On this date 128 years ago was born the great economist and political thinker Ludwig von Mises, the fountainhead of modern libertarianism in the American style (not only for the quality and breadth of his own work, but for his direct influence on almost every other major American libertarian giant--everyone from Hayek to Rand to Rothbard learned their take on economics from him), though he himself was born Austrian.
Ludwig von Mises was one of the 20th century's most important intellectuals and one of its most passionate defenders of freedom. He is the economics equivalent of the giants of all the other disciplines (e.g., Einstein). And as Mario Rizzo notes over at ThinkMarkets, he is responsible for what is probably the most important single economic idea of the last century: rational economic calculation is impossible under socialism, and attempts to put such a system in place will only impoverish the citizenry….
In a just world, college students would be reading Mises with the same frequency and breadth as they now read Marx. After all Marxism as a political-economic system is dead, thanks to Mises and others, so if there were any justice…
Despite the impression that sometimes comes in my own work and that of other so-called "GMU Austrians" that it's all about Hayek, it isn't. There would be no Hayek without Mises and there would be no Austrian economics as we know it without Mises. For all of Hayek's brilliance and for all the ways I find his work to be endlessly fascinating and challenging, he is always standing on Mises's shoulders.
Mises story is told at great length in my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. On the web, a short and useful biographical essay and timeline on him can be found at the site of the Mises Institute. His "says it all" work on economics, Human Action, has an interesting study guide. And free online copies of many of his works are here, courtesy of the Mises Institute.