. They pursued profit. Honor, custom, and faith were willingly traded away by them for a few pieces of gold, it was said. Craft associations became leading voices of anti-Semitism, especially when economic hard times required small craftsmen and businessmen to go hat in hand to Jewish bankers for the borrowed sums to tide them over these times of economic trouble. 27
German nationalism also was a vehicle for growing anti-Jewish sentiment. The paradox here is that in the 1860s and 1870s a sizable number of Jewish intellectuals were founders and leaders in the Austrian and German nationalist movements. German culture and society were viewed as representing the universal values of reason, science, justice, and openness in both thought and deed. German culture and political predominance within the Austro-Hungarian Empire restrained the backward-looking forces of darkness, that is, the Hungarian, Czech, and Slavic threats. At the same time, German influence in Central Europe offered rays of enlightenment in Eastern Europe.
Mises estimated that before World War II, Jews made up 50 percent of the business community in Central Europe and 90 percent of the business community in Eastern Europe. 28 Indeed, in Omnipotent Government he asserted that in Eastern Europe &ldquomodern civilization was predominantly an achievement of Jews.&rdquo 29 What the Jews in these parts of Europe introduced and represented, at least in their own view, was the enlightened German mind, with its culture and institutions. But to the nationalities being introduced to and &ldquothreatened&rdquo by this German cultural influence, it was perceived as Jewish as much as German&ndasha dominating, imperial, and &ldquoforeign&rdquo culture.
At the same time, in both Germany and German-Austria, many of the Christian German nationalists viewed the Jews in the forefront of the Pan-German nationalist movements as interlopers. As a consequence, in the second half of the nineteenth century, rationalizations emerged to justify the rejection of Jewish participation in the cause of German nationalism and culture. It was said that only Christians and the Christian faith were consistent with true German life and culture. But when a significant number of German and Austrian Jews converted to Christianity, it still was found not to be enough. Now it was claimed that to be a true German it was not sufficient to be a convert to Christianity. &ldquoGermanness&rdquo was a culture, an attitude toward life and a certain sense of belonging to the Volk community.
As a growing number of Jews immersed themselves in all things German&ndashlanguage, philosophy, literature, dress, and manner&ndashit was found, again, not to be enough. Really to be a German was to share a common ancestry, a heritage of a common blood lineage. 30 This was one barrier the German and Austrian Jews could not overcome. In the emergence of racial anti-Semitism in the 1880s and 1890s were the seeds of the &ldquofinal solution.&rdquo
In Vienna the spirit of anti-Semitism was represented by Karl Lueger, who was mayor of the capital city in the first decade of the twentieth century and a leader of the Christian Social Party. He insisted that only &ldquofat Jews&rdquo could weather the storm of capitalist competition. Anti-Semitism, Lueger said, &ldquois not an explosion of brutality, but the cry of oppressed Christian people for help from church and state.&rdquo 31 He blended anti- Semitism with social-left reforms, which included civil-service and municipal-government restrictions on Jewish access to city jobs or contracts. On the other hand, when Lueger was challenged on why he had Jewish friends and political associates, he replied, &ldquoI decide who is a Jew.&rdquo 32
But in spite of the presence and growth of anti-Semitic attitudes in the late-nineteenth and early- twentieth centuries in Austria in general and Vienna in particular, Mises&rsquos lack of attention to his own Jewish family background or any hint of the impact of anti-Semitism around him&ndashthere were anti-Jewish student riots at the University of Vienna during the years when he was a student there around the turn of the century&ndashwas in fact not uncommon. One can read Stefan Zweig&rsquos fascinating account of everyday life in the Vienna of this time and have the distinct impression that anti-Semitic attitudes and municipal government policy were virtually nonexistent. 33
Yet the circles in which people moved in Viennese society both before and after World War I existed with many invisible walls. Traditional or orthodox Jews lived and worked within a world of their own in the city. 34 Secular and assimilated Jews, like Ludwig von Mises and Hans Kelsen, moved in circles of both Jews and non-Jews but even the nonreligious and German-acculturated Jews clustered together. A review of the list of participants in Mises&rsquos famous private seminar in Vienna, for example, shows a high proportion of Jews. 35 And even after Mises had moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1934, his agenda books for this time show that many of his social engagements were with other Jews residing in that country.
The end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century saw the eclipse of liberalism in Austria and the rise of socialism in its place, centered in the political ascendancy of the Social Democratic Party. A sizable number of Jews were prominent in the Austrian socialist movement they were anti-capitalist and viewed the entrepreneurial segment of the society as exploiters and economic oppressors. The capitalist class would be swept away in the transformation to socialism, including the Jewish capitalists in the &ldquoruling class.&rdquo Most of the Jews in the socialist movement were not only secular and considered themselves harbingers of the worker&rsquos world to come they were also contemptuously opposed to cultural and religious Judaism as well. 36
These three political movements in Austria and Vienna when Mises was a young man&ndashconservatism, German nationalism, and radical socialism&ndashwere, each for its own reasons, enemies of liberal society, opponents of free-market capitalism, and therefore threats to the ideas and occupations of those middle-class, or &ldquobourgeois,&rdquo walks of life heavily populated by the Jews of Austria and Vienna.
The history of Austrian Jewry during this time is a story of triumph and tragedy. The winds of nineteenth-century liberalism freed the Austrian Jewish community, both internally and externally. Internally, the liberal idea pried open orthodox Jewish society in places such as Austrian Galicia. It heralded reason over ritual greater individualism over religious collectivism open-minded modernity over the strictures of traditionalism. Externally, it freed the Jewish community from legal and political restrictions. The rights of freedom of trade, occupation, and profession opened wide many opportunities for social improvement, economic betterment, and political acceptance. 37
Within two generations this transformed Austrian Jewish society. And within that same span of time it saw the rise of many Jews to social and economic prominence, with greater political tolerance than ever known before. If these two liberating forces had not been at work, there would not have been Ludwig von Mises&ndashthe economist, the political and social philosopher, and the notable public figure in the Austria between the two world wars. 38
At the same time these two liberating forces set the stage for the tragedy of the German and Austrian Jews. Their very successes in the arts and the sciences, in academia, and in commerce fostered the animosity and resentment of those less successful in the arenas of intellectual, cultural, and commercial competition. It set loose the emotion of envy, the terror of failure, and the psychological search for excuses and scapegoats. It ended at the gates to the Nazi death camps. 39
Why the movie?
In the libertarian and wider liberty movement Ludwig von Mises is well-known and appreciated. But among ordinary people? The revival and rise of statist and nationalist sentiments in the world – for example, in the USA, Poland, and Hungary – indicate that citizens and voters are unaware of the advantages of the free market. We believe that achieving our goals depends on winning the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens. How to do this?
Capitalism is based on the division of labor, which carries a lot of advantages, but has a drawback as well. Namely, it makes people start to focus on one or several areas that provide their livelihoods and forces them to upgrade their skills constantly. They lose interest in other areas and prefer to spend their leisure time on hobbies or entertainment. To interest them, scientific ideas (proposed by Mises for example) about economic issues have to be introduced in an attractive way, such as in the form of a film, if it tells an interesting story and does not just present dry facts. It must offer momentum and commitment.
