Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was an Austrian economist, philosopher, author and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern libertarian movement and the Austrian School of economics.
- The goal of liberalism is the peaceful cooperation of all men. It aims at peace among nations too. When there is private ownership of the means of production everywhere and when laws, the tribunals and the administration treat foreigners and citizens on equal terms, it is of little importance where a country's frontiers are drawn. Nobody can derive any profit from conquest, but many can suffer losses from fighting. War no longer pays; there is no motive for aggression. The population of every territory is free to determine to which state it wishes to belong, or whether it prefers to establish a state of its own. All nations can coexist peacefully, because no nation is concerned about the size of its state.
- The characteristic feature of militarism is not the fact that a nation has a powerful army or navy. It is the paramount role assigned to the army within the political structure. Even in peacetime the army is supreme; it is the predominant factor in political life. The subjects must obey the government as soldiers must obey their superiors. Within a militarist community there is no freedom; there are only obedience and discipline.
- Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War (1944)
- Inflation is an increase in the quantity of money without a corresponding increase in the demand for money, i.e., for cash holdings.
- The Free Market and Its Enemies, speech to the Foundation for Economic Education (1951)
- If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.
- Planning for Freedom (1952), p. 44
- You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you. If this be arrogance, as some of your critics observed, it is still the truth that had to said in the age of the Welfare State.
Theory of Money and Credit (1912) edit
- The proof of a theory is in its reasoning, not in its sponsorship 
Nation, State, and Economy (1919) edit
Institute for Humane Studies, Menlo Park, California, trans. Leland B. Yeager, 1983
- War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.
- p 186
- Bourgeois civilization has built railroads and electric power plants, has invented explosives and airplanes, in order to create wealth. Imperialism has placed the tools of peace in the service of destruction. With modern means it would be easy to wipe out humanity at one blow.
- p. 252
- Die Gemeinwirtschaft : Untersuchungen über den Sozialismus — "Socialism : An Economic and Sociological Analysis" (1922) - full text online
- Socialism is the watchword and the catchword of our day. The socialist idea dominates the modem spirit. The masses approve of it. It expresses the thoughts and feelings of all; it has set its seal upon our time. When history comes to tell our story it will write above the chapter "The Epoch of Socialism."
As yet, it is true, Socialism has not created a society which can be said to represent its ideal. But for more than a generation the policies of civilized nations have been directed towards nothing less than a gradual realization of Socialism.
- Introduction : The Success of Socialist Ideas
- All rational action is economic. All economic activity is rational action. All rational action is in the first place individual action. Only the individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual acts.
- Permanent mass unemployment destroys the moral foundations of the social order. The young people, who, having finished their training for work, are forced to remain idle, are the ferment out of which the most radical political movements are formed. In their ranks the soldiers of the coming revolutions are recruited.
Epilogue (1947) edit
- The characteristic mark of this age of dictators, wars and revolutions is its anti-capitalistic bias. Most governments and political parties are eager to restrict the sphere of private initiative and free enterprise. It is an almost unchallenged dogma that capitalism is done for and that the coming of all-round regimentation of economic activities is both inescapable and highly desirable.
- Government spending cannot create additional jobs. If the government provides the funds required by taxing the citizens or by borrowing from the public, it abolishes on the one hand as many jobs as it creates on the other. If government spending is financed by borrowing from the commercial banks, it means credit expansion and inflation. If in the course of such an inflation the rise in commodity prices exceeds the rise in nominal wage rates, unemployment will drop. But what makes unemployment shrink is precisely the fact that real wage rates are falling.
- Credit expansion can bring about a temporary boom. But such a fictitious prosperity must end in a general depression of trade, a slump.
- The interventionists do not approach the study of economic matters with scientific disinterestedness. Most of them are driven by an envious resentment against those whose incomes are larger than their own. This bias makes it impossible for them to see things as they really are. For them the main thing is not to improve the conditions of the masses, but to harm the entrepreneurs and capitalists even if this policy victimizes the immense majority of the people.
