Freeman

ARTICLE

The Wisdom of Ludwig von Mises

SEPTEMBER 01, 1981 by GEORGE KOETHER

Human Action, generally considered to be the greatest work of the greatest economist of our times, is a towering monument to the mind of a genius. Its 885 pages of text contain insights that have revolutionized economic thought and are moving the world toward a true and complete understanding of human freedom.

Because of the “warp and woof’ nature of all human action—with one strand of action by one individual affecting and being affected by the action of all other individuals, and because of the necessity for recognizing and explaining this connexity of all economic phenomena—Human Action is not a book one reads; it is a book one studies.

As every human action bears on every other human action, so every principle of economic analysis relates to every other principle. Thus, in dealing topically with one subject, Professor Mises never overlooked its relation to all others. Hence his convictions on any one topic were spread throughout his book.

In these extracts I have sought to capture the essence of his thought on a number of topics, but for purposes of brevity and ease of comprehension, sentences have been shortened and juxtaposed, words eliminated, paragraphing changed and punctuation sometimes altered. Yet, with the exception of a very few words in brackets, every word in these extracts is pure Mises, every word is taken from Human Action.

May those who have never savored the fine flavor of this wine of wisdom be tempted, by this small sip, to enjoy deep draughts from the full bottle.

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September 1981

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Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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