By Ludwig von Mises

Human Action; A Treatise on Economics

In the foreword to Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Mises explains complex market phenomena as "the outcomes of countless conscious, purposive actions, choices, and preferences of individuals, each of whom was trying as best as he or she could under the circumstances to attain various wants and ends and to avoid undesired consequences." It is individual choices in response to personal subjective value judgments that ultimately determine market phenomena—supply and demand, prices, the pattern of production, and even profits and losses. Although governments may presume to set "prices," it is individuals who, by their actions and choices through competitive bidding for money, products, and services, actually determine "prices".

Thus, Mises presents economics—not as a study of material goods, services, and products—but as a study of human actions. He sees the science of human action, praxeology, as a science of reason and logic, which recognizes a regularity in the sequence and interrelationships among market phenomena. Mises defends the methodology of praxeology against the criticisms of Marxists, socialists, positivists, and mathematical statisticians.

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics attributes the tremendous technological progress and the consequent increase in wealth and general welfare in the last two centuries to the introduction of liberal government policies based on free-market economic teachings, creating an economic and political environment which permits individuals to pursue their respective goals in freedom and peace.

Mises also explains the futility and counter-productiveness of government attempts to regulate, control, and equalize all people's circumstances: "Men are born unequal and ... it is precisely their inequality that generates social cooperation and civilization."

The German-language predecessor to Human Action, titled Nationalökonomie: Theorie des Handelns und Wirtschaftens, first appeared in 1940. Human Action was not a direct translation of the earlier work, but used its general framework and expanded on it (source: Wikipedia).

Lecture Introducing the Book

A 35-minute introduction lecture by Robert Murphy of the Ludwig von Mises Institute:

Relevant Links

About Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig von MisesLudwig von Mises (1881–1973) was the leading spokesman of the Austrian School of Economics throughout most of the twentieth century. He earned his doctorate in law and economics from the University of Vienna in 1906. In 1926, Mises founded the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research. From 1909 to 1934, he was an economist for the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. Before the Anschluss, in 1934 Mises left for Geneva, where he was a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies until 1940, when he emigrated to New York City. From 1948 to 1969, he was a visiting professor at New York University.

Table of Contents of Human Action: A Treatise of Economics

Part One - Human Action

  1. Acting Man
  2. The Epistemological Problems of the Sciences of Human Action
  3. The Economics and the Revolt Against Reason
  4. A First Analysis of the Category of Action
  5. Time
  6. Uncertainty
  7. Action Within the World

Part Two - Action within the Framework of Society

  1. Human Soceity
  2. The Role of Ideas
  3. Exchange within Society

Part Three - Economic Calculation

  1. Valuation without Calculation
  2. The Sphere of Economic Calculation
  3. Monetary Calculation as a Tool of Action

Part Four - Catallactics or Economics of the Market Society

  1. The Scope and Method of Catallactics
  2. The Market
  3. Prices
  4. Indirect Exchange
  5. Action in the Passing of Time
  6. The Rate of Interest
  7. Interest, Credit Expansion, and the Trade Cycle
  8. Work and Wages
  9. The Nonhuman Original Factors of Production
  10. The Data of the Market
  11. Harmony and Conflict of Interests

Part Five - Social Cooperation without a Market

  1. The Imaginary Construction of a Socialist Society
  2. The Impossibility of Economic Calculation

Part Six - The Hampered Market Economy

  1. The Government and the Market
  2. Interference by Taxation
  3. Restriction of Production
  4. Interference with the Structure of Prices
  5. Currency and Credit Manipulation
  6. Confiscation and Redistribution
  7. Syndicalism and Corporativism
  8. The Economics of War
  9. The Welfare Principle versus the Market
  10. The Crisis of Interventionism
  11. The Nondescript Character of Economics
  12. The Place of Economics in Learning
  13. Economics and the Essential Problems of Human Existence