A Personal Story of Ludwig von Mises and His Legacy – On His Birthday
On September 29th, 1881, a giant was born in the town of Galicia, Austria-Hungary (modern-day Ukraine). His name was Ludwig von Mises, who would later immigrate to the United States and become perhaps the most influential economist in the history of classical libertarian thought. Known for his unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom, particularly as the rise of socialism began to sweep the world, I also know of him as kind, soft-spoken and quite reserved, and as a man who above all, had the heart of a teacher.
I know this because my great-grandfather George Koether, to whom I credit for my foundational interests in classical libertarian politics, was his student in economics for many years. George grew to be close intimate friends with Ludwig and his wife, Margit, and would recall his memories of them to me when he and I would visit or chat over the phone about my own political pursuits from time to time. In fact, it was my great-grandfather who edited Margit’s autobiography of her life with her husband, “My Years with Ludwig von Mises”. In the preface, she thanks my great-grandfather for all of his assistance with the work—“George, you are doing so much for me. How can I accept it? … And he replied, ‘Margit, when your husband died, I told my wife, ‘How can I ever thank this man for what he has done for my mind? This is my chance.”
Indeed, what von Mises did for the minds of scholars across the world would become legendary, as they led the movement away from socialism and towards individual liberty, human choice and action. His Austrian School went on to educate future economic leaders like Friedrich von Hayak and Oskar Morganstern. The modern-day Chicago School of Economics is rooted in Mises’ teachings, and followers would later found the Ludwig von Mises Institute to continue his legacy.
So today, we wish a very happy birthday to a man whose influence is likely immeasurable, whose impression would forever change the opinions of leaders throughout the world, and whose mentorship would create a legacy that continues to leave its mark—a mark I’ve experienced personally through my own tutelage from my economist great-grandfather George, his student and friend.
For those interested in learning more about Von Mises’ life, consider the following reads: