Human Action, by Lüdwig von Mises (Yale, 1949.) – Book Review.
From the sheer weight of the book here, and the fine print, it is evident and obvious this is a magnum opus by a premier, flagship economist of the post war Austrian School in his thesis replying to all others. While von Mises is entirely credible today, even after his passing some time ago, and this in view of the results of lacunae in other schools, notable among them the theorists, pundits and even practitioners who just talk about what goes on in money centers. In view of his marked omission in the text of many marquis administrative topics including things like national banking and other items examined first in the book, these are described as the well – known relationship in economic terms between “Peter” and “Paul”. Such books as von Mises thesis here, as they are construed from the title of the text or the volume of text, issues of language, terminology and the like are sometimes described as someone’s “theory of everything”: Human Action is by no means the hitchhikers’ guide to the galaxy as many economics texts as well might be said to be, and it stands in wonderful parallels in the States to the great text on the subject by Paul Samuelson that first appeared during the 1960’s and wonderfully termed itself, Economics. The Samuelson book despite its age as well still explains for everyone the principles of modern economics in plain and simple English, and the concepts themselves are extremely powerful and override much of what we know to be “sociology” and “psychology” and other among the social sciences then and now. The contrast between the thesis of von Mises of the 1950’s and Samuelson of the 1960’s to today has to do with Samuelson’s Hobbesian and overall technical and quantitative approach to the subject whereas von Mises theoretical computations have to do with commercial and money – motivated intricacies. Economics for von Mises was the toil of a liberal psychologist in the experimental sciences (in fact, the terms here describe what today would be a kind of quackery but at the time were very seriously done and had great weight, for example, with the planners of the “Great Society” and so forth) in the areas of natural and behavioral research, and in the un – scientific realm of literary psychology (telling people what you knew as much as to not have them upset at what you say and how you say it). Economy or economics for von Mises was a behavior, as no doubt he believed money is a huge influencer of economics and business behavior or “action”. A second principle that runs between the lines throughout the book after being openly discussed early in the text is an acknowledgement that inequality and inequalities everywhere call for interpersonal interaction and social and societal cooperation – it is difficult given his belief in the heavy influences of capital and this latter observation as well, to tell if von Mises actually allowed for a socio – economic status quo or if he was constantly striving to find a way for this experimental science to break through the barriers of behavior as defined, economic behavior specifically, to have people find new innovative and inventive ground in many new ways. It is evident von Mises knew that “a penny saved is a penny earned” and the like, and perhaps at the exclusion of other opportunities in life and in business / finance and economics, and with the emphasis in his book on prices and things like exchange rates and interest, it might be said he was not ‘miserly’ but might have been against spending greatly on things; and his levels of analysis indicate he had a liking for most people, especially the worker and consumer, the family man and homemaker. To mention the spirit of von Mises as today quite happy with the federalist state of his native Europe – the relative economic stability and avoidance of poverty, the social stability as well, indicate the text was read there in a meaningful way without its being a cookbook for things as some economics text are. Overall an excellent read.