Economic Freedom and Interventionism

III. Mises As Critic

For Mises, books were important. They were the most effective means for transmitting ideas from generation to generation. He wrote many books himself, and he was constantly urging his students to write books. In almost every lecture he would suggest the titles of several books to read and several books to write.

Mises looked on the opportunity to review a book as more than a chance to discuss one book; it was an excuse for a short essay on economics. Although the books reviewed here may no longer be in print, his comments remain of interest.

Mises was a pessimist when he considered the conflicts and the violations of freedom throughout the world for which governments had been responsible in his lifetime. Yet, he was an optimist when he considered the potential of individuals to think, to reason, and to understand sound principles.

When Mises spoke to a Madison Square Garden rally of Young Americans for Freedom in 1962, he revealed his optimism. As quoted here he said, a “miracle” had happened. “Out of the ranks of the young boys and girls arose an opposition. There were on the campuses once again friends of freedom and they had the courage to speak their minds. Collectivism was challenged by individualism.... The idea of freedom made a comeback.” He went on to say, “There are again young men and women eager to think over the fundamental problems of life and action. This is a genuine moral and intellectual resurrection, a movement that will prevent us from falling prey to the arbitrary tyranny of dictators.” Mises concluded, “As an old man I am greeting the young generation of liberators.”

Mises’ optimism appears now to have been somewhat justified. If the people throughout the world, who are striving for freedom, succeed in the future in establishing free markets and laissez faire, it will be due in large part to Mises’ persistence throughout his life in teaching consistent economic principles.