The introductory unit of George Reisman’s study program includes about 60 pages of reading from the appendices to the 4th edition of Ludwig von Mises’s Planning for Freedom. I covered the first part of the section, Murray Rothbard’s essay “The Essential Von Mises,” in a post last week. I’ll summarize the remainder in this post.
Four short pieces round out this section:
- “Salute to Von Mises” by Henry Hazlitt: This essay was published in Barron’s on the occasion of Mises’s 92nd birthday in 1973. Hazlitt lauds Mises’s contribution to monetary theory and critique of socialism. He also scolds the Nobel committee for not granting Mises its annual prize in economics, which was still relatively new at this point. He speculates that the committee is composed of cowards to don’t wish to appear to be choosing a side in contemporary political debates and would rather award the prize to mathematical economists who write obscurely.
- “Mises’ Private Seminar” by Gottfried Haberler: This essay was originally published by the Mont Pelerin Society in 1961 on the occasion of Mises’s 80th birthday. Haberler recounts attending the weekly seminar Mises hosted in his offices at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce during the 1920s and early 1930s. These meetings attracted top names in the social sciences then working in Austria. They took place on Friday evening, beginning with a paper on some problem in economics or sociology by one of the attendees, followed by discussion. At 10:00 everyone walked to a nearby Italian restaurant and kept up the discussion, and then the more hardy ones (always including Mises himself) went from there to a coffeehouse at 11:30 to continue the discussion until 1:00 a.m. or so. Sounds like a fun way to spend a Friday night!
- “How Mises Changed My Mind” by Albert Hunold: Also published by the Mont Pelerin Society in 1961, this essay is a “conversion narrative” from someone who read Mises’s Liberalism in the late 1920s and then met Mises at an economics conference dominated by socialists a year or two later. Hunold was inspired to read Socialism and completely rejected the socialist worldview,
to the consternation of his economics colleagues.
- AEA Citation (American Economic Review, Sept. 1969): The American Economics Association named Mises a Distinguished Fellow near the end of his life. The citation is brief, surveying his major scholarly accomplishments. It ends with this intriguing statement: “The recent movements toward decentralized planning in several Soviet-type economies add the endorsement of history to the insights at which Mises arrived almost fifty years ago.” This was in 1969, decades before the Soviet collapse provided the ultimate vindication of Mises’s arguments concerning socialist economic calculation.
Most of this material didn’t provide me with any new information about Mises, but I enjoyed the personal recollections from Haberler and Hunold. Additionally, the AEA citation was good to see because I have encountered Mises-haters who seem to think his difficulty in securing an academic post in the U.S. after 1940 is some proof of his lack of competency as an economist. But if he was a hack, why did the most prestigious organization in the profession make him a Distinguished Fellow?
Anyway, on to the next reading!