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The Quotable Mises

March 30, 2005

In lieu of today's Daily Article, permit us to tell you about a project that we think will do tremendous good in terms of disseminating the ideas of Mises and the free society.

The cover of the book is the image you see on the right: The Quotable Mises, edited by Mark Thornton and published by the Mises Institute. It is 200 plus pages of some of the most thrilling words on politics and economics ever written. It has been many years in production and we are ready now to enter the final stages.

If you like the idea as much as we do, please consider supporting the project with a contribution.

Mises is much better known today than when he died in 1973, thanks to the Mises Institute and its supporters and members. We are expanding that reach every day, as we make ever more inroads into the classroom, newsroom, and boardroom.

But one thing we have always lacked: the perfect introduction to Mises's thought, something that immediately grabs a person's attention and gives a fast and accessible presentation of the range of his ideas, and makes the person want to read more.  

The Quotable Mises is that book. Attorney Martin Garfinkle got us started on the project when he sent us his own selection of quotations that he had assembled from Human Action, Socialism, and other major books. Then we started adding from others books, articles, speeches, and everything else we could find. The result was unwieldy so we starting the process of cutting, selecting, and distributing the quotations by topic. This allows for easy navigation. Each quotation includes a citation for further reading.

The content is Mises in a brand-new way, in a way that you have never encountered him before. Each page exudes energy and wisdom. After we sent it to Bettina-Bien Greaves, she wrote us to say: "A thrilling project, a thorough job, and a marvelous result. The Quotable Mises performs a great service."

And, yes, we are also planning a web version in several formats, and even a small program you can download to your desktop that will generate Mises quotations on every topic you can think of, complete with the citation. The possibilities here are huge.

Just consider these quotations from Mises that are included:

  • The issue is always the same: the government or the market. There is no third solution.
  • If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.
  • What distinguishes civilized man from a barbarian must be acquired by every individual anew.
  • Go into the home of the average American family and you will see for whom the wheels of the machines are turning.
  • Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.
  • Governments become liberal only when forced to by the citizens.
  • Both force and money are impotent against ideas.
  • The comparatively greater prosperity of the United States is an outcome of the fact that the New Deal did not come in 1900 or 1910, but only in 1933.
  • The worst and most dangerous form of absolutist rule is that of an intolerant majority.

Not all of them are this short. This one is addressed to those who say that war can boost the economy:

  • War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings. The earthquake means good business for construction workers, and cholera improves the business of physicians, pharmacists, and undertakers; but no one has for that reason yet sought to celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators of the productive forces in the general interest.

Our graduate students who have to crunch numbers all day and manipulate mathematics like to quote this:

  • Economics deals with real man, weak and subject to error as he is, not with ideal beings omniscient and perfect as only gods could be.

The biggest struggle in putting the book together was not in finding enough quotes but in limiting the number. We tried to provide a representative list of topics and subjects that Mises is most famous for such as socialism, bureaucracy, interventionism, money, government, and war.

We included many subject areas for which Mises is not often quoted, including arts, fate, health, instinct, martyrdom, religion, and youth.

Most economists don't write enough memorable material in an entire lifetime to fill 20 pages. But Mises was different. He was brilliant, brave, and tenacious. He could also write. He wanted to reach all people, not just specialists.

Mises himself would be thrilled by this book. It serves as an introduction and guide to his thought, or even a kind of concordance, all in his own words. Mostly it is a means for putting Mises's ideas in even greater circulation.

After all it was Mises who said:

"In the long run even the most despotic governments with all their brutality and cruelty are no match for ideas. Eventually the ideology that has won the support of the majority will prevail and cut the ground from under the tyrant's feet. Then the oppressed many will rise in rebellion and overthrow their masters."

This is the Mises book for Everyman, and for every student, for every thoughtful man and woman you know. There is no telling how much good it will do. It is so accessible, immediate, and transparent.

Just imagine that you need to know what Mises said about Environmentalism, for example. You could search the website, thumb through 20 of Mises books, or turn right to the entry in The Quotable Mises: "Talk about the magnificence of untouched nature is idle if it does not take into account what man has got by 'desecrating' nature."

Look up Freedom of the Press and you find: "A free press can exist only where there is private control of the means of production."

Or the Gold Standard: "The classical or orthodox gold standard alone is a truly effective check on the power of the government to inflate the currency. Without such a check all other constitutional safeguards can be rendered vain."

This work, in a handsome, well-priced, and durable edition, will cost us, all-told, $54,000. Won't you help us bring it out?

Generous patrons who make a donation of $500 or more will be listed in the book. But contributions of any amount are needed. You can choose $100, $50, or $25.

You can help us make sure, not only that this work gets printed and bound, but that it finds its way into the hands of lawmakers, editors, writers, friends, business associates, family members, students, and everyone else. As Ron Paul told us, "This is the Mises book I need to persuade my colleagues." We also want this book in libraries and classrooms, as additional reading to his great books.

One final quotation that has always inspired those who work for liberty:  

"No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us."

Please, help us publish The Quotable Mises. You will strike a real blow for liberty.

Click on the amount you would like to contribute to this project:


The Mises Institute, founded in 1982 to support the scholarship of liberty in the Misesian tradition, publishes books and journals, supports students and scholars, and holds teaching programs attended by students from around the world. See Mises.org.

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