- No social co-operation under the division of labour is possible when some people or unions of people are granted the right to prevent by violence and the threat of violence other people from working. When enforced by violence, a strike in vital branches of production or a general strike are tantamount to a revolutionary destruction of society.
- Whatever people do in the market economy, is the execution of their own plans. In this sense every human action means planning. What those calling themselves planners advocate is not the substitution of planned action for letting things go. It is the substitution of the planner's own plan for the plans of his fellow-men. The planner is a potential dictator who wants to deprive all other people of the power to plan and act according to their own plans. He aims at one thing only: the exclusive absolute pre-eminence of his own plan.
- When people were committed to the idea that in the field of religion only one plan must be adopted, bloody wars resulted. With the acknowledgment of the principle of religious freedom these wars ceased. The market economy safeguards peaceful economic co-operation because it does not use force upon the economic plans of the citizens. If one master plan is to be substituted for the plans of each citizen, endless fighting must emerge. Those who disagree with the dictator's plan have no other means to carry on than to defeat the despot by force of arms.
- State and government are the social apparatus of violent coercion and repression. Such an apparatus, the police power, is indispensable in order to prevent anti-social individuals and bands from destroying social co-operation. Violent prevention and suppression of anti-social activities benefit the whole of society and each of its members. But violence and oppression are none the less evils and corrupt those in charge of their application. It is necessary to restrict the power of those in office lest they become absolute despots. Society cannot exist without an apparatus of violent coercion. But neither can it exist if the office holders are irresponsible tyrants free to inflict harm upon those they dislike.
- All this talk: the state should do this or that, ultimately means: the police should force consumers to behave otherwise than they would behave spontaneously.
- In fact, however, the supporters of the welfare state are utterly anti-social and intolerant zealots. For their ideology tacitly implies that the government will exactly execute what they themselves deem right and beneficial. They entirely disregard the possibility that there could arise disagreement with regard to the question of what is right and expedient and what is not. They advocate enlightened despotism, but they are convinced that the enlightened despot will in every detail comply with their own opinion concerning the measures to be adopted. They favour planning, but what they have in mind is exclusively their own plan, not those of other people. They want to exterminate all opponents, that is, all those who disagree with them. They are utterly intolerant and are not prepared to allow any discussion. Every advocate of the welfare state and of planning is a potential dictator. What he plans is to deprive all other men of all their rights, and to establish his own and his friends' unrestricted omnipotence. He refuses to convince his fellow-citizens. He prefers to "liquidate" them. He scorns the "bourgeois" society that worships law and legal procedure. He himself worships violence and bloodshed.
- From a correct Marxian point of view … all measures designed to restrain, to regulate and to improve capitalism were simply "petty-bourgeois" nonsense … True socialists should not place any obstacles in the way of capitalist evolution. For only the full maturity of capitalism could bring about socialism. It is not only vain, but harmful to the interests of the proletarians to resort to such measures.
- For the time being, the ominous peril of the communist parties in the West lies in their stand on foreign affairs. The distinctive mark of all present-day communist parties is their devotion to the aggressive foreign policy of the Soviets. Whenever they must choose between Russia and their own country, they do not hesitate to prefer Russia. Their principle is: Right or wrong, my Russia. They strictly obey all orders issued from Moscow. When Russia was an ally of Hitler, the French communists sabotaged their own country's war effort and the American communists passionately opposed President Roosevelt's plans to aid England and France in their struggle against the Nazis.
- It is, they say, not Russia that plans aggression but, on the contrary, the decaying capitalist democracies. Russia wants merely to defend its own independence. This is an old and well-tried method of justifying aggression. Louis XIV and Napoleon I, Wilhelm II and Hitler were the most peace-loving of all men. When they invaded foreign countries, they did so only in just self-defence. Russia was as much menaced by Estonia or Latvia as Germany was by Luxemburg or Denmark.
