To a significant degree you are alive thanks to the ideas and intellectual efforts of some of the men in the cover, and whether mankind avoids extinction ultimately depends on whether enough people familiarize themselves with their ideas and succeed in spreading to thought-leaders/influencers. Today many of us have heard of people like Watson and Crick because they are credited with having discovered the structure of DNA. Well, similarly, the intellectual duo of Ludwig von Mises and his great protégé 1974 Nobel Laureate in Economics F.A. Hayek will someday be seen as the key individuals who explained, not only how the economy works, but how it evolved over time to transforms tribes of slightly smarter apes into today’s global socioeconomic order. It might very well be the case that it was in F.A. Hayek’s mind where a complete understanding of how the entire world works first came together, but this is beyond the scope of this essay. The fact that these men are still not common names is obvious to anyone who has had the fortune of stumbling upon them. They are simply way ahead of our times. But before continuing, just take a second to go to amazon.com and look at their books, the glowing reviews, and compare them to anything written by any other “Mainstream Economists” , that should already begin to tell you something. So without further ado let us devote just a few introductory sentences to each. I apologize in advance to all fans of these men for leaving out soooooooo much about them(especially the current ridiculously short bit about Mises).
Ludwig von Mises is the intellectual who completely destroyed Socialism/Communism which would ultimately destroy the lives of so many in the 20th century and still keeps millions in relative poverty. His essay “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” in 1920 showed how a centrally planned economy could not work and inevitably lead to economic chaos, regardless of the good intentions or intelligence of the bureaucrats or “experts” in charge, period! Mises knew, that Socialism/Communism was just a huge complex of economic fallacies which lured people to their destruction. So he was very adamant about ensuring that people made it their ‘civic duty’ to sort of inoculate themselves about such errors by understanding economics and that if we didn’t do this eventually we would self-destruct.
A couple of years later in 1922, his book “Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis” would add yet another devastating blow to this disastrous ideology which leads us to Friedrich A. Hayek. In Hayek’s words: “When Socialism[Mises’ book] first appeared in 1922, its impact was profound. It gradually but fundamentally altered the outlook of many of the young idealists returning to their university studies after World War I. I know, for I was one of them.” In a letter to Mises in 1931, Hayek, who was by this time a distinguished scholar at the prestigious London School of Economics, humbly acknowledges his great intellectual debt to Mises:
“I am aware, for the first time, that I owe to you virtually everything that gives me an advantage as compared to my colleagues here and to most economists even outside my narrow field of research (here my indebtedness to you goes without saying)… I here feel more indebted to you than anytime before.”
Essentially, Mises’ writings like “Socialism”, were so far ahead of their time, that by having had the fortune of stumbling upon them and Mises himself, Hayek was easily becoming the towering intellectual figure in London as he humbly admitted. To this day, Mises’ book is still far ahead of anything most mainstream social scientists write because they simply have little idea how the economy (the “social” in “social sciences”) works. So what did Hayek provide? His connections and influence in the mainstream intellectual world were the ones that had the most effect in slowing down the spread of Communism in the Western World. His 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom had a condensed version which made it to over 1 million homes in the USA and helped many understand economics and the disaster of Socialism/Communism was bound to be if they kept asking government(competition-less coerced monopoly) to solve more and more problems. Many would-be pro-freedom/Capitalism leaders like Margaret Thatcher who “read it as an undergraduate at Oxford, where it became part of her enduring outlook.” His essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society” is arguably one of the most important and oft-quoted economic papers of all time where he explains how the knowledge that guides the social order is spread throughout society and impossible for a central planning body to capture and act upon thus dealing another devastating critique of Socialism/Communism. After his most purely economic writings he helped explain how the entire economic system and its numerous parts like money, banking, interest rates, the legal structures that sustain it, had sort of evolved without human beings really planning it. Just like cells were shaped into multicellular organism by an evolutionary process, so would an evolutionary process take tribal man and create the global economy. Hayek explained how all this worked. Hayek was well aware that mankind, with the best of intentions, could easily fall head over heels for central planning ideologies that would inevitably bring massive oppression and economic chaos as we are seeing now with countless ‘well-meaning’ scholars’ like Dr. Anthony Fauci and numerous politicians that are destroying the world economies due to the Coronavirus scare, similarly to how Vladimir Lenin did in the former Soviet Union.
Both Mises and Hayek were adamant about trying to look at the world’s problems, not as the result of bad, malicious or crazy people, but simply do to massive ignorance of economics, our tribal human nature/instincts, and other factors and thus tried their best to simply educate even though they would at times be misinterpreted and vilified.
Today’s intellectual leaders like best-selling science authors Matt Ridley humbly admit that in many ways they are just catching up to men like Hayek.
The same can be said about another one of today’s leading minds, Steven Pinker
In March 2019 some of Hayek’s personal items broke all records for an online auction held at the renown Sotheby’s Auction House.
Murray N. Rothbard. With economic theory already hammered out by Mises and to a lesser extent Hayek and others, Rothbard would build himself a superb pair of what I’ll call ‘intellectual glasses’ with which to peer into history and properly explain the root causes of economic crises like ‘America’s Great Depression’ (compare his book to former Fed chair Ben Bernanke’s) in his likewise titled book, and ‘A History of Money and Banking in the United States’. With such ‘intellectual glasses’ Rothbard’s keen eye could better understand the inevitable corruption and self-serving relationships that evolve between large corporations(Wall-Street), banks, and the government, helping add fuel to the growth of wasteful tribalistic government bureaucracies.
Unlike Mises who felt like government was necessary for some basic services, or Hayek who could tolerate all kinds of government interventions, Rothbard would take freedom to its limit by preaching for the complete privatization of government as we know it and therefore for the privatization of everything. Perhaps Rothbard’s greatest contributions might end up being his short books/pamphlets which helped explain basic monetary theory and the damage done by the Federal Reserve to thousands and perhaps by now, or very soon, millions. Books like “What Has Government Done to Our Money” and “The Case Against the Fed” are great examples of the perfect bite-sized chunks of knowledge which are needed to go viral to help overcome the economic ignorance that ultimately fuels our economic problems.
Ludwig Lachmann studied under Hayek and although he did not write much or exert an influence anywhere close to the men above, his writings really helped one understand the real 3-dimensional sort of structure of production. In mainstream economics one is used to dealing with lifeless mathematical models and other mostly useless constructs, but Lachmann really helps one see the sort of factories arising, the real people moving from one company to another. It is as if you are learning about how the social order works and evolves by looking at it from above as it really exists. He was also a great friend and supporter and admirer of Hayek.
Walter Block, “If it moves: privatize it. If it doesn’t move: privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move: privatize everything.” Following the “privatize everything” tradition of Murray N. Rothbard. Prof. Block wrote a classic book, “Defending the Undefendable” where , I’ll just leave this here: