Rebel of the Week: Ludwig von Mises, Smart Person

January 19th, 2011

Not to degrade our lovely operation here, but Ludwig von Mises is so much more than just a Silver Underground Rebel of the Week.  Whereas some of our anti-authoritarian heroes are remembered for their fleeting contributions to liberty; their brief moments of rebellion which fade into distant memory, Mises is still celebrated many decades after his most productive period.  Few of us can hope to attain such relevance and poignancy!

This week, the lovely folks at Lineplot Productions are headed to a Mises Institute event and thus we are choosing now to pay homage to certainly one of the finalists, if not the winner, of the title of Best Economist of all Time.

Born to a Jewish middle class family in Austria he grew up developing his intellect for which we would later be so indebted.  Studying economics under groundbreaking thinkers  such as Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk he would add the concept of praxeology to economics which is now considered synonymous with Austrian economists.  Praxeology encompasses many ideas and conclusions but might be best and most simply defined by the notion that individual humans are rational utility maximizers who act purposefully in order to minimize costs and concentrate pleasure for themselves.  The consequences of this foundational principle extend to a rejection of later macroeconomic models that skirt methodological individualism in favor of central planning and an enlightened bureaucracy, which, as he noted, encounter incredible systemic problems due to the calculation problem.

Perhaps he was the first to explicitly establish what is now a very common libertarian argument for freedom: no one person or group of people know precisely how to run the affairs of others and every individual is thus best suited to react to their specific localized circumstances only.  Having governmental institutions in order to encourage this sort of decentralization was Mises’ radically minarchistic goal and the wellspring for his famous outburst.

Maybe Mises’ most notorious moment was when he stormed out of the initial Mont Pelerin Society meeting whilst telling the other attendees (famous and influential market liberal economists) that they “were all a bunch of socialists” for even considering progressive income taxation. He was known by his peers for fuming within an argument and often being dismissive.  Perhaps his passion and brilliance for the subject brought him to this most agitated of levels.  Can you feel his pain?

Mises the anti-statist rebel greatly enhanced our ability to understand economics in a systematic way and influenced some of our previous Rebels.  He will certainly to continue to inspire rebels with the legacies left he behind him such as Human Action, The Theory of Money and Credit, Economic Freedom and Interventionism… among many others.  Here’s to you, Ludwig!

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