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Mises the Man and His Monetary Policy Ideas Based on His “Lost Papers”

One day in 1927 Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, stood at the window of his office at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, and looked out over the Ringstrasse (the main grand boulevard that encircles the center of Vienna). He said to his young friend and former student, Fritz Machlup, “Maybe grass will grow there, because our civilization will end.” He also wondered what would become of many of the Austrian School economists in Austria. He suggested to Machlup that, clearly, they would have to immigrate, perhaps, to Argentina, where they might find work in a Buenos Aires nightclub. Friedrich A. Hayek could be employed as the headwaiter, Mises said, while Machlup, no doubt, would be the nightclub’s resident gigolo. But what about Mises? He would have to look for work as the doorman, for what else, Mises asked, would he be qualified to do?

It is worth recalling that in the mid-1920s, Mises had warned of the rise of “national socialism” in Germany, with many Germans, he said, “setting their hopes on the coming of the ‘strong man’ – the tyrant who will think for them and care for them.” He also predicted that if a national socialist regime did come to power in Germany and was determined to reassert German dominance over Europe, it would likely have only one important ally with whom to initially conspire in this new struggle – Soviet Russia. Thus, years before Adolph Hitler came to power, Mises anticipated the Nazi-Soviet Pact to divide up Eastern Europe that set in motion the start of the Second World War in 1939.

Ten years after Mises’s playful 1927 prediction to Fritz Machlup, reality was not that far from what he said. By 1938, many of the Austrian economists had, indeed, emigrated and left their native country.

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