An Austrian School economist, Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises devoted much of his life to writing and educating on the subject of
classical liberalism. While several classical libertarians including John Locke and Jean-Baptiste Say preceded him, Mises’ revival of the ideology following the Second World War has cemented his place as one of libertarianism’s most revered figures.
Mises was born in Austria-Hungary in 1881. While studying at the University of Vienna he began to strongly favor the works of Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of economics himself. Mises went on to work in law, lecture on economics, and serve as a front officer in the Austro-Hungarian artillery and as an advisor to the War Department. It was during Mises’ government work that he hired
Friedrich Hayek, who would continue on to become yet another foundational classical libertarian thinker.
During the late 1930s Mises very correctly supposed that Europe was a poor place for a Jew to live in, and so fled with his wife to New York City in 1940. Our universities were happy to receive him. Mises held the position of visiting professor at New York University from 1945 until four years before his death in 1973.
, his best known work, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics in 1949. In it he made a compelling case for laissez-faire capitalism based on praxeology – the theory that human behavior is purposeful and rationalized rather than merely reflexive. To briefly summarize so important a book would be to grossly mistreat it, but at its core Human Action doesn’t simply argue that the free market trounces any government system. Mises claims the free market is the very basis of civilization itself!
Mises proposed the economic calculation problem in 1920. With it he laid out his theory that the price system under capitalism inherently assigns the correct value to goods, whereas a socialist approach necessarily requires guesswork. In his 1922 book
Mises further underscored his point that bureaucrats are never properly equipped to assign value to capital goods. Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
Mises had great influence as a teacher as well. His former employee Hayek joined Mises as a scholar in America, and those who attended his seminars in New York included
Murray Rothbard, Israel Kirzner, and Hans Sennholz. Ayn Rand also expressed Mises’ influence on her own philosophy.
Mises’ critics have declared his understanding of human nature flawed, his attribution of anti-capitalist sentiments to envy ignorant, and his viewpoints inflexible to the extent of being harsh. But none deny the importance of Mises’ work, and today his inflexibility is often considered a sign of his absolute and unwavering sincerity in his economic theories.
Ludwig Von Mises Quotes on Socialism
“People frequently call socialism a religion. It is indeed the religion of self-deification.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“In the bureaucratic machine of socialism the way toward promotion is not achievement but the favor of the superiors.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Socialism promises not only welfare – wealth for all – but universal happiness in love as well. This part of its program has been the source of much of its popularity.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Socialism is the expression of the principle of violence crying from the workers’ soul, just as Imperialism is the principle of violence speaking from the soul of the official and the soldier.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Socialist society is a society of officials. The way of living prevailing in it, and the mode of thinking of its members, are determined by this fact.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“True, a socialistic society could see that 1000 litres of wine were better than 800 litres. It could decide whether or not 1000 litres of wine were to be preferred to 500 litres of oil. Such a decision would involve no calculation. The will of some man would decide. But the real business of economic administration, the adaptation of means to ends only begins when such a decision is taken. And only economic calculation makes this adaptation possible. Without such assistance, in the bewildering chaos of alternative materials and processes the human mind would be at a complete loss. Whenever we had to decide between different processes or different centres of production, we would be entirely at sea.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Wherever Europeans or the descendants of European emigrants live, we see Socialism at work to-day; and in Asia it is the banner round which the antagonists of European civilization gather. If the intellectual dominance of Socialism remains unshaken, then in a short time the whole co-operative system of culture which Europe has built up during thousands of years will be shattered. For a socialist order of society is unrealizable. All efforts to realize Socialism lead only to the destruction of society. Factories, mines, and railways will come to a standstill, towns will be deserted. The population of the industrial territories will die out or migrate elsewhere. The farmer will return to the self-sufficiency of the closed, domestic economy. Without private ownership in the means of production there is, in the long run, no production other than a hand-to-mouth production for one’s own needs.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“All efforts to realize Socialism lead only to the destruction of society. Factories, mines, and railways will come to a standstill, towns will be deserted. The population of the industrial territories will die out or migrate elsewhere. The farmer will return to the self-sufficiency of the closed, domestic economy. Without private ownership in the means of production there is, in the long run, no production other than a hand-to-mouth production for one’s own needs.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“It suffices here to say that the planned economy which the advocates of dictatorship wish to set up is precisely as socialistic as the Socialism propagated by the self-styled Social Democrats.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“A socialist administration needs ‘guarantees’ that its work of transformation would not be ‘disrupted’ by repeal in event of its defeat at the polls. Therefore the suspension of the Constitution is ‘inevitable’.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“The Kingdom of Christ is not of this world; socialism, on the contrary, wants to establish the kingdom of salvation on earth. Therein lies its strength, therein, however, its weakness too, from which it will collapse some day just as quickly as it has triumphed.