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The Wisdom of Ludwig von Mises


Tags Media and CultureAustrian Economics Overview

When George Koether passed (2, 3), I noted "He once sent me a copy of his abridgment of Human Action". Several people asked me about that, but I could not find it. This weekend I stumbled across it when rearranging my (paper) library. Turns out it was a special issue (Sept. 1981) of The Freeman, published on the centenery of Mises' birth in Sept. 1881. The issue contained primarily excerpts from Human Action, "selected and arranged topically by one of his former students, George Koether."

There is a version of this online but has each short quote as a separate linked page so it's not that easy to browse or flip through; they are alphabetically arranged by title so that the introduction by Koether, and the critique by John Chamberlain, are sort of buried in the middle. Here is a scan of the full printed issue, including Koether's short cover note to me, in which hs says, if it were reprinted, he would have omitted Chamberlain's critique; "I knew John well-a fine journalist but no economist."

(Incidentally, in my library I also found a printout of one Ken Gaillot's notes on Human Action, sort of his distillation or summary of it.)

In any event, Koether's "The Wisdom of Ludwig von Mises" read as follows:

Columns: The Wisdom of Ludwig von Mises
By George Koether
Human Action, generally considered to be the greatest work of the greatest economist of our times, is a towering monument to the mind of a genius. Its 885 pages of text contain insights that have revolutionized economic thought and are moving the world toward a true and complete understanding of human freedom.
Because of the "warp and woof' nature of all human action—with one strand of action by one individual affecting and being affected by the action of all other individuals, and because of the necessity for recognizing and explaining this connexity of all economic phenomena—Human Action is not a book one reads; it is a book one studies.
As every human action bears on every other human action, so every principle of economic analysis relates to every other principle. Thus, in dealing topically with one subject, Professor Mises never overlooked its relation to all others. Hence his convictions on any one topic were spread throughout his book.
In these extracts I have sought to capture the essence of his thought on a number of topics, but for purposes of brevity and ease of comprehension, sentences have been shortened and juxtaposed, words eliminated, paragraphing changed and punctuation sometimes altered. Yet, with the exception of a very few words in brackets, every word in these extracts is pure Mises, every word is taken from Human Action.
May those who have never savored the fine flavor of this wine of wisdom be tempted, by this small sip, to enjoy deep draughts from the full bottle.

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