Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) did more than anyone else to explain why free markets outperform every other economic system, raising living standards for millions. Mises was the leading champion for free markets during the darkest decades of the 20th century, when intellectuals embraced the New Deal, socialism, communism, Nazism and other types of government interference with economic liberty.
The Vienna-based Mises’ first major work was The Theory of Money and Credit (1912) which explained how markets, not governments, determine the value of money. He told how inflations and depressions are caused by government manipulation of money and credit.
He became socialism’s greatest enemy when, in 1920, he discovered why socialism would impoverish millions. Two years later, he expanded his discovery into the book Socialism which demolished that collectivist dogma. He was vindicated by the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and socialist intellectual Robert Heilbroner admitted in the pages of The New Yorker “it turns out, of course, that Mises was right.”
After moving to the United States, Mises wrote Human Action (1949), the most comprehensive case for economic liberty ever written. He explained how markets satisfy customers, cut prices, undermine monopolies, and raise living standards even for the poorest among us. He exposes the fallacies of every type of government interference with the economy. Human Action was translated into French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Several fine editions are available today. Mises Made Easier (1974), by Percy L. Greaves, Jr. can help readers better understand the depth of this masterwork.
Mises was a prolific author, and his other works abound with insights about why entrepreneurs outperform bureaucrats, and how free markets enrich our culture and promote peace. Among the works which would provide an excellent introduction to Mises’ thought are Bureaucracy (1944), Omnipotent Government (1944), Planning for Freedom (1952), The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (1956) and The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth (1962, subsequently issued as Liberalism).
His other books include Theory and History (1957), Epistemological Problems in Economics (1960), A Critique of Interventionism (1977), The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science (1978), On the Manipulation of Money and Credit (1978), Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow (1979), Nation, State, and Economy (1983), Economic Freedom and Interventionism (1990) and Money, Method and the Market Process Essays (1990).
The closest Mises came to an autobiography was Notes and Recollections (1978) which focused on his early intellectual development. His wife’s memoir, My Years with Ludwig von Mises (1976) gives you a warm and tender picture of this great man. The best appreciation is Murray Rothbard’s Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero (1988). The authoritative listing of Mises works is Mises: An Annotated Bibliography (1993, 1995), two volumes, compiled and translated principally by Bettina Bien Greaves. An informative “Guide to the Writings of Ludwig von Mises” is also available at Laissez Faire Books.
-Reprinted with permission from Laissez Faire Books.
“Western civilization is based upon the libertarian principle, and all its achievements are the result of the actions of free men.” — Ludwig von Mises in Economic Freedom and Interventionism (1990)
“Liberty is always freedom from the government.” — Ludwig von Mises in Liberty and Property (1954)
“Freedom is indivisible. As soon as one starts to restrict it, one enters upon a decline on which it is difficult to stop.” — Ludwig von Mises in Human Action (1949)