All Commentary
Tuesday, September 1, 1981

Speculation


There are in this world no such things as stability and security and no human endeavors are powerful enough to bring them about. Every action refers to an unknown future. It is in this sense always a risky speculation.

Man is faced with the fact that there are fellow men acting on their own behalf as he himself acts. The necessity to adjust his actions to other people’s actions makes him a speculator for whom success or failure depend on his greater or lesser ability to understand the future. Every action is a speculation. There is in the course of human events no stability and consequently no safety.

Capitalists, landowners and laborers are by necessity speculators. So is the consumer in providing for anticipated future needs. There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.

A capitalist is always also virtually an entrepreneur and speculator. He always runs the chance of losing his funds. There is no such thing as a perfectly safe investment. If it were possible to calculate the future state of the market, the future would not be uncertain. There would be neither entrepreneurial ‘loss nor profit.

The fact that the term “speculator” is today used only with an opprobrious connotation clearly shows that our contemporaries do not even suspect in what the fundamental problem of action consists.


  • Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) taught in Vienna and New York and served as a close adviser to the Foundation for Economic Education. He is considered the leading theorist of the Austrian School of the 20th century.