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Saint Ludwig?

March 27, 2008

In a review of Guido Huelsmann's great biography, Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism, which his come to my attention but has not yet been published, its author makes an odd claim. He says that Huelsmann displays a "hagiographical" attitude toward Mises. This claim cannot survive a careful reading of the book.

Though Huelsmann does not disguise his great admiration for Mises, he is by no means uncritical. Here are a few examples: "It was not the only time Mises would justify and implement emergency monetary policies that are difficult to reconcile with classical liberal principles." (p.345, referring to Mises's advocacy of using the monetary printing press in Vienna in 1919.)"But not only the Christian faithful will wonder if he had a proper understanding of political Christianity." (p.441, referring to remarks about Christianity in the first edition of Socialism) "His years with Margit brought about a profound positive transformation of Mises's personality. He was still obstinate in his opinions and formal in his demeanor, but in interacting with other people he became much less buttoned-down."(p.731) "Mises had been convinced that the new war [World War II] would start just as the last war had ended---in the trenches. He was convinced that France and its allies would withstand any German attack. . . He had not realized that conditions had once again changed profoundly."(pp.750-51) "Mises seems to have fallen back into what in more sober moments he called the dictatorship complex. He blithely assumed that the institutions entrusted with the 'new order' [after World War II] would use their enormous power only for those purposes of which he, Mises, approved."(p.810) "Mises's definition of freedom was essentially compatible with the views of the anarchists, who would merely add that the government must play by the same rules, and therefore cannot obtain its revenue through the violation of property rights. Mises never brought himself to analyze this proposal in detail." (p.1024) "The quote [on secession in the U.S. Civil War] shows how uneasy Mises was at discussing this problem. He just could not reach a clear conclusion."(p.1028) This does not sound like hagiography to me.

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