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My Brief Encounter with von Mises

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Tags History of the Austrian School of Economics

11/15/2005

The exact date escapes my memory but many will know it. Ludwig von Mises was to be the featured scholar at the Future of Freedom Conference at Long Beach State University. He would be introduced by Dirk Pearson, then going by the name Sky Deorious or something.

The way I got to meet von Mises is that I came to be the designated driver to pick him up at, I believe, the Long Beach Airport. During the time walking from the plane to my car, I had a chance to chat with him briefly.

What I recall from this was notable for me, though perhaps not unusual. For one, we spoke in German, a language I knew since childhood—Hungarian and German were both spoken in my mother's home and I was raised bilingual. Von Mises seemed rather delighted with the fact that I spoke German and thus he spoke rather freely. I had mentioned to him that I was born and lived in my early years in Budapest, Hungary, and this, too, seemed to energize him a bit. He told me that he remembered when Franz Josef was emperor of the Austro-Hungary, the last few years of the empire, if I recall right him pointing this out to me. And he added, most memorably, that there was a period of significant liberalism under this monarchy, something he found important to mention and recalled with a measure of nostalgia.

The conversation was brief but very memorable for me. We drove to Long Beach State University (now called California State University at Long Beach), where von Mises would deliver, while sitting next to a little table, a very memorable speech on the nature of money. I believe that speech went down in history as an important one.

But for me what was important is that I had my own private minutes with Ludwig von Mises, the great leader of the Austrian School of economics, minutes during which we spoke about something remotely but still significantly uniting us in a personal, not scholarly, way.

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