Faculty Spotlight Interview: Yuri N. Maltsev
Yuri N. Maltsev received his MA in history and social sciences at Moscow State University and his PhD in economics at the Institute for Labor Research in Moscow. Some of his major achievements include consulting on Central and Eastern European economic, trade and political issues, as well as appearing on national television and radio programs. He currently is a professor of economics at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
How and when did you come about Austrian economics?
My gateway to Austrian economics was The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek. I was given a copy by a friend for just one night and Hayek laid it down in such a clear, apodictic and revealing way that I became very interested in learning as much as I could about him and the Austrian School.
What convinced you of the merits of the Austrian School of Economics over other schools of thought?
The Austrian School of Economics is economics of freedom, economics for free people, economics of human action, not of government design. It is the only school which accurately predicted the fate of the socialist experiment, which cost over 150 million lives last century. Ludwig von Mises showed with precise and irrefutable logic why socialism could never work.
How did Austrian economics change your worldview?
It absolutely convinced me that there are absolutely no alternatives to freedom and voluntary exchanges in any sphere of human life and endeavor.
You were an economist for the Soviet Union, how did this affect your study of Austrian economics?
I got an unlimited access to Western economic publications and could study as much as I wished at the government’s expense. I was warned, however, not to tell others what I’ve read. Even under Gorbachev, you could not just say, “this system is baloney.” You could only go about it slowly and covertly, exposing its inefficiencies and failures, which is what I did in my lectures and writings.
Had you not defected from the Soviet Union, how would you be today?
I could be possibly dead already – life expectancy for males in Russia is 57 and I am 59 already. If alive, I would probably do same as here – teach, write and promote ideas of freedom in any way I can.
Who have been your greatest intellectual influences?
Austrians: Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, F.A. Hayek, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Thomas DiLorenzo, Joseph Salerno and many others. Russian writers: Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Solzhenitsyn. Poets: T.S. Eliot and Josef Brodsky.
As a professor of economics, how do you go about introducing your students to Austrian economics?
It is much easier today than say 20 years ago: www.mises.org provides us with great teaching resources. The Ludwig von Mises Institute became the world’s largest research center and depositary of books, journals, video and audio materials on the Austrian School. These resources are extremely valuable in teaching and learning. I am recommending my students to explore the Austrian School perspective in all my classes, leaving them with the opportunity to choose their favorites themselves.
What do your students think of Austrian economics?
Many of them developed deep interest in the Austrian School and some attended the Mises University. I am in contact with many of my former students who developed a life-long interest in Austrian economics and are practicing economists, businessmen, lawyers and other professionals.
What advice would you give to a student who is afraid to discuss Austrian economics with fellow students and with professors?
Do not be afraid. Mises’s personal motto was: “Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito. Do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it.” Fight back any attempts to limit your freedom of speech. Having said that, I would advise students to be tactful and polite in their discussions with fellow students and professors. Remember that shouting and sloganeering are habits of the Left.
Did you ever discuss Austrian economics with your peers or your students while a scholar in the Soviet Union?
I did quite a lot with fellow economists at the Academy of Science and in my lectures on perestroika. After the collapse of the USSR many intellectuals from Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Estonia embraced the Austrian School and today we witness a considerable following of the School in these and other formerly socialist countries. The Austrian School is definitely more popular in Eastern Europe than Western Europe.
I love travel and I travel a lot – with my students, colleagues, friends and family. I travel in the US and internationally – to date visited 77 countries. It provides you with a great perspective on freedom: the freer the country is, the more prosperous and culturally rich are the people, the cleaner are the environment and nature, and abundant are the wildlife. I also organize a lot of educational study tours.
What are your favorite film and theatrical works?
Film: The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). Plays: The Tragedy of Macbeth and Cyrano de Bergerac.
What music do you enjoy the most?
Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustav Mahler and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and George Gershwin on a light side.
Can you think of an artwork that symbolizes or depicts human action?
The Thinker (1902) sculpture by Auguste Rodin.