The Economics of Ludwig von Mises: Toward a Critical Reappraisal
By Laurence S. Moss
In March 1974 I got in touch with Professor Leland Yeager, who was then president-elect of the southern Economics Association, and told him that I wanted to organize a symposium on the economic thought of Ludwig von Mises for the November 1974 meeting of our association in Atlanta, Georgia. Mises had died in October 1973, and we would be meeting on nearly the first anniversary of his death. Yeager agreed that, although Mises had been named a “Distinguished Fellow” of the American Economics Association in September 1969, many economists were not well acquainted with either the content of his thought or the enormous range of subjects to which he had devoted more than seventy years range of subjects to which he had devoted more than seventy years of active scholarship. At a time when the cherished “idols” of the intellectual marketplace were being regarded with suspicion, and economists were becoming critical of their basic assumptions and methods, it seemed appropriate to devote an entire session to someone whose lifework had been on the foundations of the science. Thus, we had every reason to believe that a panel on Mises would be well attended and set to work deciding whom to invite and what aspects of Mises’ contribution could be most profitably discussed in the short space of two hours…. [From the Preface by Laurence S. Moss]
First Pub. Date
Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, Inc.
Symposium held before the 44th Meeting of the Southern Economics Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 15 November 1974. Collected essays, various authors. 1974 conference proceedings. Includes essays by Fritz Machlup, Israel M. Kirzner, Murray N. Rothbard, and more.
The text of this edition is copyright ©1977, The Institute for Humane Studies.
For a comprehensive bibliography of Mises’ writings, see Bettina Bien [Greaves],
The Works of Ludwig von Mises (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1969).
The theory of Money and Credit. Translated by H. E. Batson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959. The first German edition of this book appeared in 1912 under the title
Theorie des Geldes und der Umlaufsmittel. For a discussion of the different editions of this book, see p. 40, note 1. This book is the subject of “The Monetary Economics of Ludwig von Mises” in this volume.
1920-21 “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.” In
Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism, edited by Friedrich A. Hayek; translated by S. Adler. London: Routledge & Kegan, Paul, 1963. This article originally appeared under the title “Die Wirtschaftsrechnung im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen.”
Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 47 (1920-21): 86-121. The main points of this article are treated in Murray N. Rothbard’s paper “Ludwig von Mises and Economic Calculation under Socialism” in this volume.
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. Translated by J. Kahane. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951. 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
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.
The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth: An Exposition of the Ideas of Classical Liberalism. Translated by Ralph Raico. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1962. 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” in this volume.
Epistemological Problems of Economics. Translated by George Reisman. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1960. This translation is from
Grundprobleme der Nationalökonomie: Untersuchungen über l’erfahren, Aufgaben und Inhalt der Wirtschafts und Gesellschaftslehre. Jena: Fustav Fischer, 1933. Here Mises emphasized how the distinctive feature of economics is its concern with subjective states of individual valuation. Mises explained how this approach affects the economist’s view of value, capital, and other market phenomena. A large part of the work is spent criticizing the position of those who deny the subjective character of economic phenomena.
Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944. In this book Mises treated the concept of “nationalism” and how it invariably grows to block out cosmopolitan ideals of free trade and international peace. Mises’ analysis of the rise of German Nazism, as a symptom of a more far-reaching mentality about government and its relation to man, serves as a warning about the dangerous risks that accompany departures from classical liberals ideals.
Bureaucracy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962. 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.
Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. 3d ed. rev. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1966. 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. The second revised edition published by Yale University Press (1963) is marred by many serious typographical errors.
Planning for Freedom, and Other Essays and Addresses. South Holland, III.: Libertarian Press, 1952. This is a collection of a dozen of Mises’ most polemical writings, published in such libertarian publications as
The Freeman and
Plain Talk. All but one of the essays were written between 1945 and 1952. There is a more recent edition of this book by the same publisher in which Mises added an essay he had written in 1958. This edition appeared in 1962.
The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1956. 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.
Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957, 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. A later edition was published by Arlington House in 1969.
The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1962. 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.
The Historical Setting of the Austrian School of Economics. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1969. This is Mises’ last published writing. It is a short essay recalling the struggle of the theoretical economists to gain acceptance of their point of view in the German universities, where the “historical school” of economists held a dominant and underserved position of academic (and therefore political) power.