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Any advocate of socialistic measures is looked upon as the friend of the Good, the Noble, and the Moral, as a disinterested pioneer of necessary reforms, in short, as a man who unselfishly serves his own people and all humanity, and above all as a zealous and courageous seeker after truth. But let anyone measure Socialism by the standards of scientific reasoning, and he at once becomes a champion of the evil principle, a mercenary serving the egotistical interests of a class, a menace to the welfare of the community, an ignoramus outside the pale.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“There are many socialists who have never come to grips in any way with the problems of economics, and who have made no attempt at all to form for themselves any clear conception of the conditions which determine the character of human society.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Those who do not please the holders of power are not allowed to paint or to sculpt or to conduct an orchestra. Their works are not printed or performed.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“That Socialism would be immediately practicable if an omnipotent and omniscient Deity were personally to descend to take in hand the government of human affairs is incontestable.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“The ideas of modern Socialism have not sprung from proletarian brains. They were originated by intellectuals, sons of the bourgeoisie, not of wage-earners.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“No one shall be idle if I have to work; no one shall be rich if I am poor. Thus we see, again and again, that resentment lies behind all socialist ideas.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“The Marxians love of democratic institutions was a stratagem only, a pious fraud for the deception of the masses. Within a socialist community there is no room left for freedom.” – Ludwig Von Mises
Ludwig Von Mises Best Quotes
“A nation that believes in itself and its future, a nation that means to stress the sure feeling that its members are bound to one another not merely by accident of birth but also by the common possession of a culture that is valuable above all to each of them, would necessarily be able to remain unperturbed when it saw individual persons shift to other nations. A people conscious of its own worth would refrain from forcibly detaining those who wanted to move away and from forcibly incorporating into the national community those who were not joining it of their own free will. To let the attractive force of its own culture prove itself in free competition with other peoples — that alone is worthy of a proud nation, that alone would be true national and cultural policy. The means of power and of political rule were in no way necessary for that.” – Ludwig von Mises, Nation, State, and Economy
“What makes Bolshevism strong is not the Soviets’ artillery and machine-guns but the fact that the whole world receives its ideas sympathetically.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Many who are self-taught far excel the doctors, masters, and bachelors of the most renowned universities.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“He who is unfit to serve his fellow citizens wants to rule them.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“To seek to organize society is just as crazy as it would be to tear a living plant to bits in order to make a new one out of the dead parts.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“All rational action is in the first place individual action. Only the individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual acts.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“The average man is both better informed and less corruptible in the decisions he makes as a consumer than as a voter at political elections.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Social peace is attained only when one allows all members of society to participate in democratic institutions. And this means equality of All before the Law.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“It is more fun to listen to the radio speeches of a dictator than to study economic treatises. The entrepreneurs and technologists who pave the way for economic improvement work in seclusion; their work is not suitable to be visualized on the screen. But the dictators, intent upon spreading death and destruction, are spectacularly in sight of the public. Dressed in military garb they eclipse in the eyes of the movie-goers the colourless bourgeois in plain clothes. The problems of society’s economic organization are not suitable for light talk at fashionable cocktail parties. Neither can they be dealt with adequately by demagogues haranguing mass assemblies. They are serious things. They require painstaking study. They must not be taken lightly.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“If Capitalism improves the economic position all round, it is of secondary importance that it does not raise all to the same level. A social order is not bad simply because it helps one more than the other.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“When we call a capitalist society a consumers’ democracy we mean that the power to dispose of the means of production, which belongs to the entrepreneurs and capitalists, can only be acquired by means of the consumers’ ballot, held daily in the market-place.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Under capitalism the common man enjoys amenities which in ages gone by were unknown and therefore inaccessible even to the richest people. But, of course, these motorcars, television sets and refrigerators do not make a man happy. In the instant in which he acquires them, he may feel happier than he did before. But as soon as some of his wishes are satisfied, new wishes spring up. Such is human nature.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“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
“Nobody ever recommended a dictatorship aiming at ends other than those he himself approved. He who advocates dictatorship always advocates the unrestricted rule of his own will” – Ludwig Von Mises
“All people, however fanatical they may be in their zeal to disparage and to fight capitalism, implicitly pay homage to it by passionately clamoring for the products it turns out.” – Ludwig Von Mises
“Repression by brute force is always a confession of the inability to make use of the better weapons of the intellect – better because they alone give promise of final success.” – Ludwig Von Mises