Quotable Mises: The Power of Thought

“The essence of an individual’s freedom is the opportunity to deviate from traditional ways of thinking and of doing things.” mises-quotable

For libertarians, this symbolizes the way we oftentimes function within an increasingly totalitarian society that does not recognize most of our basic principles, let alone our comprehensive worldviews. This striking quote is from Ludwig von Mises’s Theory and History, page 378. Concerning freedom, Mises also noted that economic freedom is such that “the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society.” When a man such as Mises can convey the perplex ideas of social philosophy, economics, and freedom in such a thought-provoking and unambiguous manner, someone ought to do something about compiling and presenting his magnificent words.

Well someone did. However, The Quotable Mises is not merely a grab bag of moldable quotes for freedom and against tyranny. This compilation of Misesian courage and his revolutionary mindset, edited by Dr. Mark Thornton of the Mises Institute, is a handbook of good over bad, moral vs. immoral, and man against state.

Mises, of course, championed the right of free men acting in voluntary exchange within a free market unencumbered by state intervention or coercion. Interventionism, he knew, would necessarily develop into full-blown socialism, and thus did he deviate from traditional, twentieth-century political thought, in spite of the career consequences that would come to pass.

First off, The Quotable Mises is beautifully bound in a bright, colorful, printed cover sans the traditional dust jacket. The “textbook” look is pleasing as well as durable. Nearly 300 pages, it’s only a handful of the eloquence and brilliance that Mises gave to the world over a span of many years. Thornton has provided a topic-centered table of contents wherein Misesian quotes are found on everything from antitrust to bourgeoisie to Lenin to sex. In regards to Lenin he is quoted as noting that Lenin was akin to a “filing clerk” building “a nation’s production effort according to the model of the post office.” And sex? Mises says that no activity that staves off extinction shall be called a vice! Anyone that has read a great deal of Mises’s work knows that few topics escaped his ability to engage them: not Ghandi, not Prohibition, and certainly not the Historical School.

The book includes a bibliography and a valuable index, which is especially helpful for writers looking up quotes by topic or keyword. In essence, The Quotable Mises is a joyous and useful presentation of the words of one of the greatest scholars of modern times.

Telling the truth and challenging the powers-that-be rendered Mises academically powerless for most of his lifetime. But his glory lived on with Hayek’s Nobel Prize and the revival of the Austrian school. The truth is in Mises, a great man who dared to challenge the status quo with the consequence of rejection and obscurity. Thankfully, his lifetime of rejection from academia was not followed up with subsequent obscurity, but rather, his legacy was revived via the rebirth of Austrian economics and the discovery that he, indeed, was more comprehensive and significant than his peers dared to declare.

As Mises noted in his magnum opus Human Action: “History speaks only to those who know how to interpret it.” Mises spoke, and thanks to projects like The Quotable Mises, many generations of inquiring minds will certainly interpret.

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