Deaths per case
A third metric which is interesting is the ratio of deaths to cases, with the cases offset by a suitable margin to allow for the time lapse between first symptoms and death. A statistician named Wood has calculated that in the UK at least, this time lapse follows a log-normal distribution, with a mean of 21 days and a standard deviation of 12.7 days. So, after trying several options, I decided to use an offset of 21 days, the mean of this distribution. I also decided to start my graph at 21 st August, as prior to that the figures either oscillate wildly, or are badly marred by adjustments.
Through August, most of the countries’ deaths per case ratios were going down. This suggested that the virus was getting weaker. From September, though, the ratio started increasing again in several countries. Why Italy is such an outlier, I don’t know.
To compare these recent deaths per case figures with those for the first wave, here are the cumulative deaths per case figures for the epidemic as a whole.
See that big gap in the middle, above the green Irish line? That, I think, may well be “the care home factor.” Those countries above the gap, that didn’t properly protect the people in care homes, lost a lot of these people very quickly. And the only country to start badly, yet get on top of it relatively quickly, was Sweden.
Comparing these percentages with the earlier ones, in many of the worst affected countries the recent deaths per case ratio is now a factor of 5 or more below the overall deaths per case throughout the epidemic. This suggests either that the virus has got weaker, or that the people it is affecting now are generally healthier than those it hit earlier in the epidemic. The improvement in Sweden is particularly noticeable, from about 6% to around 0.5%.
Of which countries was Ludwig von Mises a citizen? - History
By Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Writing for Americans about the cultural background of Ludwig von Mises, an eminent former compatriot of mine, poses some difficulties: how to present you with a world radically different from yours, a world far away, which in many ways no longer exists. For example, the birthplace of this eminent economist was for nearly fifty years within the confines of the Soviet Union. Who was this great man and scholar? In what ambiance did he live before he came to the United States, where he continued to publish his crucially important works and to inspire new generations of economists? We have to go back to the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, then the second-largest political unit in Europe. Only Russia was bigger, although Germany’s population was slightly larger. Mises was born in 1881 in Lwów, the capital of what was known as Galicia. A kingdom and crownland of Austria, Galacia was called “Lesser Poland.” At the time, the majority of the city was Polish more than a quarter was Jewish a small minority was Ukrainian and a tiny percentage was Austro-German officials. However, the upper classes were distinctly Polish.
The eastern part of Galicia had belonged to Poland since the fourteenth century, but became Austrian at the first Polish partition in 1772, and it was returned to Poland in 1918. It is important to realize all this in order to understand Mises’s cultural as well as psychological upbringing, and the roots of his life-philosophy. His Jewish roots, his Polish culture, his Austrian political frame and allegiance are all intertwined. Variety was the keynote of his background, and by the time he was twelve years old, he knew the Germanic, the Latin, the Cyrillic, the Greek, and the Hebraic script. As to languages, he spoke German, Polish, and French, and understood Ukrainian. The year he was born his grandfather — head of the Israeli Cult Community — was ennobled with the title Edler, which means The Noble, a distinction not so rare for Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, a very well-to-do railroad enterpriser, made sure Ludwig got the very best classical education. He did the same for his other son, Richard, who became a professor of mathematics at the University of Berlin and then later at Harvard. Human Action: A Treati. Ludwig Von Mises Best Price: $8.20 Buy New $5.46 (as of 06:05 EST - Details )
The Poles enjoyed complete freedom in “Lesser Poland,” unlike in Russia or Prussia, and had two universities of their own. In the Austrian Parliament in Vienna, they played a very important role as true pillars of the multinational Habsburg Empire, and many Poles saw in that dynasty the future rulers of a liberated and resuscitated Poland.
We must keep in mind that long before the catastrophe of the partitions, the Poles, as an aristocratic nation, strongly upheld personal freedom. Movements for liberty, as a matter of fact, have typically been carried on by the nobility, which always opposed centralizing pressure and control. We saw this in England with the Magna Carta, in Hungary with the Golden Bull, in Aragon by the stubborn Grandes, and in France by the Fronde. In this respect, Poland went further it became an elective monarchy in 1572 and called itself a republic. One of the slogans of this very independent nobility was: “Menace the foreign kings and resist your own!” Political power rested with the nobility, which (before the partitions) had no titles, and its claimants comprised a fifth of the population. (For a comparison, take Alpine Austria with a third of one percent or Prussia with much less!) It was a nobility without legal distinctions and a proverb said: “The nobleman in his farmhouse is equal to the magnate in his castle.” And since all noblemen were equals, they could not be ruled by majorities. In the parliament, the Sejm, the opposition of a single man — the Liberum Veto — annulled any legal proposition.
A Sense of Freedom
This sense of freedom also pervaded the religious scene. Poland was not always a solidly Catholic country. In the sixteenth century it was one-third Presbyterian and one-third Unitarian (Socinian), but the Catholic Church regained its vast majority thanks largely to the Jesuits and their cultural endeavors: their schools accepted pupils from all denominations, and supported good architecture, painting, and, above all, theater. (The Jesuits were the initiators of our stage technology.) There was no inquisition, neither stake nor rope. Poland was, unlike England, the most tolerant European country. Polish liberty was such that when, in 1795, at the last partition, when the Free Royal Polish City of Danzig was incorporated by Prussia, the citizens, mostly German Lutherans, fought valiantly for their freedom. Many of the leading families emigrated, so the Schopenhauers went to Hanseatic Hamburg.
How did the Jews fare? They came to Poland in the fourteenth century, then a wholly agrarian country, at the invitation of King Casimir the Great, and they came mostly from Germany. In Germany they had the privilege to settle in ghettoes where they had complete self-government. (See Guido Kisch’s magistral work, The Jews in Medieval Germany, Chicago, 1942.) Since by their own ritual they were not permitted to take more than 2,000 steps on the Sabbath, they could not dwell too far from the synagogue. Of course, efforts were made to convert them, and if they accepted baptism, they automatically — as relatives of our Lord — became members of the nobility. Antisemitism? As anywhere else, it came from very simple people to whom the descendants of Abraham seemed odd in their rituals, their clothing, their language, and their behavior, although orthodox Jews, above all, were people of great piety and honesty.
Poles and freedom! Not only in their own country did they practice it Polish freedom fighters were active in many parts of the world. Two noblemen survive in the memory of the United States — Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski, the only U.S. general who died in the War of Independence on American soil. (Nor should one forget Henryk Dembinski and Józef Bem, who played a similar role in the Hungarian Rising of 1848–49.) In the battle of Liebnitz, the Poles and the German Knights diverted the Mongols from the plains of Northern Europe the Poles defeated the Turks in 1683 at the gates of Vienna and in 1920 they defeated the Bolsheviks in front of Warsaw. Three times they saved Western civilization. Does the world realize it? Of course not!
His Polish, more than his Jewish background, was decisive for Mises’s earliest years, but that did not conflict with his attachment to Austria and the monarchy. Indeed, I met Mises for the first time in New York, in the company of our former crown prince, Archduke Otto von Habsburg, whom he greatly admired.
Young Ludwig did not study in one of the two linguistically Polish universities of Lwów or Cracow, but in Vienna. In order, however, to understand his intellectual growth, it is important to realize how the Continental system of education works. It differs radically from the Anglo-American pattern. After four years of elementary training, one enters — if the parents are ambitious — a school which remotely resembles a combination of high school and college lasting eight (in Germany, nine) years.