- It is a fact that Mussolini entered the scene of world politics as an ally of the democracies, while Lenin entered it as a virtual ally of imperial Germany.
- There were nowhere more docile disciples of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin than the Nazis were.
- The only certain fact about Russian affairs under the Soviet regime with regard to which all people agree is: that the standard of living of the Russian masses is much lower than ... the paragon of capitalism, the United States of America. If we were to regard the Soviet regime as an experiment, we would have to say that the experiment has clearly demonstrated the superiority of capitalism and the inferiority of socialism.
Liberalism (1927) edit
- Now it cannot be denied that the only way one can offer effective resistance to violent assaults is by violence. Against the weapons of the Bolsheviks, weapons must be used in reprisal, and it would be a mistake to display weakness before murderers. No liberal has ever called this into question. What distinguishes liberal from Fascist political tactics is not a difference of opinion in regard to the necessity of using armed force to resist armed attackers, but a difference in the fundamental estimation of the role of violence in a struggle for power. The great danger threatening domestic policy from the side of Fascism lies in its complete faith in the decisive power of violence. In order to assure success, one must be imbued with the will to victory and always proceed violently. This is its highest principle. What happens, however, when one's opponent, similarly animated by the will to be victorious, acts just as violently? The result must be a battle, a civil war. The ultimate victor to emerge from such conflicts will be the faction strongest in number. In the long run, a minority — even if it is composed of the most capable and energetic — cannot succeed in resisting the majority. The decisive question, therefore, always remains: How does one obtain a majority for one's own party? This, however, is a purely intellectual matter. It is a victory that can be won only with the weapons of the intellect, never by force. The suppression of all opposition by sheer violence is a most unsuitable way to win adherents to one's cause. Resort to naked force — that is, without justification in terms of intellectual arguments accepted by public opinion — merely gains new friends for those whom one is thereby trying to combat. In a battle between force and an idea, the latter always prevails.
- Repression by brute force is always a confession of the inability to make use of the better weapons of the intellect — better because they alone give promise of final success. This is the fundamental error from which Fascism suffers and which will ultimately cause its downfall. The victory of Fascism in a number of countries is only an episode in the long series of struggles over the problem of property. The next episode will be the victory of Communism. The ultimate outcome of the struggle, however, will not be decided by arms, but by ideas. It is ideas that group men into fighting factions, that press the weapons into their hands, and that determine against whom and for whom the weapons shall be used. It is they alone, and not arms, that, in the last analysis, turn the scales.
So much for the domestic policy of Fascism. That its foreign policy, based as it is on the avowed principle of force in international relations, cannot fail to give rise to an endless series of wars that must destroy all of modern civilization requires no further discussion. To maintain and further raise our present level of economic development, peace among nations must be assured. But they cannot live together in peace if the basic tenet of the ideology by which they are governed is the belief that one's own nation can secure its place in the community of nations by force alone.
It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.
- Ch. 1 : The Foundations of Liberal Policy § 10 : The Argument of Fascism
- A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.
- As the liberal sees it, the task of the state consists solely and exclusively in guaranteeing the protection of life, health, liberty, and private property against violent attacks. Everything that goes beyond this is an evil. A government that, instead of fulfilling its task, sought to go so far as actually to infringe on personal security of life and health, freedom, and property would, of course, be altogether bad.
- Ch. 1 : The Foundations of Liberal Policy § 11. The Limits of Governmental Activity
- The unhampered market economy is not a system which would seem commendable from the standpoint of the selfish group interests of the entrepreneurs and capitalists. It is not the particular interests of a group or of individual persons that require the market economy, but regard for the common welfare. It is not true that the advocates of the free-market economy are defenders of the selfish interests of the rich. The particular interests of the entrepreneurs and capitalists also demand interventionism to protect them against the competition of more efficient and active men. The free development of the market economy is to be recommended, not in the interest of the rich, but in the interest of the masses of the people.
