Brief Thoughts on “Epistemological Problems of Economics” by Ludwig von Mises

Epistemological Problems of Economics” is a collection of papers and speeches that Mises combined into a book. The book was first published in 1933 and the components were written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, thus they appeared at a time in which Mises was still working through issues of the foundations of economics. Here are some bullet points that come to mind after finishing the book.

  • Mises is often times addressing points made by adherents of various contemporary schools of thought. If, like me, one lacks the background knowledge of the intellectual climate of the German speaking academic world in the aftermath of their defeat in WWI and the resultant hyperinflations, it can be difficult to understand why Mises is making certain points and what specific school he is addressing.
  • Mises continued to pursue foundational problems for the remainder of his long life. As such, it is not surprising to learn that he cleared up many issues and sharpened his presentation of these issues in later works. Specifically, this was done in the first part of “Human Action” (my favorite part of the treatise) and in “Theory and History“.
  • The introduction by Jörg Guido Hülsmann is very good. In fact, it is probably the best summary of the entire corpus of Mises’ thought that I have read.

To conclude, “Epistemological Problems of Economics” is an interesting work for all adherents of Austrian economics, but is probably not an essential work. Frankly, Mises was much clearer in later works referenced above.

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