There are three models of that school: a classic one with eight years of Latin and six of Greek, a semi-classic with Latin and one or two modern languages, and a more scientific one with only modern languages. In all three types (the classic one being naturally more prestigious than the others), the local language, mathematics, geometry, history, geography, and religion are taught regularly physics, chemistry, biology, and mineralogy only occasionally and there is an introduction to philosophy in the classical for only two years. Often these very hard school years hung like a black cloud over families. Failure in just one subject required repetition of a whole year. This was the fate of Nietzsche, of Albert Einstein, and also of Friedrich August von Hayek! Young Mises, of course, got a classical education: the modern languages he learned privately.
Studying the Law
After getting his baccalaureate, Mises studied law. Here we have to explain the character of Continental universities which have no undergraduates: they are graduate schools pure and simple. They traditionally have four schools: of theology, law, medicine, and philosophy, the last covering a multitude of disciplines, almost all belonging to the humanities. The professors were chosen by the faculties, which constituted a self-perpetuating body. Socialism: An Economic. Ludwig von Mises Best Price: $6.00 Buy New $1.99 (as of 06:20 EST - Details )
On the Continent, the study of law — then as now — was radically different from legal studies in either Britain or in the United States. The first three semesters are dedicated entirely to the history and philosophy of civil and canon law. It is needless to say that in our countries we follow the tradition of a codified Roman law. Case histories play no role, because precedents would not bind us in any way. In the more practical areas which followed the long introduction, the study of economics is prominent.
Mises found the law lectures at the University of Vienna to be very one-sided and the teaching of economics, with a few exceptions, below par. Already as a young man he had a most critical sense. He was very much aware of the fact that our universities, all perfectly autonomous bodies, state-financed but not state-controlled, were inevitably dominated by cliques and factions in the appointments, even family ties played a considerable role.
The rector was addressed as Your Magnificence, and the universities were so sacrosanct that the police were not permitted to enter them. Criminals hiding there had to be arrested by the Academic Legion, composed of students, and then were dragged outside where they were handed over to the “arm of the law.” The freedom to teach was limitless. (“Academic freedom” is a term translated from German.) Even a professor, who, instead of lecturing, read newspapers, could not be dismissed. Every professor had tenure up to the age of sixty-five or sixty-seven, when he had to retire at eighty-two percent of his final salary. The qualities of the professor as a teacher bore no weight: the professor was expected not to be an educator, but a scholar who gave the students a chance to listen to him. It is obvious that this system had serious drawbacks, but the professors, nevertheless, had immense status. As a matter of fact, no career was considered to be so desirable as that of a university professor, with the possible exception of the diplomatic corps and the general staff.
To Be a Professor
I mention all these details because they played a major role in the life of Mises. As one can imagine, it was his ambition from his student days to become a professor. (The same was true of his brother, Richard.) Yet Ludwig’s dream was never completely fulfilled, neither in his home country nor in the New World. The primary reason for this was that the universities of Austria, and especially that of Vienna, were dominated by two factions: the National Liberal and the Left. There was also a very small minority of professors who could be termed “Clerical” Conservatives. Bear in mind, however, that Emperor Francis-Joseph, who symbolized that whole age in Austria, was a Liberal in the worldwide (as opposed to the American) sense, and that the Liberal parties for a very long time dominated the Austrian scene until 1908, when the disastrous “one man-one vote” principle was introduced. Conservatism in Austria was limited to the church, the army, the aristocracy, and part of the peasantry. It had no influence in the administration, in the schools, and not really at court.
A Strange Synthesis
The synthesis of ethnic nationalism (German, Czech, Polish, Slovene, Italian, or Ukrainian), and classical liberalism, might seem a bit strange to Americans, but it was nevertheless a reality. A similar situation prevailed in Germany where Bismarck, originally a Conservative and a Prussian patriot, had broken with the Conservatives and received wholehearted support from the National Liberal party, whose backers were the grande bourgeoisie moneyed interests, big industry, and the adherents of a mild form of Pan-Germanism. The National Liberals were also motivated by an anticlerical bias directed against the Catholic rather than against the Lutheran clergy. Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, his struggle against the Catholic Church leading to the imprisonment of bishops, the expulsion of the Jesuits, and the introduction of compulsory civil marriage (aping the French), fit very well into this pattern. Obviously, all this was not to the liking of Prussian Conservatives, to whom Bismarck was a man of the Left. Of course, the “Iron Chancellor” was anything but a traditionalist. The new German flag, Prussia’s black and silver, was broadened with the red of the Revolution. Prussian Conservatives naturally stuck to the old colors.
In Germany, as well as in Austria, two areas, which prior to the German-Prussian War of 1866 had belonged to the Austrian-led German League, the National Liberals were, oddly enough, culturally and politically, though not economically, Liberals. As nationalists they wanted a strong state and thus they were by nature interventionists in order to arrest the growth of socialism, they promoted the Provider State. Bismarck alternatively fought the Socialists (who called themselves Social Democrats) or cooperated with them, especially in the earlier days when Ferdinand Lasalle was still alive, a man hated by Marx who persecuted him with the worst antisemitic insults.
This fact has to be faced: our German Liberals were secretly state-worshippers because they hoped that a powerful state would break the “forces of yesterday.” Hence they were by no means identical with, let us say, the British Liberals of the Gladstone type. Thus a situation arose, even in the Austrian universities, in which Liberals and Socialists were not so far apart. Yet, at the same time, one also could perceive the growth of some sort of Romantic Catholic Conservatism that was anti-capitalist, anti-liberal, and anti-socialist. It was desperately looking for an economic “Third Way” and, unavoidably, toyed with the idea of a state based on the ancient corporations and guilds rather than on parties. There always existed a Continental Catholic Conservatism based on a deep-seated suspicion of the Calvinist and Lutheran manufacturers and the Jewish bankers. (In 1930, of the ten regents of the Bank of France, five where Protestants, four were Jews, and one was “nondescript.”) Hence, also, the Catholic opposition against “Old Liberalism.” One finds this clearly in Article eighty of the famous Syllabus Errorum.
Here again we have to inject another digression. There are four genuine Liberalisms. Pre-Liberalism’s outstanding representative is Adam Smith (and one might add: Edmund Burke). The Pre-Liberals did not use the Liberal label simply because this term was only born in 1812, when it was applied to the supporters of the Spanish Constitution of Cadiz. The Liberal appellation was promptly adopted in France, and in 1816 Southey used the Spanish word liberales for the first time in an English text, and Sir Walter Scott spoke of libéraux with a French spelling. Soon we see the rise of the “Early Liberals” on the Continent, mostly aristocrats with Catholic roots, initiating an intellectual movement which lasted until the end of the nineteenth century. Tocqueville, Montalembert, and Acton were its main representatives, but I would like to add the name of an agnostic Basel patrician — Jacob Burekhardt. This second phase of Liberalism had a primarily cultural and political, not an economic character. The Old Liberals constituted a third phase.
This is where Mises more or less fitted in. The Old Liberals were strongly interested in economics, but also in cultural and political matters they were “progressive,” anticlerical, in philosophic matters profoundly skeptical, and convinced that dogmatic beliefs automatically led to intolerance. They frequently (though not always) failed to share the antidemocratic feelings of the Early Liberals, favored the separation of church and state, and not rarely were allied with (deistic) Freemasonry.
The Neo-Liberals appeared only after World War II. They were strongly inspired by Early Liberalism and differed from the Old Liberals by their greater sympathy for Christian values, their greater toleration for some state intervention, and their leanings toward Conservatism. Their most eloquent spokesman was Wilhelm Röpke. The rupture between Old and New Liberals became evident in 1961 when the Neo-Liberals left the Mont Pèlerin Society. However, what today is called Liberalism in the United States (and nowhere else) is the very opposite of all forms of Liberalism and is nothing but watered-down socialism. North America, being a gigantic island in the world ocean, is frequently the victim of the perversion of terms. I described the sad fate of the term “Liberalism” in the United States in an essay published by the Intercollegiate Review (Fall 1997). To confuse my readers even more, let me mention the fact that I write for a Polish periodical called Stáncyzk which calls itself Conservative, Liberal, and Monarchist.
Still, the Germanic type of National Liberalism held illiberal, mercantilistic views in the domain of economics. Reflecting upon the collectivistic character of Nationalismus, our word for ethnicism, this is not so surprising. Any collectivism must come into conflict with genuine Liberalism. The old order, in our part of the world, was “vertical” and patriotic, not “horizontal” and nationalistic. Our dynasties, as a rule, had foreign origins, were ethnically mixed, and usually married foreigners. The same was true of the aristocracy. With the powerful rise of the middle classes all this was challenged. And it was obvious that Mises did not feel Jewish or Polish or German, but Austrian. With profound anxiety he looked into the future, terrified that collectivism — ethnic and socialist — would tear the monarchy asunder. He feared once the Dual Monarchy was destroyed, the area would fall under the sway of Berlin or Moscow or be partitioned between them. All these events took place between 1938 and 1945. The immediate menace, however, was what Sir Denis Brogan and Raymond Aron called “The Second War of Austrian Succession,” which started in 1914, to be followed by a third one in 1939. The Anti-Capitalistic . Ludwig Von Mises Best Price: $2.07 Buy New $3.85 (as of 10:56 EST - Details )
Mises Stands Alone
All these frightening historic events Mises faced as an isolated thinker. He never fully belonged to a specific camp. He was always a square peg in a round hole, a fact which Friedrich August von Hayek emphasized in his preface to Mises’s memoirs entitled Erinnerungen (Stuttgart, 1978). He said that one knew Jews who were confirmed leftist intellectuals of the socialist stamp, one also knew Jewish bankers and industrialists who advocated free enterprise, but here was a solid thinker who stood for a truly rightist, genuinely liberal doctrine. To make matters worse, Mises was consciously a nobleman, a true gentleman, who rejected all compromise and never concealed his thoughts or his convictions. If somebody or something was plainly stupid, he said so, nor could he tolerate cowardice or ignorance. A man with these qualities was suspect to the philistines who were so well represented in the various departments of our universities. Thus he had difficulties even in becoming a privatdozent (an unpaid assistant professor) and later an ausserordentlicher Professor (let us call it an unpaid associate professor). He never became a full professor. Envy, the old cancer of Austria (and not only of Austria), made itself felt especially in the domains of intellectual and artistic life — and that included the universities.
Besides studying the humanities, Mises concentrated on economics. Without a certain philosophic, theological, psychological, historic, and geographic background, economics is not understandable. The “economist” who knows nothing but finance, production, and sales data is, according to Mises (and to all devotees of the Austrian School), a barbarian— and a bad economist. Of course, the Austrian, especially the Viennese scene, even during the First Republic, which lived off the intellectual capital accumulated during the monarchy, provided Mises with a rich heritage. It was also obvious that many brilliant minds were not connected with the university. Freud had merely the honorary title of a professor, but no professorship. (Nor had his antagonist, Alfred Adler.) Freud was politically a man of the Right — vide also his devastating judgment of Woodrow Wilson. The situation in Germany was not dissimilar: neither Schopenhauer nor Spengler were university professors.
Vienna’s Intellectual Scene
The intellectual scene in Vienna was rich, richer than in Berlin, because Vienna, until 1918 was the metropolis of an empire comprising a dozen nationalities and six large religious bodies. The German-speaking area had, however, no intellectual center like France — with Paris and the Sorbonne. The University of Vienna was just one of the many places of higher learning, but there remains the impressive fact that if one speaks of the “Austrian School” one has to make it clear which of the Austrian Schools is meant. There is a musical, ethnological, philosophical and, last, but by no means least, an Austrian Economic School known all over the world except in Austria itself. Mises was one of the most outstanding representatives of this Austrian School, along with Friedrich August von Hayek.
The Chamber of Commerce
Given the opposition Mises encountered at the university, he looked for steady employment in the Handelskammer, the semi-official Chamber of Commerce. After 1920, the Austrian government was mostly in the hands of the Christian Social Party, a Clerical — Conservative party, which eventually fathered the dictatorship of Dollfuss and his Patriotic Front. This party had to fight the international socialists, and, later, the National Socialists. Mises, as an agnostic and a genuine Liberal, had no innate enthusiasm for the Christian Socials, but, judging Austria’s precarious situation dispassionately, knew that a decent, responsible man had to collaborate with that government. As a financial and economic advisor, he had close contacts with the Federal Chancellor, Monsignor Seipel, whom he called “a noble priest,” a wonderful man who eventually died from a bullet fired by a Socialist fanatic. (Dollfuss was later murdered by the National Socialists.) Mises’s advice was often taken, but at other times ignored. Let us bear in mind that in the years of a clerical government, this aristocratic Jewish intellectual was an “odd man out,” and fit into no established pattern.
The Menace of Socialism
Mises had a most constructive mind, but given the situation of the First Austrian Republic, he was and remained a pessimist because he realized that he lived in an age when the appetites and the idiocies of the masses dominated the scene. The sole advantage he saw in democracy was the same one emphasized by Sir Karl Popper, i.e., the bloodless transition from one government to another, though Mises also knew only too well that such a change could be for the worse, infinitely worse if one remembers the years 1932–33 in Germany. Reading his Erinnerungen one is struck by his con – tempt not only for the Spiesser, the philistine, but also for the unthinking masses. One should not forget that, as Allan Bloom told us in The Closing of the American Mind, first-rate European minds were always on the Right. Mises, naturally, had no political ambitions, but as an independent thinker, he wanted to be heard. He always expressed his views in a straightforward manner, and tolerated no cant.
In the First Republic (1918–1933), he saw not only the incompetence of the various governments, the totalitarian menace of socialism, and German nationalism — racism degenerating into National Socialism, but also the bottomless ignorance and weakness of the Western Powers, which gave the small Alpine Republic no effective help. The only possible protector of Austria was Fascist Italy, which, unlike France or Britain, bordered on the remainders of the Danubian monarchy, but Anthony Eden drove Mussolini into Hitler’s hands. “The British are simply unteachable!” was Mises’s frequent outcry. He foresaw the Anschluss (blessed by the “democracies”) and, just in time, accepted an invitation from the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes, a postgraduate school in Geneva, where after 1934 he taught while still keeping in touch with his beloved Chamber of Commerce in Vienna. But even in Geneva he did not feel completely safe and the Swiss government, terrified by the aggressiveness of the Third Reich, tried to silence the refugees living within its borders. Thus, Mises strove for the safer shores of the New World, and succeeded in attaining them during the war.
