Nothing is so contagious as example; and we never do any great good or evil which does not produce its like. — Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680).
Heroes for liberty are not particular to any region of the world or to a particular time period or to one sex. They hail from all nationalities, races, faiths, and creeds. They inspire others to a noble and universal cause—that all people should be free to live their lives in peace so long as they do no harm to the equal rights of others. They are passionate not solely for their own liberty, but for that of others as well.
In my last book, Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction, I wrote about 40 individuals whose views, decisions, and actions served this cause in various ways. That book planted the seed for this new weekly series to be published each Thursday at FEE.org. But this time, others from around the world will do the writing, and I’ll be content to do the editing while keeping that to a minimum to preserve the author’s voice. It is my hope that when all is said and done some months from now, the literature of liberty will be greatly complemented by this collection of short biographies. The authors will be writing about heroes for liberty who are (or were) citizens of each author’s own country. Each week’s installment will be added to the collection here.
This week’s edition is about the life of one of the greatest heroes of liberty, Austrian economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises, and it is written by FEE’s own Dan Sanchez.
--- Lawrence W. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education
106 years ago, Ludwig von Mises's first great book, Theory of Money and Credit, was published. Mises wrote this treatise in the dark, foreboding days before World War I. This gave the project urgency and greatly affected its makeup. He would later write in his Notes and Recollections,
If I could have worked quietly and taken my time, I would have begun with a theory of direct exchange in the first volume; and then I could proceed to the theory of indirect exchange. But I actually began with indirect exchange, because I believed that I did not have much time; I knew that we were on the eve of a great war and I wanted to complete my book before the war's outbreak. I thus decided that in a few points only I would go beyond the narrow field of strictly monetary theory, and would postpone my preparation of a more complete work.”
Although still young, the economist had already mastered his science. He probably could have written something like his later magnum opus Human Action—a systematic exposition of economics and the case for classical liberalism—right then in the second decade of the 20th century.
But as fate would have it, Mises—whose ideas represented the height of the classical-liberal tradition—came on the scene at the precise moment when the Western world completely foreswore that tradition, embraced the total state, and hurled itself headlong toward self-destruction. Peace and the market were abandoned for war and planning. Mises was the ultimate knight of liberalism in two senses: he was the greatest and the last.