Bureaucracy (1944) edit
- The capitalist system of production is an economic democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote. The consumers are the sovereign people. The capitalists, the entrepreneurs, and the farmers are the people’s mandatories. If they do not obey, if they fail to produce, at the lowest possible cost, what the consumers are asking for, they lose their office. Their task is service to the consumer. Profit and loss are the instruments by means of which the consumers keep a tight rein on all business activities.
- Chapter I: Profit Management, § 1: The Operation of The Market Mechanism
- The state is God, deifies arms and prisons. The worship of the state is the worship of force. There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men. The worst evils which mankind ever had to endure were inﬂicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.
- Chapter III: Etatism
Human Action (1949) edit
- A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings.
- 1963 edition, p. 680
- ...racial hatred is not a natural phenomenon innate in man. It is the product of ideologies. But even if such a thing as a natural and inborn hatred between various races existed, it would not render social cooperation futile and would not invalidate Ricardo's theory of association. Social cooperation has nothing to do with personal love or with a general commandment to love one another. People do not cooperate under the division of labor because they love or should love one another. They cooperate because this best serves their own interests. Neither love nor charity nor any other sympathetic sentiments but rightly understood selfishness is what originally impelled man to adjust himself to the requirements of society, to respect the rights and freedoms of his fellow men and to substitute peaceful collaboration for enmity and conflict.
- Part 2, VIII.84
- There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.
- Chapter XX: Interest, Credit Expansion, The Trade Cycle, § 8 : The Monetary or Circulation Theory of the Trade Cycle
- If one takes pleasure in calling the gold standard a "barbarous relic," one cannot object to the application of the same term to every historically determined institution. Then the fact that the British speak English — and not Danish, German, or French — is a barbarous relic too, and every Briton who opposes the substitution of Esperanto for English is no less dogmatic and orthodox than those who do not wax rapturous about the plans for a managed currency.
- If historical experience could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.
- Chapter XV. The Market, § 4 The Scope and Method of Catallactics
- Value is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment. Neither is value in words and doctrines, it is reflected in human conduct. It is not what a man or groups of men say about value that counts, but how they act.
- People do not cooperate under the division of labor because they love or should love one another. They cooperate because this best serves their own interests. Neither love nor charity nor any other sympathetic sentiments but rightly understood selfishness is what originally impelled man to adjust himself to the requirements of society, to respect the rights and freedoms of his fellow men and to substitute peaceful collaboration for enmity and conflict.
The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science (1962) edit
- The criterion of truth is that it works even if nobody is prepared to acknowledge it.
- Chapter 5: On Some Popular Errors Concerning the Scope and Method of Economics, § 9 : The Belief in the Omnipotence of Thought
- It is a double-edged makeshift to entrust an individual or a group of individuals with the authority to resort to violence. The enticement implied is too tempting for a human being. The men who are to protect the community against violent aggression easily turn into the most dangerous aggressors. They transgress their mandate. They misuse their power for the oppression of those whom they were expected to defend against oppression. The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty.
- Chapter 5: On Some Popular Errors Concerning the Scope and Method of Economics, § 10 : The Concept of a Perfect System of Government
Quotes about Mises edit
- In the 1920s, Mises made important contributions to monetary economics, business cycle theory and of course socialist economics, but his later writings on the foundations of economic science are so idiosyncratic and dogmatically stated that we can only wonder that they have been taken seriously by anyone.
- Mark Blaug, The Methodology of Economics: Or, How Economists Explain (2nd ed., 1992), p. 81
- Just when the hopes of socialism seemed to be about to come true, Mises voiced the thoughts uppermost in the minds of so many who lacked the courage to speak out. Socialism could not work or keep its promises, he argued, because under such a system economic calculations in terms of value were rendered impossible.
- Raimondo Cubeddu, The Philosophy of the Austrian School (1993), 114.
