The Radical Von Mises


Ever feel like a square for digging stuffy Old European economist Ludwig Von Mises? Why, that very name seems to drip aristocratic spider webs. Well, don't, says philosopher Roderick Long, echoing and recasting the arguments of Mises disciple Murray Rothbard from 1981. Mises was radical, man.

Long judges Mises radicalism along three distinct dimensions: the gradal, "extreme or thoroughgoing as opposed to wishy-washy"; the ideological, "opposed to conservative, politically or culturally"; and the dialectical, "an orientation that considers phenomena not in isolation but in their interconnections with other elements in a systemic totality."

He points out, among other things, Mises' alarm over marriage's effects on individuality, his belief in free immigration, his disdain for colonialism, his awareness of the historical piracy behind most large land holdings. Long provides a smart and nuanced tracing of the extent to which Mises sometimes did, and sometimes didn't, seem to believe in a "thick" libertarianism, in which political liberty must or ought be embedded within a wider set of moral, social, or personal values.

I largely agree with the Rothbard/Long thesis, and appreciate its nuances. Why do you think my history of the modern American libertarian movement, in which Mises plays a prominent role, is called Radicals for Capitalism?

UPDATE: Back in 1998, I wrote about the time that no less a radical dude than the Batman came to the defense of Ludwig von Mises stolen papers in a bizarre DC Comic written and drawn by superbrilliant comic artist Paul Pope. As Pope had his "Berlin Batman" sum up Mises: "Von Mises' anti-authoritarian ideas were first a threat to the Nazis, then the Soviets, and to all increasingly regulatory governments in our own times. He was against socialism in all its many forms. He was an advocate of individual liberty, free speech, and free thinking…"

And here I am from May 1997 on the true story of Mises long-missing papers.