Mises as Teacher
How effective was he as a teacher? His lectures at the University of Vienna were well attended and he put the emphasis, quite naturally, on his seminar. But most professors disliked Mises, and a student whose record proved that he had studied under him was treated with the utmost severity. Thus some of the students asked Mises to admit them to his seminar without entering this fact in the Index, the passbook. Needless to say these timid students did not receive “credit” (to use an American expression) for the seminar. They simply wanted to profit from the richness of the thought of this intellectual giant. The works of his colleagues are by now all forgotten, but the unpopular Mises lives on, and will do so for all time to come. Whether those in power will follow his advice and take heed of his admonitions is, of course, a very different matter.
The Private Seminar
Besides the official seminars attended by ordinary students, Mises, always eager to spread his ideas, also held a private seminar. In one large room of the Chamber of Commerce, he invited every fortnight a group of postgraduate students and persons of distinction, men and women, who later in their lives left their mark in the field of economics and other domains. Here I would like to mention Friedrich Engel von Jánosi, a noted Austrian historian, who also taught in American universities. But the three best known economists in the group were Friedrich August von Hayek, Gottfried von Haberler, and Fritz Machlup, all three later became professors in the United States. Hayek, I would like to point out, did not start out as an economist, but as a biologist. He took part in the last year of World War I (trying, like Mises, who was quite gravely wounded, to prevent the “world from being made safe for democracy”). This experience changed his mind. He decided to take up a career which would bring him in contact with people, with real life, and not leave him isolated in a laboratory. But, as one knows from his writings, he never gave up his interest in the hard sciences as well as the other humanities, above all political science.
Economics, too, can be housed in an ivory tower, but in such a structure Mises refused to live. He who remained a bachelor for such a long time enjoyed wholeheartedly the social life of imperial Vienna and even of the much shabbier republican Vienna. What could Vienna offer to a cultured man like Mises? There was a plethora of authors — Schnitzler, Zweig, Broch composers like von Webern, Mahler, Berg, Schönberg and philosophers like Carnap, Schlick, and Wittgenstein. Max Weber was guest-professor in Vienna and he became a close friend of Mises. There were also names such as Robert von Musil, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, painters like Kokoschka, Klimt or Schiele, and not forgetting the great medical men, many of them members of the nobility, who enjoyed in Vienna a status available nowhere else. In the republic they were honored on coins and stamps. In addition, there were the great entertainments: first-rate concerts, the two opera houses, the Burgtheater, the Emperor’s private theater, but quite naturally accessible to the public, the Theater in der Josefsstadt, Reinhardt’s repertory theater, where the most original plays were staged, and many other well subsidized theaters. Mises was a great theater goer and the other fine arts meant a great deal to him. As a cultured Continental, he obviously loved to read what we, in German, called schöngeistige Literatur (and in French belles lettres) — not just “fiction.” When I met Mises the first time he deplored the death of Robert von Musil in his Swiss exile. I can understand why Mises admired the work of Musil, a somewhat kindred and “very Austrian” soul. Mises needed the arts to counter his growing melancholia mixed with a real indignation at the gradual collapse of Western civilization and culture to which he was so deeply attached.
Mises in America
In the United States, Mises had a considerable resonance in what are called conservative and libertarian circles. His university career, however, was hampered by pettiness and prejudices similar to those he had encountered in Vienna — although they came from very different quarters. Without the aid of generous foundations, his living conditions would have remained rather limited. It is a well-known fact that scholarly books of a truly high level do not become bestsellers (although Human Action was a selection of the Book of the Month Club).
Mises, as one could expect, had a good grasp of the American scene. He quickly discovered the socio-psychological reasons why academic America was veering to the Left. To the halls of academe Mises seemed a very eccentric thinker laboring under the “Germanic shortcoming” of a far too systematic, rigid, and uncompromising way of reasoning. He was, indeed, not prepared to “assimilate” to his surroundings. He was perhaps not generally liked, but had faithful disciples and, very deservedly, genuine admirers. He preached individualism and was an individualist. Adverse to all shilly-shallying, he did not strive for popularity, but for truth. To many Americans and Englishmen, some of his ideas appeared hyperbolic, as for instance, to hand over the mail to private enterprise (today a reality in many countries). He was not a “regular fellow,” but very much a gentleman of the old school, and, above all, a great scholar who had rediscovered forgotten permanent truths and deflated new superstitions. He never gave up. He battled until his last breath. Perhaps he remembered the first line of the Polish National Hymn, which he heard often in his childhood: “Poland is not lost yet!” Since then it has risen twice from the ashes. Well, freedom is not lost yet, if we, like Ludwig Edler von Mises, really fight for it.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1909-1999) was an Austrian nobleman and socio-political theorist who described himself as and enemy of all forms of totalitarianism and as an "extreme conservative arch-liberal" or "liberal of the extreme right." Described as "A Walking Book of Knowledge", Kuehnelt-Leddihn had an encyclopedic knowledge of the humanities and was a polyglot, able to speak eight languages and read seventeen others.
Germany and Austria Edit
The abolition of the monarchies in Germany and Austria in 1919 meant that neither state has a privileged nobility, and both have exclusively republican governments.
In Germany, this means that legally von simply became an ordinary part of the surnames of the people who used it. There are no longer any legal privileges or constraints associated with this naming convention. According to German alphabetical sorting, people with von in their surnames – of noble or non-noble descent alike – are listed in telephone books and other files under the rest of their names (e.g., the economist Ludwig von Mises would have been found under M in the phone book rather than V).
In Austria, in contrast, not only were the privileges of the nobility abolished, their titles and prepositions were abolished as well in 1919. Thus, for example, Friedrich von Hayek became simply Friedrich Hayek. (See also Austrian nobility on this issue.)
In contrast to the peerage of the United Kingdom, the aristocracies of the German-speaking countries were held to include untitled nobility, although the names of nearly all the families falling into this category did include von, zu, von und zu, von der, von dem, zum, vom und zum or zur.
Non-noble use Edit
The preposition originated among German speakers during the Middle Ages and was commonly used to signify a person's origins, appending the name of the place they originated from (see toponymic surname), or the name of their parents, as the concept of a surname did not start to come into common usage until later on.
Nevertheless, it was mostly aristocrats and other land owners who acquired a surname consisting of von, zu or zur and a toponym. When families were raised to nobility later on, the prefix was added in front of their existing name whatever its source, e.g. von Goethe. In some cases, even an existing non-noble von became noble, or vice versa, therefore the same surname sometimes would be shared by noble and non-noble individuals.
Especially in the Northwest (Bremen, Hamburg, Holstein, Lower Saxony, Schleswig, Westphalia) and in German-speaking Switzerland, von is a frequent element in non-noble surnames.  About 200 to 300 known non-noble surnames contain the element von.  On the other hand, especially in Lower Saxony, several prominent noble surnames do not contain the particle von, e.g. Grote [de] , Knigge [de] or Vincke. 
