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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7083/last-knight-live-blog-1-ransom/

Last Knight Live Blog 1 — Ransom

September 5, 2007 by

Greatest. Economist. Ever?

Jorg Hulsmann’s Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism pays for the price of admission on the first page with a priceless picture of Ludwig Mises at the age or 6 or 7. Here is an innocent, a child, looking out meekly upon the world, a child who as a man would later be reviled by his ideological and scientific opponents and hunted by Hitler, as a consequence of his boldness as a theorist of the free economy.

Hulsmann’s story begins where I’d hoped it would, with details of Mises home town, which turns out be be something like the capital of Jewish Europe, a sort of new Holy Land as Hulsmann calls it within the Polish region of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire. In fact, what is now Lemberg in the Ukraine was then (1881) about half-Jewish in population. And a stunning fact of which I was not aware: it is estimated that more than 80% of all Jews worldwide lived in Poland by the late 1700s.

I’ve always guessed that Mises background in the Polish territory of Galicia — with its unique traditions of liberalism and tolerance — must have played a formative role in Mises development, but the story turns out to be more complex than I’d imagined.. The short version here is that the Mises family was involved in Jewish religious reform, the Polish Germanification movement, the railroad, banking and trade businesses, and with liberal political reform in Galicia. Perhaps a second book will be written simply on the history of the Mises family in Galicia, a remarkable story in its own right.

I’ll continue this in another post.

{ 8 comments }

jeffrey September 5, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Thank you Greg. I too was rather amazed by this background. It’s a different world to be sure. I so very much look forward to all your impressions here.

Bogdan September 5, 2007 at 5:07 pm

What today is often known as Central Europe or Mittleeuropa, the Eastern part of the Habsburg Empire that is, is a fascinating mixture of ethnicities, cultures and history. The diversity of this landes can only claim one factor of unity which has left a deep mark on the region : the Habsburg rule. The Habsburg Empire was for that matter a very lively and cosmopolitan place beginning with the middle of the 19th century and not surprisingly produced some of the greates composers, artists, scientists thinkers and writters of the 20th century.

Sudha Shenoy September 6, 2007 at 11:35 am

From the 1850s onwards, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a great internal free trade area, as internal customs were abolished. A treaty with the Zollverein area enlarged considerably the territories over which trade could be conducted with few or low barriers. The development of the railway network in the 1860s further supported regional specialisation & the shift of crafts & industries to their lowest-cost centres of production. The years upto 1914 saw considerable development in the Empire.

In other respects: Acton considered that multi-national states had the greatest chances for liberty. He specifically mentions the Austro-Hungarian Empire (see his essay on Nationality.)

Anthony September 6, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Sudha, many believe that the reason the Austro-hungarian empire imploded was that it was too diverse. I don’t know if such opinions hold true.

Sudha Shenoy September 7, 2007 at 4:39 am

No, not true. (1) Alan Sked argues that it was WWI, pure & simple that did for the Austro-Hungarian Empire: various political solutions were being devised to accommodate nationalist politicians, etc. See The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire 1815-1918 (2nd ed, Pearson Education 2001.) He deals well with the other, standard explanations.

(2) Acton _contrasts_ ‘the principle of liberty’ with nationalism — ie, a nationality-based politics. I quote: nationalist politics are “founded on a perpetual supremacy of the collective will…to which every other influence must defer…against which no obligation enjoys authority, and all resistance is tyrannical.” On the other hand, “Liberty provokes diversity and diversity preserves liberty…”(‘Nationality’ in Essays in the Liberal Interpretation of History, 1967, pp. 148, 150.) There’s lots more which is thought-provoking.

See also Mises’ acute observations in the section on Nationalism in his Omnipotent Government (1944; repr. 1969.) _Eg_: “The principle of nationality cannot work in a country where linguistic groups are inextricably mixed” (p. 82.)

(3.) Acton & Mises were writing about Central Europe. This area has been linguistically, ethnically & culturally diverse & intermingled for at least a millennium, if not longer. The diversity is there, on the ground, & all-pervasive.

This is _not_, repeat not, the situation found in late 20th century America. There the American libertarian problem is to keep out unwanted Latin American _immigrants_. The circumstances are entirely different,– & so therefore are the problems. Whether Acton & Mises, looking to long-settled Central Europe, have anything to say to the American libertarian problem, of the recent & continuing influx of immigrants, is for the American libertarians to say.

Anthony September 7, 2007 at 7:17 am

Thanks for the information. I’ll be sure to look up that book you mentioned.

Sudha Shenoy September 7, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Greg refers to the “stunning fact” that an estimated 80% & more “of all Jews worldwide lived in Poland by the late” 18th century.

A note of caution: On pp. 4-5 (of the biography) there is a somewhat idealised picture of Jewish life in pre-Partition Poland. This is taken (fn 5) from a work by a Polish-American oil engineer who has undertaken to defend Poland’s reputation against charges of anti-Semitism etc. He was himself persecuted & imprisoned by the Nazis.

While the picture is not completely misleading, there _has_ been professional historical research, which is somewhat more realistic. For what it’s worth: Casimir III (r. 1333-1370) did encourage Jewish migration from the German territories. Over the next 400 years: Jews were permitted to settle in certain towns only. Jewish traders & merchants had to buy ‘protection’ from the nobility. Where they were excluded, they settled in suburbs or in areas owned by the nobility. Jewish craftsmen & artisans flourished because they were excluded from the guilds, & so obviously relied on meeting consumer needs. Within these limits, the Jewish population grew & flourished, in both cultural & religious terms. By the 1770s, there were around a million Jews in Poland-Lithuania — far more than anywhere else in _Europe_. (Jerzy Lukowski & Hubert Zawadzki, A Concise History of Poland, CUP 2001, pp. 28, 54, 80.)

There is also a very detailed study: A. Polonsky et al eds, The Jews in Old Poland (Tauris 1993), which uses many archival sources previously not used in English-language publications on the topic.

christian louboutin June 10, 2010 at 3:46 am

Really good article, thank you for sharing, I will always look at the future, too talented.

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