Power & Market

Jesus Huerta de Soto: A Force to be Reckoned With

On the occasion of the 7th Annual Madrid Conference on Austrian Economics a festschrift collection of essays was presented in honor of Dr. Jesús Huerta de Soto. He first read Human Action as a teen in the 70s. He has proven to be a successful businessman, as he has been at the helm of one of the most important insurance companies in Europe. He is a deeply devout Catholic, happily married to Sonsoles Huarte, and has six children. At age 66, he is perhaps the most interesting and influential living member of the Austrian school of economics.

As a young man, through a series of coincidences, he managed to join the leading (and perhaps only) discussion group on praxeology and libertarian ideas in Spain. Life in Spain then was not what it is now. Dr. Huerta de Soto related to us that in his formative years during the Franco regime his household had to send the driver to Portugal for bread as often as every two days. He praised Salazar relative to Franco and encouraged us to read the biography of the former by Gallagher as he has done elsewhere.

He first met Hayek when he was 22 years old and managed to become the Mont Pelerin Society’s youngest member. He obtained undergraduate degrees in business & economics, law, and actuarial sciences. He met Rothbard when he was doing an MBA at Stanford in the 80s. He shared a train ride with Milton Friedman where he expressed his ideas and Friedman repeatedly retorted “nonsense!”

He obtained his PhD when he was 35 with a dissertation titled Socialism, Economic Calculation, and the Entrepreneurial Function. He started an academic publication, Procesos de Mercado, when he was 47. He started a graduate program in Austrian economics, which has had over 300 students, out of which over 50 have completed a PhD. He chaired most of those dissertations. He has published 12 books and has been the torchbearer of a camp in one of the most significant and fruitful internal controversies in the modern Asutrain school.

During my visit to Madrid for the conference, I had the fortune to attend one of his regular lectures and had several brief conversations with him. The lecture I attended was on statistics, math, and method. It was particularly instructive listening to him, who has a deep understanding of math and statistics because it is a core element of his business, explain the incompatibility with economics. In conversation, he lamented that the programs that have historically embraced the Austrian school are inching towards the mainstream and drying up, yet he is energetic and optimistic about the future.

I met several of his current and past students, as well as other professors who teach in the graduate program. The atmosphere he has managed to build is impressive. I felt culturally and intellectually at home in a way I have not before. Every economist and thinker with a connection to the Austrian school in Europe and Latin America has been directly or indirectly influenced by Dr. Huerta de Soto. He shares in the merit of the success of the ideas of liberty in Argentina and beyond. Huerta de Soto is Spain. Huerta de Soto is academia. Huerta de Soto is civilization.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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