In order to distinguish the noble von from the non-noble one, the Prussian military abbreviated it to v. in noble names, often without a space following it, whereas the non-noble von was always spelled in full.  In the 19th century in Austria and Bavaria, non-noble surnames containing von were widely altered by compounding it to the main surname element, such as von Werden → Vonwerden. 
"Untitled" and "non-noble" are not synonyms in the German-speaking world. However, most German nobles used von and most users of von were noble. Nonetheless, desiring to add cachet to their perceived lineages in the era since titles of nobility were abolished, some individuals of no titled descent chose to add the particle to their name, such as movie directors Josef von Sternberg, Erich von Stroheim, and Lars von Trier.
Ancient nobility Edit
Some very old noble families, usually members of the Uradel, bear surnames without the rather young nobiliary particle von but are nevertheless still noble.
Also, a very few German families were elevated to the nobility without use of the preposition von. This was the case of the Riedesel Freiherren zu Eisenbach who received baronial dignity in 1680.
In order to distinguish themselves from bearers of regionally frequent non-noble surnames containing von, nobles in Northern Germany continue the royal Prussian military practice of abbreviating the noble von to v. but spelling the non-noble von in full. 
Generally, the growth of the Tsardom of Russia into the Russian Empire was accompanied to a greater or lesser extent by the inflow of German surnames. Two main channels of such migration were the absorption of territories where Germans constituted a part of local nobility, such as Finland, Poland, and the Baltic region, and the state-supported immigration of Germans into Russia, such as the Volgadeutsch.
As a rule, the members of the local nobility who found themselves in Russia as a result of geopolitical shifts preserved their privileges in the Empire. Their surnames were listed in the State Register of Noble Families as soon as the required documents were provided. The particle von was preserved as well once hyphens came into common use in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was used to connect the von with the following part of the surname (e.g. Russian: Фон-Визин , von-Wiesen). However, since the twentieth century the particle has been written separately, as in the German origin. In the Baltic region, the German language continued to be used alongside Russian, so the language environment was friendly enough there to keep these surnames from localisation.
Meanwhile, some of those whose ancestors individually entered the Russian service from abroad, and who settled themselves in Moscow or the core Russian provinces, sooner or later found it easier to adjust their surnames to the local speaking mode. However, unlike immigrants to English-speaking countries during the 18th to 20th centuries, who usually lost their nobility particles and often simplified and anglicised the remaining parts of their surnames, immigrants to the Tsarist and Imperial Russia did not lose their noble particles, although some of their core surnames may have experienced some minor changes.
At the end of the 16th century, after the Livonian War, Ivan IV of Russia invited Baron Berndt von Wiesen (German pronunciation: [fɔn viːzən] ) from the Livonian Brothers of the Sword into Russian service and granted him some landed property. In the 17th century his descendants wrote their surnames as Russian: Фон Висин (which preserved the German spelling rather than the Russian pronunciation: [fɐn ˈvʲisʲɪn] ). Circa 1660 one of them added-ov (Russian: Фон Висинов , Russian pronunciation: [fɐn ˈvʲisʲɪnəf] ), yet in the 18th century this suffix was lost, and the middle consonant changed again s→z (Russian: Фон-Визин , which preserves the German pronunciation rather than spelling: Russian pronunciation: [fɐn ˈvʲizʲɪn] ). Finally, in the 18th century Ivan Fonvizin [ru] decided to merge the particle von with the core, thus giving a start to a new Russian family of German origin. His son, Denis Fonvizin (Russian: Фонви́зин , Russian pronunciation: [fɐnˈvʲizʲɪn] ) became a playwright whose plays are staged today.
Nordic countries Edit
In the Nordic countries, von is common but not universal in the surnames of noble families of German origin and has occasionally been used as a part of names of ennobled families of native or foreign (but non-German) extraction, as with the family of the philosopher Georg Henrik von Wright, which is of Scottish origin, or as with the family of the painter Carl Frederik von Breda, who was of Dutch ancestry.
In German Edit
The German dictionary Duden recommends capitalizing the prefix von at the beginning of the sentence, but not in its abbreviated form, in order to avoid confusion with an abbreviated first name. However the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung style guide recommends omitting the von completely at the beginning of the sentence. 
An Introduction to the Major Writings of Ludwig von Mises
The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) wrote widely on matters such as highly technical works on monetary theory as well as journalistic pieces designed for a broader audience. Here is an annotated list of some of his major writings which have been translated into English.
1912: The Theory of Money and Credit
The first German edition of this book appeared in 1912 under the title Theorie des Geldes und der Umlaufsmittel. It is discussed at some length by Lawrence S. Moss in “The Monetary Economics of Ludwig von Mises” who summarizes Mises’s views as follows:
Mises favored an international monetary mechanism that would constrain the money-issuing proclivities of modern governments. He recognized that one of the great threats to the liberal ideal of a free, mobile, and prospering world economy is the tendency on the part of government to increase state coffers by using the “printing press’ rather than by borrowing or issuing new taxes. For Mises the guaranteed consequence of this policy, which he termed “inflationism,” is the wholesale redistribution of the wealth and property of individual citizens. This redistribution is accomplished, not by the method of parliamentary debate and legislative action, but by haphazard and cruel method that leave the poorest and most disadvantaged segments of the population worse off than before. In Mises’ view the great threat to the survival of democratic ideals and the organization of modern industrial life is a hyperinflation that would ravage the world economy like an angry fire, destroying the property and aspirations of the masses and creating conditions for military takeover and total state control.
As a practical matter, Mises favored commodity gold standard whereby each government would have to maintain the convertibility of money in terms of gold. Any policy of inflationism would be short lived in the wake of declining gold reserves, or the state would suffer the diplomatic embarrassment of having to redefine its currency unit in terms of gold. Mises, of course, realized that the resource costs of such a monetary arrangement are high, and the system itself is never totally insured against sudden and sometimes massive changes in the quantity of money that originate from, say, technological innovations in the processing of gold or new mine discoveries.62 But the virtue of the arrangement is not that it makes it too costly for the size and growth of the money supply to become an object of government policy. Mises preferred the impersonal mechanisms of the market, no matter how imperfect, to the whims and gluttonous excesses of power-hungry politicians. In Mises’ view, the strategy that is currently favored in liberal quarters, that of moving toward a less expensive fiat currency system while urging the monetary authorities to pass parliamentary decrees limiting their own appetities, is as idealistic as expecting a child not to eat candy placed in his hand.
See Lawrence S. Moss, The Economics of Ludwig von Mises: Toward a Critical Reappraisal, ed. with an Introduction by Laurence S. Moss (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976). /titles/moss-the-economics-of-ludwig-von-mises-toward-a-critical-reappraisal#Moss_0719_50
Ludwig von Mises, The Theory of Money and Credit, trans. H.E. Batson (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981). .
1919: Nation, State, and Economy: Contributions to the Politics and History of Our Time
Nation, State, and Economy, published less than a year after Austria’s defeat in World War I, examines and compares prewar and postwar economic conditions and explicates Mises’s theory that each country’s prosperity supports rather than undercuts the prosperity of other countries. Mises’s humanitarian recommendations in this book, born from a classical liberal perspective, provide a striking example of how supposedly “hardnosed” economic theory, based on the reality of experience, is in fact far more supportive of human flourishing than seemingly more “idealistic” but actually impractical social theories. Specifically, Mises warned of the consequences of the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles by victors more interested in punishing their defeated enemies than in building a Europe that would be able to meet the challenges of the future. With the benefit of hindsight we see how different European and world history might have been.
