Tag Archives: Ludwig von Mises

David D. Friedman on Problems with Libertarianism

In this video from 1981, David D. Friedman lists some unresolved problems with libertarianism and also tells some funny stories about Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand. In general, he thinks that libertarians are too confident in their ability to answer all real world problems given the current state of libertarian ethical theory. For anyone interested in the fundamentals of libertarianism, this video will be a lot of fun.

 

TL;DW: First, he is concerned that there is no pre-defined rule for quantifying the kind and quantity of punishment and restitution that is appropriate in response to crimes. Continue reading

Theory and History

Theory and History

Theory and History

Ludwig von Mises’ last book is an examination of social sciences as they are and as they should be. Mises characteristically spends time excoriating historians who pretend to be economists. His main effort, however, is on the proper delineation between psychology, economics, thymology, and, of course, history.

For those who have read Human Action, the distinction between historical science and economic science is well known. When a so-called economist models the price of onions in Venice in the 1850s, he is not furthering economic knowledge, but simply using mathematics to relate what happened in the past. That this work provides no economic insight and has no predictive power is a central theme of Theory and History.

Furthermore, Mises attacks supposed economic theories that are actually theories of history, and bad ones at that. He embarrasses Marxism for its foundational beliefs that technology determines the social state of affairs and that history is on an inevitable trend towards a final state of socialism. With his typical dry humor, Mises tears apart collectivist ideologies, though some may seem obscure to a modern reader.

On the other hand, his work on thymology is immortal. Continue reading

Good, Evil, and Ethics

jack o'lanterns

Jack o’ lanterns

Good and evil are often portrayed as opposing choices in an individual’s life, or opposing forces of history. Yet, good and evil are not opposites and this mis-characterization often leads to confused thinking on the part of philosophers, storytellers, and others.

The first thing that should be noted about good and evil is that they are adjectives that apply to different things. Good and bad can describe just about anything, but evil only applies to things that people do.  One might have a good apple or a bad apple, but one would never have an evil apple. On the other hand, one could say that what someone does is good, bad, evil or the opposites of those.

As examples, one might say that it is good to exercise, bad to over-eat, evil to murder and not-evil to read a book. Aside from evil and not-evil, these adjectives are not mutually exclusive. So one might say that it is good, bad and not-evil to eat ice cream. Something can be good and bad in different ways, so there is nothing wrong with describing eating ice cream as both good and bad.

Similarly, as good and evil are not opposites they can be used to describe the same thing. An action that someone takes might be good and evil at the same time. For example, murder is an archetypal evil. Yet, if a politician that a farmer does not like is murdered, the farmer might consider that a good thing, making the murder both good and evil. Another scenario might be if a man robs a bank to buy medicine for his sick mother. Continue reading

The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Shield of the Ludwig von Mises Crest

Shield of the Ludwig von Mises Crest

The Ludwig von Mises Institute is an organization that promotes Austrian Economics and libertarian political philosophy. It has produced an incredible amount of educational literature, media, events and programs.

Founded by Lew Rockwell in 1982, it has been heavily focused on academia, trying to produce economic scholars of the Austrian tradition, who could then influence students, journals, and the political landscape. To this end it provides research grants, fellowships, academic awards and academic conferences.

One particularly promising conference is the annual Mises University. It is a one week immersive program in Austrian Economics that is not just an accelerated economics course, but also ties in libertarian ethics and revisionist history. This conference brings together bright young minds in an environment where they can learn from and debate with experts in various fields. The Mises Institute hosts many other events aimed at students on its beautiful campus in Auburn, Alabama. Continue reading