Ludwig von Mises, The Academic

For all the young, and not so young, students of liberty, let’s remember a few things about the great Ludwig von Mises.

Renowned and Respected

First, he was a man of significant scientific achievement and recognition. His first book The Theory of Money and Credit was widely read and used in the German speaking scientific community. His Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis was the spark of a decades-long scientific debate.

Ludwig von Mises
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Ludwig von Mises

He was a target of interest for both the Nazis and the Communists, resulting in a narrow escape with his life from Europe.

He published in the leading German language scientific journals, as well as leading philosophical outlets. He was the Rockefeller Foundation advisor for European scholars. His post in Vienna would be the equivalent of the head of the Council of Economic Advisors here in the US. When he transitioned to the English-speaking scientific community (at 60 years of age), he worked for NBER and published with Yale University Press and articles in journals like the Economic Journal.

And both in Vienna and NYU he had full faculty privileges which enabled him to supervise dissertations and mentor graduate students (he wasn’t an adjunct). Also, remember he was honored by the government of Austria with its highest honor for scientific achievement, and he was Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association.

Man of the World

Second, Mises was a cosmopolitan liberal who argued forcefully against colonialism, protectionism, populism, migration restrictions, and totalitarianism left, right and center. This made him a target of interest for both the Nazis and the Communists, resulting in a narrow escape with his life from Europe, and the confiscation of his private papers and personal library. He argued throughout his long career for the free flow of capital and labor internationally, and for peacefully social cooperation grounded in the Kantian aspirations that global citizens be “Strangers Nowhere in this World.”

Mises’s economics informed his political theory, not the other way around. He made advances in economic science of a methodological and analytical nature, and these advances had significant implications for the practical analysis of public policy.

His is a story of scientific glory and personal courage in a very dark time in human history.

No Mere Martyr

It is time for everyone to celebrate the true Mises – the man of great scientific accomplishment and acclaim, a man whose contributions were recognized by friend and foe alike, who had to show great courage during a time of persecution by the biggest threats to liberty humanity faced in his time, and who at a then relatively advanced age had to re-establish himself in a new culture working in a new language.

His is not a martyrdom story. His is a story of scientific glory and personal courage in a very dark time in human history. He stood against those forces with the tools of reason embedded in economic science at its finest, and he survived courageously and in doing so provides us with an exemplar of scientific economist, scholar of political economy, and bold and creative social philosophy.


Peter J. Boettke

Peter J. Boettke

Peter Boettke is a Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University and director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.