- Among Mises’s greatest personal attributes was courage. He had the force of will and character to maintain a position that he thought true even if almost no one else did.
- Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey (2003), Ch. 4 : Ludwig von Mises
- While it is possible to imagine Mises without Hayek, it is not possible to imagine Hayek without Mises.
- Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey (2003), Ch. 4 : Ludwig von Mises
- Professor von Mises has a splendid analytical mind and an admirable passion for liberty; but as a student of human nature he is worse than null and as a debater he is of Hyde Park standard.
- The Economist magazine, "Liberalism in Caricature", (Review of The Anti-Capitalist Mentality) April 13, 1957.
- The market, even more than the wheel, is one of the great commonplace servants of man. Professor Mises powerfully defends it against those who would subvert it to the service of selfish or shortsighted ends. But it is possible that the defense is stronger when in the hands of somewhat more moderate men. One is also bound to be puzzled over who is to vote in and support the economic and political order that Professor Mises demands. He is a vigorous foe of autocrats and dictators but he also has little respect for people at large. Defending advertising, to choose one example among many, he observes: "Like all things designed to suit the taste of the masses, it is repellent to people of delicate feeling." I wouldn't suppose that the people of delicate feeling are yet in the strength to take over.
- John Kenneth Galbraith, "In Defense of Laissez-Faire", The New York Times (Oct. 30, 1949)
- As readers will remember, Mises in his famous socialist calculation argument proved that a fully socialist economy would collapse into chaos. If this is right, how can ostensibly socialist economies such as Soviet Russia exist? In answer, Mises said that these economies weren’t fully socialist. They allowed scope for private enterprise, albeit of a limited sort. Mises’s point applies to the German form of socialism as well as the Russian.
- There is no single man to whom I owe more intellectually, even though he [Mises] was never my teacher in the institutional sense of the word.
- Friedrich Hayek, “Coping with Ignorance,” Imprimis 7 (1978)
- Though I learned that he [Mises] usually was right in his conclusions, I wasn't always satisfied by his arguments, and retained to the end a certain critical attitude which sometimes forced me to build different constructions, which however, to my great pleasure, usually led to the same conclusions. I am to the present moment pursuing the questions which he made me see, and that, I believe is the greatest benefit one scientist can confer on one of the next generation.
- Friedrich Hayek, “Coping with Ignorance,” Imprimis 7 (1978)
- ...there I came to know him (Mises) mainly as a tremendously efficient executive, the kind of man who, as was said of John Stuart Mill, because he does a normal day's work in two hours, always has a clear desk and time to talk about anything. I came to know him as one of the best educated and informed men I have ever known...
- Friedrich Hayek, quoted in Margit von Mises, My Years with Ludwig von Mises, Center for Future Education, 1984, pp. 219–220.
- I probably was ... when I began my study, called the Fabian kind of approach and convinced that there must be intelligent solution of the many dissatisfactory events of this world. And so it was as a mild socialist, that I decided I must study economics. I was very soon 'cured' of these beliefs that socialism was the solution because I came after three years, and as a direct influence of Ludwig von Mises, who had then published his great book on Socialism demonstrating that the socialist solution was impossible in a technical sense.
- It turns out, of course, that Mises was right. The Soviet system has long been dogged by a method of pricing that produced grotesque misallocations of effort. The difficulties were not so visible in the early days of Soviet industrialization or in the post-Second World War reconstruction period. The dams and mills and entire new cities of the nineteen-thirties astonished the world, as did the Chinese Great Leap Forward of the nineteen-fifties, which performed similar miracles from a still lower base. But those undertakings, like the building of the Pyramids or the Great Wall, depended less on economic coordination than on the political capacity for marshalling vast labor forces. Inefficiency set in when projects had to be joined into a complex whole – a process that required knowing how much things should cost. As Mises foresaw, setting prices became a hopeless problem, because the economy never stood still long enough for anyone to decide anything correctly.