In an important chapter on “Liberal or Pacifistic Nationalism”, Mises shows how contradictory are the demands for a powerful national, unitary state and economic liberty:
Liberalism, which demands full freedom of the economy, seeks to dissolve the difficulties that the diversity of political arrangements pits against the development of trade by separating the economy from the state. It strives for the greatest possible unification of law, in the last analysis for world unity of law. But it does not believe that to reach this goal, great empires or even a world empire must be created. It persists in the position that it adopts for the problem of state boundaries. The peoples themselves may decide how far they want to harmonize their laws every violation of their will is rejected on principle. Thus a deep chasm separates liberalism from all those views that want forcibly to create a great state for the sake of the economy.
Ludwig von Mises, Nation, State, and Economy: Contributions to the Politics and History of Our Time, trans. Leland B. Yeager, ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006). .
1922: Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
This translation is from the second German edition (1923), which included two articles by Mises: “Die Arbeit im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen,” Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft und Sozialpolitik N. F. 1 (1921): 459–76 and “Neue Beiträge zum Problem der sozialistischen Wirtschaftsrechnung,” Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 51 (1924): 488–500. The first edition of Socialism appeared under the title Die Gemeinwirtschaft: Untersuchungen über den Sozialismus. Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1922. As the title implies, Mises criticized the Socialist arguments from the point of view that the sociological and economic consequences of socialism are precisely the opposite of what is intended by the advocates of socialism. He also attacked the argument that socialism is historically necessary.
Murray Rothbard discusses Mises’ view of the impossibility of rational economic calculation under socialism and its implications for the broader idea of government regulation of economic activity in “Ludwig von Mises and Economic Calculation under Socialism” and concludes that:
Mises also refuted the idea that a Socialist Planning Board would arrive at correct pricing through trial and error, through clearing the market. While this could be done for already produced consumer goods, for which a market would presumably continue to exist, it would be precisely impossible in he realm of capital goods, where there would be no genuine market hence, any sort of rational decisions on the kinds and amounts of the production of capital and of consumer goods could not be made. In short, the process of trial and error works on the market because the emergence of profit and loss conveys vital signals to the entrepreneur, whereas such apprehensions of genuine profit and loss could not be made in the absence of a real market for the factors of production.
See Lawrence S. Moss, The Economics of Ludwig von Mises: Toward a Critical Reappraisal, ed. with an Introduction by Laurence S. Moss (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976). .
Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981). .
1927: Liberalism: The Classical Tradition
This translation is from Liberalismus. Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1927. Here Mises restated the case for economic freedom on purely scientific grounds, that is, grounds that do not appeal to natural law or other metaphysical notions. William Baumgarth treats this book in his paper “Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order”. Baumgarth notes that:
The political thought of Ludwig von Mises provided a forceful restatement and elaboration of liberalism as applied to a modern commercial society. Mises’ thought was developed during the first half of this century when liberalism, as a recognizable political force, was on the decline. This decline was precipitated by the theft of liberalism’s aims by those who sought to achieve the ends by employing antiliberal methods. It is paradoxical that as liberalism’s goal of material prosperity gained world acceptance, its specific program was threatened with complete extinction. Mises explained that the controversies of the modern world are about means and not ends: in general, men the world over expect a social system to provide “peace and abundance.” What men expect from social cooperation is the satisfaction of as many of their most urgent wants as possible, and therefore they, for the most part, dispute about the type of social system that will serve this purpose. In Mises’ words, “Liberalism is distinguished from socialism, which likewise professes to strive for the good of all, not by the goal at which it aims, but by the means that it chooses to attain that goal.”
See Lawrence S. Moss, The Economics of Ludwig von Mises: Toward a Critical Reappraisal, ed. with an Introduction by Laurence S. Moss (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976). .
Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: The Classical Tradition, trans. Ralph Raico, ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). .
Written during the Second World War when all the liberal democracies had adopted various forms of government regulation and control of their economies, this is one of the earliest works by an economist explaining the sources of bureaucratic inefficiency. According to Mises, it is the absence of “profit-and-loss” accounting that distinguishes bureaucratic management from entrepreneurial management. But it is not surprising that, under the circumstances, Mises was quite pessimistic:
We must acknowledge the fact that hitherto all endeavors to stop the further advance of bureaucratization and socialization have been in vain. In the twenty-seven years that have passed since President Wilson led America into the war to make the world safe for democracy, democracy has lost more and more ground. Despotism triumphs in most of the European countries. Even America has adopted policies which, some decades ago, it disparaged as “Prussian.” Mankind is manifestly moving toward totalitarianism. The rising generation yearns for full government control of every sphere of life.
Learned lawyers have published excellent treatises depicting the progressive substitution of administrative arbitrariness for the rule of law. They have told the story of how the undermining of self-government makes all the rights of the individual citizen disappear and results in a hyperdespotism of the oriental style. But the socialists do not care a whit for freedom and private initiative.
Neither have satirical books been more successful than the ponderous tomes of the lawyers. Some of the most eminent writers of the nineteenth century—Balzac, Dickens, Gogol, Maupassant, Courteline—have struck devastating blows against bureaucratism. Aldous Huxley was even courageous enough to make socialism’s dreamed paradise the target of his sardonic irony. The public was delighted. But his readers rushed nonetheless to apply for jobs with the government.
Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy, edited and with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). .
1949: Human Action: A Treatise on Economics
As the title indicates, Mises took up the whole of the science of economics and explained it as a subset of the more general science of human action, which he termed “praxeology.” The book is rich in its criticism of alternative schools of economic thought and philosophies of science that deny the unique and subjective character of the social sciences. The book is an expanded version of a German work: Nationalökonomie: Theorie des Handelns und Wirtschaftens. Geneva: Editions Union, 1940. Here Mises first argued the case for the praxeological character of the science. Murray Rothbard explains what Mises meant by the term “praxeology” in “Praxeology: The Methodology of Austrian Economics” and Ludwig Lachmann discusses the key concept of “market process” in “On the Central Concept of Austrian Economics: Market Process”. As Rothbard observes:
Praxeology is the distinctive methodology of the Austrian school. The term was first applied to the Austrian method by Ludwig von Mises, who was not only the major architect and elaborator of this methodology but also the economist who most fully and successfully applied it to the construction of economic theory.1 While the praxeological method is, to say the least, out of fashion in contemporary economics—as well as in social science generally and in the philosophy of science—it was the basic method of the earlier Austrian school and also of a considerable segment of the older classical school, in particular of J. B. Say and Nassau W. Senior.
Praxeology rests on the fundamental axiom that individual human beings act, that is, on the primordial fact that individuals engage in conscious actions toward chosen goals. This concept of action contrasts to purely reflexive, or knee-jerk, behavior, which is not directed toward goals. The praxeological method spins out by verbal deduction the logical implications of that primordial fact. In short, praxeological economics is the structure of logical implications of the fact that individuals act. This structure is built on the fundamental axiom of action, and has a few subsidiary axioms, such as that individuals vary and that human beings regard leisure as a valuable good. Any skeptic about deducing from such a simple base an entire system of economics, I refer to Mises’s Human Action. Furthermore, since praxeology begins with a true axiom, A, all the propositions that can be deduced from this axiom must also be true. For if A implies B, and A is true, then B must also be true.
