Books / Digital Text

Foreword

The present book fully reflects the author’s fundamental position for which he was—and still is—admired by followers and reviled by opponents. . . . While each of the six lectures can stand alone as an independent essay, the harmony of the series gives an aesthetic pleasure similar to that derived from looking at the architecture of a well-designed edifice.

—Fritz Machlup

Princeton, 1979

Late in 1958, when my husband was invited by Dr. Alberto Benegas-Lynch to come to Argentina and deliver a series of lectures, I was asked to accompany him. This book contains, in written word, what my husband said to hundreds of Argentinian students in those lectures.

We arrived in Argentina several years after Perón had been forced to leave the country. He had governed destructively and completely destroyed Argentina’s economic foundations. His successors were not much better. The nation was ready for new ideas, and my husband was equally ready to provide them.

His lectures were delivered in English, in the enormous lecture hall of the University of Buenos Aires. In two neighboring rooms his words were simultaneously translated into Spanish for students who listened with earphones. Ludwig von Mises spoke without any restraint about capitalism, socialism, interventionism, communism, fascism, economic policy and the dangers of dictatorship. These young people, who listened to my husband, did not know much about freedom of the market or individual freedom. As I wrote about this occasion in My Years with Ludwig von Mises, “If anyone in those times would have dared to attack communism and fascism as my husband did, the police would have come in and taken hold of him immediately, and the assembly would have been broken up.”

The audience reacted as if a window had been opened and fresh air allowed to breeze through the rooms. He spoke without any notes. As always, his thoughts were guided by just a few words, written on a scrap of paper. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, and by using comparatively simple terms, he succeeded in communicating his ideas to an audience not familiar with his work, so that they could understand exactly what he was saying.

The lectures were taped, and the tapes were later transcribed by a Spanish-speaking secretary whose typed manuscript I found among my husband’s posthumous papers. On reading the transcript, I remembered vividly the singular enthusiasm with which those Argentinians had responded to my husband’s words. And it seemed to me, as a non-economist, that these lectures, delivered to a lay audience in South America, were much easier to understand than many of Ludwig von Mises’ more theoretical writings. I felt they contained so much valuable material, so many thoughts important for today and the future, that they should be made available to the public.

Since my husband had never revised the transcripts of his lectures for book publication, that task remained for me. I have been very careful to keep intact the meaning of every sentence, to change nothing of the content and to preserve all the expressions my husband often used which are so familiar to his readers. My only contribution has been to pull the sentences together and take out some of the little words one uses when talking informally. If my attempt to convert these lectures into a book has succeeded, it is only due to the fact that, with every sentence, I heard my husband’s voice, I heard him talk. He was alive to me, alive in how clearly he demonstrated the evil and danger of too much government; how comprehensibly and lucidly he described the differences between dictatorship and interventionism; with how much wit he talked about important historic personalities; with how few remarks he succeeded in making bygone times come alive.

I want to use this opportunity to thank my good friend George Koether for assisting me with this task. His editorial experience and his understanding of my husband’s theories were a great help to this book.

I hope these lectures will be read not only by scholars but also by my husband’s many admirers among non-economists. And I earnestly hope that this book will be made available to younger audiences, especially high school and college students around the world.

Margit von Mises

New York

June 1979

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