Ludwig von Mises – An Annotated Bibliography
By Duncan Whitmore
As an appendix to a series of three essays on the importance of Mises for libertarian thought, the following is an annotated bibliography of his major works.
There is little point in beating about the bush when it comes to the accessibility of Mises’ work for a prospective student – Mises can be relatively difficult to read, and one does require a considerable investment in time and mental effort to grasp the substance of his writing.
Mises is certainly not difficult in the sense that he is unclear, opaque, or inconsistent. In fact, he is remarkable for avoiding almost any lapse into one or more of all three, an ability that is largely sustained between his individual works as well as within each one. But his writing style is very different from that of say, Rothbard. To be sure, both writers are extremely systematic and logical in the progression of their ideas. With Mises, however, one can feel the years of thought and wisdom pouring off of every page, and, even in translation, oodles of meaning and ideas are packed concisely into very carefully chosen sentences. Thus, one must often invest an extended amount of time in absorbing every detail. With Rothbard, on the other hand, one almost feels as though he sat down at the typewriter, began tapping at the keys and didn’t stop until the book was finished. The result is that even Rothbard’s scholarly work is imbued with something of an improvisatory or, perhaps, conversational style that makes it more accessible to the lay reader.
Fortunately, some of Mises’ works are more accessible than others, and there are a number of study guides available to assist with the reading of the most difficult works. Read more
Why Libertarians Should Read Mises
By Duncan Whitmore
In this final part of three essays exploring the importance of Ludwig von Mises’ for libertarian thought, we will examine Mises’ views on the fundamental importance of economics in society, and the meaning of this for understanding the particular nature of the state and statism in our own time. We will then conclude (in a separate post) with an annotated bibliography of Mises’ major works.
The Fundamental Importance of Economics in Society
Mises had a particularly insightful understanding of the special, foundational status of economics and the influence of economic theory in human society. In his own words:
Economics […] is the philosophy of human life and action and concerns everybody and everything. It is the pith of civilization and of man’s human existence.
Economics deals with society’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.
The body of economic knowledge is an essential element in the structure of human civilization; it is the foundation upon which modern industrialism and all the moral, intellectual, technological, and therapeutical achievements of the last centuries have been built. It rests with men whether they will make the proper use of the rich treasure with which this knowledge provides them or whether they will leave it unused. But if they fail to take the best advantage of it and disregard its teachings and warnings, they will not annul economics; they will stamp out society and the human race.1
Theresa May: A Qualified Defence
15th September 2018
I am presently sat in a Turkish hotel, brooding over the e-mails I keep receiving from my Conservative friends. If some of them want Boris Johnson to replace her, and others Jacob Rees-Mogg, they all agree that Theresa May must go, and that this will somehow improve our departure from the European Union. I have no doubt she would make a better pole dancer than Prime Minister. But I am astonished that anyone with half a brain could want change from our existing state of affairs. It is not, I grant, the best possible state of affairs. It is, even so, the best available. Read more
Why Libertarians Should Read Mises
By Duncan Whitmore
In Part One of this series of three essays exploring the significance of Ludwig von Mises for libertarian thought, we examined the specific place that Mises holds in our tradition, and outlined the unique sophistication of his utilitarian theory in favour of freedom compared to that of other theories that can be grouped into this bracket.
In this part we will turn our attention to a detailed analysis of the action axiom – the keystone of Misesian economic theory – and its implications for concepts that we readily encounter in libertarianism.
Somewhat ironically, it was largely as a result of his influence that the wertfreiheit of Mises’ praxeology was regarded as a separate discipline from the search for an ultimate, ethical justification of liberty – a belief that was sustained by Murray N Rothbard.1 In more recent years, Hans-Hermann Hoppe has probably come closest to providing a link between the two through his derivation of “argumentation ethics” within the praxeological framework, and his identification of the pervasive problem of scarcity – a key praxeological concept – as underpinning any system of ethics.
Nevertheless, one may conclude that a full reconciliation, or synthesis, between the two is still wanting and that there remain other important commonalities to which this essay will seek to provide an introduction. Some of what we will learn below will have implications for a general understanding of right, and that the truths we reveal are inescapable for any political philosophy. Others will be specifically pertinent to libertarianism and will provide us with insights as to how we can further the libertarian goal. Read more
The Mediaeval Roman Empire:
An Unlikely Emergence and Survival
Speech Given to the Property and Freedom Society,
Bodrum, 14th September 2018
As ever, I will begin by thanking Professor Hoppe and his wife Gulçin for their great kindness in asking me once again to speak to the Property and Freedom Society here in Bodrum. I will also thank them for the honour they have shown me, for the second year running, of asking me to speak first.
On the face of it, the subject I have been given for this year is both obscure in itself and of little relevance to the overall purpose of an organisation set up to advance the restoration of a free and prosperous civilisation. I have been asked to speak about the Emergence and Survival of the Byzantine Empire. I believe that the subject is entirely relevant. Properly considered, the history of what I will from now call not the Byzantine Empire, but the Mediaeval Roman Empire, is perhaps the most astonishing instance of how courage and determination can keep civilisation alive in the face of the most forbidding and apparently overpowering challenges. In setting out my argument, I hope you will forgive me if I begin with an introduction covering much that many of your will know at least as well as I do, but that may not be so familiar to those reading the text or watching the speech on YouTube. Read more
Sore Losers: “Remainers” and the EU Referendum
By Duncan Whitmore
In spite of the fact that we are now more than two years after the event, the sore losers on the “Remain” side of the Brexit vote persist in their efforts to deny the legitimacy of the referendum result in favour of “Leave”. The most strenuous effort, in accordance with the propensity of the EU to require repetitive voting until they receive the right answer, is the push for a second referendum – either on the so-called “deal” that our government is trying its best to fashion into a resemblance of EU membership in all but name, or a rerun of the entire process.
In the first place, it must be nothing short of astonishing that every single argument that is advanced in order to discredit the outcome of the referendum is exactly the same as every argument that was made against democracy itself prior to its ascension as the unquestionable holy grail: that the voters are too uneducated; that people didn’t know what they were voting for; that the majority is not a real majority; and so on.
Particularly following Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s polemic, it is true that libertarians are at least suspicious of democracy, and are likely to view it more as an enabler of state growth rather than a straightjacket. However, such suspicion applies only to representative democracy or the kind where we are, essentially, voting on how tax loot should be divvied up. It can scarcely apply to a referendum the very purpose of which is to determine the sovereignty of a nation, and where there is a chance to move that sovereignty closer towards the individual through a rejection of state centralisation and consolidation into ever larger behemoths governing wider territories.
Although the efforts from the “Leave” side to defend the legitimacy of the result are all cogent enough, they are usually content to address the “Remainers’” objections on their own terms instead of challenging the underlying assumptions. This short essay will attempt to provide some additional, more fundamental ammunition in order to refute the most typical arguments. Read more