Ludwig von Mises, a founder of the Austrian School of Economics served as a professor of economics at New York University from 1945 through 1969. He was a towering intellect who was influenced by and associated with some of the great historical figures in academic economics. For instance, his dissertation adviser was Eugene Bohm Bawerk, and he was a student of Carl Menger. Von Mises students’ included Oskar Morgenstern (NYU and Princeton) who along with mathematician John non Neuman, founded game theory. Another was Fritz Machlup (NYU and Princeton) who was one of the first economists to recognize and study knowledge as an economic resource, an idea that is taken for granted by economists today.
Way back in the 1920s von Mises was warning about the dangers of what he termed “Socialist Destruction”. Socialists, he argued, did not engage in reasoned debate over the merits of a proposition; instead they simply denounced their opponents while seeking their destruction. And not just their opponents, whom they considered (and consider) to be enemies. They sought to destroy the institutions of civil society that protect the freedom and dignity of individuals, including religion, the rule of law, due process, free speech, freedom of assembly, limited government and the nuclear family.
Mises was prescient. What he predicted is precisely what is going on today. Same wine, new bottle. It is at the heart of cancel culture and intersectionality that has gained so much power over intellectual and artistic life. First go the statues and symbols, then go the people.
The video below is that of Professor Thomas J. DiLorenzo discussing Mises theory of Socialist Destruction in light of what is going on today. It is a story that can be told over and over, but some people never seem to learn. Until it’s too late.
Judge Andrew Napolitano presents the case for natural rights (as opposed to positivism) as the foundation of the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution. He makes his case at the Mises Institute, named after Ludwig Von Mises a past professor from NYU and one of the founders of the Austrian School of economics.
The libertarian Austrian School also claims Frederich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard and Carl Menger as founders along with Mises. The Austrian School rejects much of the mathematicization of contemporary economics, preferring instead a teleological approach to the study of human action. Human actors are rational beings and so in the Austrian School the purpose of human action must be studied with respect to desired ends.
This emphasis on means and ends stands in rather stark contrast to the more positivistic approach of modern economics which tends to be expressed with respect to causes and effects. The difference between the schools of thought is subtle. Modern economics infers causes and effects using advanced statistical models–but the underlying mathematics is based on the experimental methods of the physical sciences. For instance the Black-Scholes options pricing model shares characteristics of the heat equation first developed by Joseph Fourier in 1882.
The Austrian model posits voluntary and purposeful human action taken with ends in mind as the proper focus of study. Knowledge and reason drive individual behavior and without planning to do so, through market mechanism they create spontaneous order, to use Hayek’s famous terminology. It is a spontaneous order that no one human being could ever plan or produce because no one person or organization could ever acquire sufficient information and knowledge to do so. But freely transmitted price signals from voluntary transactions in the market provide the necessary knowledge and information for spontaneous order.
The 1 hour lecture by Judge Napolitano, shown below, connects the Natural Law School and the Austrian School and is well worth watching.