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.