The Scholars Edition
Fifty years ago, Ludwig von Mises shocked the economics profession and elite opinion with a massive, revolutionary treatise on economics, the culmination of his life's work. It was (and remains) the most comprehensive, systematic, forthright, and powerful defense of the economics of liberty ever written.
It appeared at a time when Western intellectuals were looking to positivism as the savior of social science, and socialism as the ideal economic system. Thus, the attacks began immediately. John Kenneth Galbraith condemned it. The New York Times dismissed it. The American Economic Review denigrated it. The New Republic sneered at it. The Progressive denounced it.
But the pile-on didn't work.
In time, Human Action would become academic bestseller and sweep all before it. As a total reconstruction of market theory from the bottom up, it recruited a whole new generation of free-market economists, and changed history. Even today, the breadth and scope of this great work has yet to be matched. What does the book cover? In a word, everything.
After the dust settled, it was Murray N. Rothbard who had it right in 1949. He wrote of Human Action: "Every once in a while the human race pauses in the job of botching its affairs and redeems itself by producing a noble work of the intellect.... To state that Human Action is a ‘must' book is a greater understatement. This is the economic Bible of the civilized man."
The Scholar's Edition is the original, unaltered treatise that shaped a generation of Austrians and made possible the intellectual movement that is leading the global charge for free markets, made available for the first time in decades, exclusively through the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
The Scholar's Edition is the pride and joy of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Since our founding in 1982, we had wanted to issue an edition of Human Action in an edition worthy of its contents.
Three factors came together to make it essential this year: the 50th anniversary of the book, the discovery of extensive changes and omissions in the 1963 and 1966 editions, and the unearthing of archives at Yale University and Grove City College that were used in the preparation of the introduction.
We spared no expense with this book, using the finest binding, paper, and printing available. Everyone who has purchased it has been astonished at its quality and sheer beauty. At last, with this Scholar's Edition, the master's great work is restored for the ages.
The Scholar's Edition is printed on stunning, pure white, acid-free Finch Fine 50 lb. paper; carefully set in the readable and beautiful Janson typeface, including the 1954 index, the most comprehensive ever done; covered in spectacular dark azure Odyssey cloth from Prague, the finest natural-finish, moisture-resistance book fabric in the world; secured by the finest caliper Binders board; protected by an impressive slipcase from the famous Old Dominion company; graced with antique-soapstone endpapers from Ecologic Fibers; casebound with the strongest Smyth-sewn signatures; fitted at head and foot with silken endbands, thick wrapped for durability; complemented with a double-faced, satin-finish ribbon marker; stamped with brilliant, non-tarnishing gold foil from Japan's Nakai International; and produced at R.R. Donnelly's famed Crawfordsville Bindery, where's America's finest books are assembled.
All told, The Scholar's Edition is ready for a lifetime or two of use.
Excerpted from Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Scholars Edition) by Ludwig von Mises. Copyright c 1999.
From the introduction (by Joseph Salerno, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and Jeffrey Herbener):
Once in great while, a book appears that both embodies and dramatically extends centuries of accumulated wisdom in a particular discipline, and, at the same time, radically challenges the intellectual and political consensus of the day. Human Action by Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) is such a book, and more: a comprehensive treatise on economic science that would lay the foundation for a massive shift in intellectual opinion that is still working itself out fifty years after publication.
Not even such milestones in the history of economic thought as Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Alfred Marshall's Principles, Karl Marx's Capital, or J.M. Keynes's General Theory can be said to have enduring significance and embody such persuasive power that today's students and scholars, as much as those who read it when it first appeared, are so fully drawn into the author's way of thinking.
For this reason, this Scholar's Edition is the 1949 original and unchanged magnum opus that represents such a critical turning point in the history of ideas, reproduced (with a 1954 index produced by Vernelia Crawford) on the 50th anniversary of its initial appearance....
Human Action, building on and expanding its German predecessor, transformed Austrian economics, as it is understood today, into a predominantly American phenomenon with a distinctly Misesian imprint, and made possible the continuation of the Austrian School after the mid-century.
Thus the first edition assumes an importance that extends beyond the mere historical. It reveals the issues and concerns that Mises considered primary when releasing, at the height of his intellectual powers, the most complete and integrated statement of his career. In particular, making the unchanged first edition available again in this Scholar's Edition retrieves important passages that were later eliminated, and clarifies questions raised by unnecessary, and, in some cases, unfortunate additions and revisions made to later editions.
That the Scholar's Edition represents the fullest coming together of Mises's thought on method, theory, and policy, and is the book that sustained the Austrian tradition and the integrity of economic science after the socialist, Keynesian, Walrasian, Marshallian, and positivist conquests of economic thought, is reason enough to issue the original on its 50th anniversary, making it widely available for the first time in nearly four decades. A high place must be reserved in the history of economic thought, indeed, in the history of ideas, for Mises's masterwork. Even today, Human Action points the way to a brighter future for the science of economics and the practice of human liberty.
Read Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. on Human Action and the Politics of Freedom.