See Edwin G. Dolan, The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics, ed. with an Introduction by Edwin G. Dolan (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976). .
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, in 4 vols., ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). .
1952: Planning for Freedom: Let the Market System Work. A Collection of Essays and Addresses
In this anthology, Mises offers an articulate and accessible introduction to and critique of two topics he considered especially important: inflation and government interventionism. According to Mises, inflation, that is monetary expansion, is destructive it destroys savings and investment, which are the basis for production and prosperity. Government controls and economic planning never accomplish what their proponents intend. Mises consistently argued that the solution to government intervention is free markets and free enterprise, which call for reforming government. For that, ideas must be changed to “let the market system work.” There is no better “planning for freedom” than this. In one of the more insightful essays in this volume, “Middle-of-the-road Policy leads to Socialism,” Mises notes that:
One Intervention Leads to Further Interventions. What we have to realize is that price ceilings affecting only a few commodities fail to attain the ends sought. On the contrary. They produce effects which from the point of view of the government are even worse than the previous state of affairs which the government wanted to alter. If the government, in order to eliminate these inevitable but unwelcome consequences, pursues its course further and further, it finally transforms the system of capitalism and free enterprise into socialism of the Hindenburg pattern.
Ludwig von Mises, Planning for Freedom: Let the Market System Work. A Collection of Essays and Addresses, edited with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008). .
[Published online with the kind permission of the copyright holders, the Foundation for Economic Education. In particular for the following articles: “Laissez Faire or Dictatorship”, “The Gold Problem”, Benjamin M. Anderson Challenges the Philosophy of the Pseudo-Progressives”, “Lord Keynes and Say’s Law”, “Stones into Bread”, “Economic Teaching at the Universities”, and “Trends can Change”.]
1956: The Anti-capitalistic Mentality
In this brief essay Mises analyzed the reasons why intellectuals find the capitalist system unacceptable. His search for the psychological roots of their criticism is touched on by Baumgarth in his paper “Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order”. Most of Mises’ 1956 essay was reprinted in U.S. News and World Report, 19 October 1956. On The Anti-Capitaist Bias of American Intelelctuals Mises observes that
The anti-capitalistic bias of the intellectuals is a phenomenon not limited to one or a few countries only. But it is more general and more bitter in the United States than it is in the European countries. … If a group of people secludes itself from the rest of the nation, especially also from its intellectual leaders, in the way American “socialites” do, they unavoidably become the target of rather hostile criticisms on the part of those whom they keep out of their own circles. The exclusivism practiced by the American rich has made them in a certain sense outcasts. They may take a vain pride in their own distinction. What they fail to see is that their self-chosen segregation isolates them and kindles animosities which make the intellectuals inclined to favor anti-capitalistic policies.
Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-capitalist Mentality, edited and with a preface by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006). .
1957: Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution
In this book Mises attacked the logical basis for believing that there are laws of social history analogous to the laws of the natural world. Mises also sketched his own theory of historical evolution, which is value free because it views historical phenomena as the outcome of purposive actions undertaken by individuals. He observed sadly that:
The history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has discredited the hopes and the prognostications of the philosophers of the Enlightenment. The peoples did not proceed on the road toward freedom, constitutional government, civil rights, free trade, peace, and good will among nations. Instead the trend is toward totalitarianism, toward socialism. And once more there are people who assert that this trend is the ultimate phase of history and that it will never give way to another trend.
Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution, ed. Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). .
1962: The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method
Here Mises argued that economic phenomena cannot be “explained” unless they are analyzed in terms of the choices and plans of acting individuals. This is the strongest case ever made for “methodological individualism” in economics, by which he meant the following:
The rejection of methodological individualism implies the assumption that the behavior of men is directed by some mysterious forces that defy any analysis and description. For if one realizes that what sets action in motion is ideas, one cannot help admitting that these ideas originate in the minds of some individuals and are transmitted to other individuals. But then one has accepted the fundamental thesis of methodological individualism, viz., that it is the ideas held by individuals that determine their group allegiance, and a collective no longer appears as an entity acting of its own accord and on its own initiative.
Ludwig von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method, ed Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006). .
Why Communism Failed
Editors’ note: This article, written for FEE’s op-ed program, has been carried by newspapers in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and, in Spanish-language translation, in New Mexico, New York, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
Three years after the Russian Revolution, an Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, argued that Communism would fail and explained why. Communism, or socialism, couldn’t succeed, Mises wrote in 1920, because it had abolished free markets so that officials had no market prices to guide them in planning production. Mises was relatively unknown when he made his controversial forecast, but he acquired some international renown later as the leading spokesman of the Austrian (free market) school of economics. Since his death in 1973, his theories have gained new adherents, some now even in Eastern Europe.
The Soviet Union was launched with high hopes. Planning was to be done by a central committee, insuring plenty for everyone. The state was to wither away. But things didn’t work out that way. The Soviet state soon became one of the most oppressive in the world. Millions of Russians starved in the 1920s and 1930s.
As Mises pointed out, the raw materials, labor, tools, and machines used in socialist production are outside the market. They are owned by government and controlled by government planners. No one can buy or sell them. No market prices can develop for them because they aren’t exchangeable.
Modern production is time-consuming and complicated. Producers must consider alternatives when deciding what to produce. And they must consider various means of production when deciding how to produce. Raw materials, tools, and machines must be devoted to the most urgent projects and not wasted on less urgent ones.
Consider, for instance, the planning of a new railroad. Should it be built at all? If so, where? And how? Is building the railroad more urgent than constructing a bridge, building a dam to produce electricity, developing oil fields, or cultivating more land? No central planner, even with a staff of statisticians, could master the countless possibilities. Machines might be substituted to some extent for labor wood, aluminum, or new synthetic materials might be substituted for iron. But how will the planners decide?
To make these decisions, planners must know the relative values—the exchange ratios or market prices—of the countless factors of production involved. But when these factors are government-owned, there are no trades, and thus, no market prices. Without market prices, the planners have no clues as to the relative values of iron, aluminum, lumber, the new synthetics, or of railroads, oil fields, farm land, power plants, bridges, or housing. Without market prices for the factors of production, the planners are at a loss as to how to coordinate and channel production to satisfy the most urgent needs of consumers.
More than 70 years have passed since the Russian Revolution and 45 years since the end of World War n. Why then do the Russian people still lack adequate housing and many everyday items? Why does agricultural produce rot in the fields for lack of equipment to harvest and transport it? Why are factories and oil fields so poorly maintained that production declines? Because the raw materials, tools, machines, factories, and farms are not privately owned. Without the bids and offers of private owners, prices reflecting their relative market values cannot develop. And without market prices, it is impossible to coordinate production activities so that the goods and services consumers need will be available. That is why Communism fails.
In a competitive economy, where factors of production are privately owned, these problems are solved daily as owners calculate the monetary values of the various factors and then buy, sell, and trade them as seems desirable, As Mises wrote in 1920, “Every step that takes us away from private ownership of the means of production and from the use of money also takes us away from rational economics.”