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The Misesian Revolution In Poland

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03/01/1987Lawrence W. Reed

The Free Market 5, no. 3 (March 1987)


I've lectured about "The Origin, Nature, and History of Money from an Austrian Perspective" in the United States a couple dozen times. But until it actually happened last November, I never expected to do it in socialist Poland.

I spent a week there, living with and interviewing activists in the Polish underground. I entered and exited the country legally, but my itinerary and escorts were provided by a new opposition group called the Freedom and Peace Movement.

During the trip, the government learned what I was doing and customs agents at the Warsaw airport delayed my departure flight for two hours, strip-searching and interrogating me, and confiscating all my tapes and film. But they could not steal my memories about the Misesian excitement percolating through the vast Polish underground.

The 50 or so students who gathered quietly to hear my first lecture on money listened intently. Then they asked questions which indicated a sophistication far beyond anything I had expected. And their devotion to the free market was intense and scholarly. "How do you know so much about laissez-faire economics?" I asked.

An economics major at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, responded, "Thanks to our underground press, we probably know more than American students." As the week went by, I came to appreciate just how true that was. The burgeoning interest in Austrian economics is, as a professor at the University of Warsaw noted, "the most important recent development" among students of economics. He privately recommends the works of Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard to his students, who then acquire copies on the black (i.e., free) market.

Underground publishing houses in Poland produce hundreds of books and magazines a year, often in editions of more than 10,000. Attending a secret dinner party one evening hosted by several underground printer entrepreneurs, I was astonished to hear their plans to ultimately publish and distribute every work of Mises'. "Anything Austrian or libertarian immediately becomes a bestseller," said one.

Already, students are reading Mises' Socialism and Theory of Money and Credit. A professor who attended one of my lectures quoted from Rothbard's The Mystery of Banking. The same professor has written a popular underground book advocating that Poles who care about political liberty first work for laissez-faire economics.

The young intellectual activists I met, especially those involved in the Freedom and Peace Movement, explain Polish economic problems from a perspective that would gratify Mises. Everything from toilet-paper shortages to industrial pollution is understood as a direct and inevitable consequence of "central planning" and the absence of a "market-price mechanism." The basketcase Polish economy, said one Cracow student, "is a living laboratory of the silliness of socialism."

Under the surface, Poland is seething with anti-government ferment. And the works of Ludwig von Mises and his students are part of the reason—testimony once again to the potency of truth.

Cite This Article

Reed, Lawrence W. "The Misesian Revolution In Poland." The Free Market 5, no. 3 (March 1987): 1–2, 5.