We can't sit under Mises at his famous Vienna private seminar. We can't go back in time and attend his New York seminar, or follow him to his speaking engagements that he held in the 50s and 60s.
But thanks to this second volume in a thrilling series (here is volume one), we do have access to what he said. He is warm, funny, passionate, and learned. This book provides a candid look at the man and his teaching style. It demonstrates his dazzling command over the material, and teaches in a breezier way than his treatises.
This volume contains nine lectures delivered over one week, from June 23, to July 3, 1952, at the San Francisco Public Library. Mises was at his prime as a teacher and lecturer. He shares a lifetime of learning on topics that were (and remain) central to American public life.
As the title indicates, his main focus is on Marxism. He discusses Marx and his place in the history of ideas, the destruction wrought by his dangerous ideology, the manner in which his followers have covered up his errors, and how the Marxists themselves have worked for so long to save Marxism from itself. He discusses Marxist claims about history and refutes the smear of the industrial revolution.
The approach is systematic but casual. So the reader encounters wonderful insights in the form of short asides. For example: "The worst thing that can happen to a socialist is to have his country ruled by socialists who are not his friends."
As a lecturer, he is steady and relentless. The reader can nearly "hear" him speaking through the prose. And there are times when Mises reveals a level of rhetorical passion that you would never encounter in print. That's because what is printed here are not pre-prepared lectures in the sense that they were written out. They were transcribed by Bettina Bien Greaves from what he actually said.
Thus can we hear this passage:It is not true, as Marx said, that the improvements in technology are available only to the exploiters and that the masses are living in a state much worse than on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. Everything the Marxists say about exploitation is absolutely wrong! Lies! In fact, capitalism made it possible for many persons to survive who wouldn't have otherwise.
Some readers of Mises's larger works have said that while his rigor is dazzling, the man himself can seem remote. Whether or not you agree with this observation, Mises comes across in these lectures as brilliant but very warm and charming in an old world sense.
This approach is particularly fruitful in the last four of the lectures, which cover topics such as savings, interest, inflation, profit and loss, and the place of foreign investment. The lecture on interest rates, for example, must surely rank as one of the best explanations of this complicated topic. He recounts the history of the attempt to suppress interest rates, from the ancient world to the modern period. He explains why this cannot work because interest is merely the objective sign of a phenomenon that is integral to human action. As he moves on to money, Mises reveals himself to be tougher on the issue of fiduciary media than he was when he wrote his 1912 book The Theory of Money and Credit.
In response to a question Mises says: "In the future no additional banknotes should be issued, no additional credit should be entered on a bank subject to check, unless there is 100 percent coverage in money."
Also not to be missed is Mises's wry defense of "money cranks": at least they were only more consistent than the advocates of Keynesian and monetarism.
Mises was clearly pressed for time, so he had to be at once thorough and move quickly through the material. It's still not "light reading" by the normal standards, but for people who want to see a great mind at work, this has a wonderful element of spontaneity about it that attracts and teaches at the same time.
I know all these rude Marxists haven't read it but they really should! Because it's lectures this obviously isn't a systematic construction of methodology like Theory and History or Human Action, but there are insights in here that you don't even get in his analysis of Socialism! Everyone should get this. David Gordon's article gives you an idea of how clever it is.
I found this book very enjoyable. It was simple to understand the points that Mises raises though the book itself felt disorganized. I realize that this is because it is copied from his series of the 1950's lectures on socialism. I just found it too repetitive in some instances. A beneficial message and perhaps good for an individual just starting their reading into the Austrian critiques of Marxist thought. I feel that Mises' book Socialism is more of a thought out process, which is probably a correct feeling because like I stated before this book is a copy of his lectures. Even so, a wonderful work that makes for a good primer into something more advanced. I think it speaks volumes that Marxists still try to attack Mises' work today. Such a sentiment says something about what they are attacking.
It seems to me that many people are not reading these books who give them poor ratings. why?
The answer is simple: a Marxist must defend Marx.
It would be odd to hear of a Marxist who in reading the work of Karl took notice of the many uses of alternating definitions.
Shall we talk about the labor theory of value which has in the literal sense, been absolutely destroyed? And for Marx’s exploitation theory to be correct, it requires that the labor theory of value to be correct as well?
Pearls are not expensive because men travel down to the depths of the ocean to find them, men travel the depths because pearls are expensive.
so why do so many defend marx?
I believe that answer just as simple: a Marxist hasn’t really read Marx.
A juvenile pedestal has been constructed in the minds of the timid for a sloganeer.
Now, please lets all start actually reading the books.
i read this and Free Market and Its Enemies a while back, both of which are Mises lecture seminars. they're really good reads and give several defenses against todays ever growing "Marxist" or "Altruistic" people as they now like to be called. i've read plenty of Mises, but i especially liked these lectures because he's more loose with his wording. it's easier to understand and reads more naturally.
Excellent book, and to the ones that try to descredit capitalism I must tell them that the current crisis was not caused by capitalism or the free markets in their pure form. the current crisis was cause by one socialist institution called the Fed that manipulates the money supply any way it wants. We don't have a free market system in the United States.
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