Mises Daily

A Conversation with Mises University Alumnus Ray Walter

Ray Walter

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Mises Institute: What convinced you to apply for Mises U?

Raymond Walter: I did most of my reading in the Austrian school tradition and in libertarian thought while in high school. Besides plowing through most of Human Action and Man, Economy, and State, I spent countless hours reading and listening to book excerpts, essays, and lectures. Jörg Guido Hülsmann was (is) my favorite modern Austrian to read for the clarity of his analysis, which I read extensively in high school. Realizing the seriousness of my interest in the Austrian school and after consulting with my father, I then applied for Mises U 2009. Acceptance soon followed, and I had a most successful sojourn in Auburn before starting my undergraduate studies in math, physics, and economics at the University of Arkansas at age 15. I was particularly fortunate to meet Ralph Raico and David Gordon that year. The experience encouraged me to attend the Austrian Scholars Conference and Mises U in 2010, and even to apply for and attend the Rothbard Graduate Seminar and Mises U again in 2011. There I would see such luminaries as Armando De La Torre (Francisco Marroquin), Bettina Bien Greaves (FEE), and the late great Ronald Hamowy (University of Alberta).

MI: What have you been doing since your time at Mises University?

RW: I completed considerable graduate coursework in economics as an undergraduate at the U of A, and even encountered prominent Austrian school fellow travelers there: University Professor David Gay and at various times his guests, including Enrico Colombatto and Svetozar Pejovich. Alas, I made the difficult decision to pursue my first loves in mathematics and physics for my eventual graduate study. I earned my BS degree in three subjects at age 18, for which I received extensive recognition. But more importantly I am now Distinguished Doctoral Fellow in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Arkansas, where I study Clifford analysis in math and computational condensed matter physics. Moreover I hold a rather competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. I already have an MS degree in mathematics, and as my second year of graduate study proceeds things are heating up!

MI: How did your experiences with the Mises Institute affect or influence your later academic work?

RW: Hayek warned the hard sciences can imbibe us with scientism, but the intellectual tradition of the Austrian school can imbibe us with humanism. My experiences with the Mises Institute gave me a philosophical and historical turn of mind in the natural sciences. This has included the history of economic thought and even archival research concerning the  1919 eclipse expedition of Dyson and Eddington to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The Mises Institute also gave me a strong moral sense as a scholar. I discussed this in
my presentation at the 2014 Austrian Economics Research Conference wherein I condemned the opportunism of Hans Mayer and Theodor Vahlen in contrast to the strong characters of the brothers von Mises.

At the Mises Institute, I became part of an international community of faculty, staff, and research fellows specializing in economics, history, law, philosophy, and other fields. My experience with the Institute taught me the informal and professional aspects of intellectual interaction with international scholars of varying experience; how to integrate oneself into a global network of scholars, including collaborating with individuals in different hemispheres; and how scholarly colleagues can be a source of support or encouragement, regardless of how one’s intellectual interests evolve. Indeed, my MI colleagues encourage me even as I have chosen to pursue physics instead of economics (mathematics was always a given). The informal and professional aspects of working with international scholars and global scholarly networking I learned about at the MI help me as a member of the U of A Computational Condensed Matter Physics Group.

MI: You continue to be very young compared to others working in your field, and you were also young when you attended Mises U. Obviously, your experience is atypical, but I’m going to ask you to speak for your generation anyway: how do you think young people view the philosophy of freedom and free markets?

RW: Let me preface by noting my extensive background in network theory, which has made me wary of ideological and intellectual homophily: the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with those sharing the same or similar views. Libertarians on social media especially should look at how many mutual connections they have with their fellow libertarians. So my sample of young people is likely biased.

Nonetheless, I think young people have an increasingly positive view of the philosophy of freedom, though I think the appreciation for free markets still lags behind. Often they have a particular aspect of freedom very important to them and a dislike for whatever aspect of the state limits that freedom. What they need to realize is that freedom in all of its manifestations can be threatened by the state and thereby the overreach of the state should be thwarted in all of its manifestations — from war to intellectual property to extensive regulation and monetary controls. Now some young people dislike the free market because they have different preferences from others in the marketplace, and others mistake prevailing interventionism for a free market. Their social tolerance must encompass an economic dimension and they need greater economic understanding. At the same time, remember that freedom is only the highest political ideal. There are things more important than politics.

Image source: Raymond Walter.
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