- Socialists have certainly good reason to be grateful to Professor Mises, the great advocatus diaboli of their cause. For it was his powerful challenge that forced the socialists to recognise the importance of an adequate system of economic accounting to guide the allocation of resources in a socialist economy. Even more, it was chiefly due to Professor Mises' challenge that many socialists became aware of the very existence of such a problem.... [T]he merit of having caused the socialists to approach this problem systematically belongs entirely to Professor Mises. Both as an expression of recognition for the great service rendered by him and as a memento of the prime importance of sound economic accounting, a statue of Professor Mises ought to occupy an honorable place in the great hall of the Ministry of Socialisation or of the Central Planning Board of the socialist state.
- Oskar R. Lange, 'On the Economic Theory of Socialism: Part One', The Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1 (October 1936), p. 53
- The dictatorship of the proletariat was the logical extension of Lenin’s agitprop; Fascism was more than the logical extension of liberty – it was embraced by Ludwig von Mises (1985 , 42–51), the co-leader of the third generation Austrian School, [...]
Mises’ political activity was consistent with his ideology: on 1 March 1934, he joined the Austro-Fascist Patriotic Front and their Werk Neues Leben social club (Hülsmann 2007, 677, n149). Mises may also have been a victim of propaganda: his justification for this tactical embrace was that fascists would protect property – the protection of which he saw as the very essence of liberty. [...] The Jewish-born Mises was lucky to escape with his life; he devoted much of the rest of it to describing his opponents as ‘Fascists’.
- Robert Leeson, Introduction in Hayek: A Collaborative Biography, Part III, Fraud, Fascism and Free Market Religion (2015), edited by Robert Leeson
- Mises (pronounced Mee-zis) was by far the most important figure of the Austrian School of economics. The Austrians eschewed economic calculation for a more philosophical approach to issues of finance and trade. They viewed modern theories as highly mathematical, heavily conceptual, and largely divorced from reality. For them, virtually every contemporary economist is akin to a geocentrist using increasingly complicated models to predict how celestial bodies circled the Earth. Difficult math doesn’t make a calculation true, and neither does it make its practitioner smart. This disdain for statistics can be seen in the New Right’s contempt for using numeric data as a mechanism of persuasion. It’s about the story, not the numbers.
- Michael Malice, The New Right: A Journey into the Fringe of American Politics (2019)
- Mises was born in 1881 in my hometown of Lvov, in what is now Ukraine. He emigrated from Eastern Europe to New York in 1940 and became perhaps the most thoroughgoing American defender of laissez-faire capitalism. Years later Milton Friedman would recount a story about the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, held in 1947. The group was meant to bring together what Europeans would call liberal intellectuals and what Americans would describe as libertarians. As Friedman recalled, “We were discussing the distribution of income, and whether you should have progressive income taxes. Some of the people there were expressing the view that there could be a justification for it.” Furiously and famously, Mises declared, “You’re all a bunch of socialists!” and stormed out. Much like Rand with rent control, Mises felt that once income distribution is on the table, the jig is basically up. It simply becomes a matter of haggling over how much socialism there is.
- Michael Malice, The New Right: A Journey into the Fringe of American Politics (2019)
See also edit
- Ludwig von Mises Institute
- "The Life and Work of Ludwig von Mises" Jörg Guido Hülsmann
- Ludwig von Mises at DMOZ
- Biblioteca.ufm.edu n Biblioteca Ludwig von Mises
- Lewrockwell.com, Scholar, Creator, Hero, Murray Rothbard on Mises
- Nine Books by Mises, made available online by the Liberty Fund
- My Years With Ludwig von Mises (1976) by Margit von Mises
- Human Action
- The Quoteable Mises - Database of quotations from Mises prepared by w:Mark Thornton.
- Turtle Trader : Ludwig von Mises - 63 quotes from Human Action
- Socialism : An Economic and Sociological Analysis
- http://www.econlib.org/library/Mises/msT2.html#I.5.12 | Theory of Money and Credit