Praxeology '...the primordial fact of individual human action.'

Posted by ProjectC 
"...the fundamental point that all human actions are determined by the individuals' values and ideas, a "praxeological" insight at the heart of Misesian thought...


Happily, the opening of Mises's seminar coincided with the publication of Human Action, which came out on September 14, 1949. Human Action is it: Mises's greatest achievement and one of the finest products of the human mind in our century. It is economics made whole, based on the methodology of praxeology that Mises himself had developed, and grounded in the ineluctable and fundamental axiom that human beings exist, and that they act in the world, using means to try to achieve their most valued goals. Mises constructs the entire edifice of correct economic theory as the logical implications of the primordial fact of individual human action. It was a remarkable achievement, and provided a way out for the discipline of economics, which had fragmented into uncoordinated and clashing sub-specialties. It is remarkable that Human Action was the first integrated treatise on economics since Taussig and Fetter had written theirs before World War I. In addition to providing this comprehensive and integrated economic theory, Human Action defended sound, Austrian economics against all its methodological opponents, against historicists, positivists, and neo-classical practitioners of mathematical economics and econometrics. He also updated his critique of socialism and interventionism.

In addition, Mises provided important theoretical corrections of his predecessors. Thus, he incorporated the American Austrian Frank Fetter's pure time preference theory of interest into economics, at long last rectifying Böhm-Bawerk's muddying of the waters by bringing back the fallacious productivity theory of interest after he had disposed of it in the first volume of his Capital and Interest.

It is another blot on American academia that I had gone through all the doctoral courses at Columbia University without once discovering that there was such a thing as an Austrian school, let alone that Ludwig von Mises was its foremost living champion. I was scarcely familiar with Mises's name, outside of the usual distorted story of the socialist calculation debate, and was therefore surprised to learn in the spring of 1949 that Mises was going to begin a regular seminar at NYU. I was also told that Mises was going to publish a magnum opus in the fall. "Oh," I asked, "what's the book about?" "About everything," they replied.

Human Action was indeed about everything. The book was a revelation to those of us drenched in modern economics; it solved all problems and inconsistencies that I had sensed in economic theory, and it provided an entirely new and superb structure of correct economic methodology and theory. Furthermore, it provided eager libertarians with a policy of uncompromising laissez-faire; in contrast to all other free-market economists of that day or later, there were no escape hatches, no giving the case away with "of course, the government must break up monopolies," or "of course, the government must provide and regulate the money supply." In all matters, from theoretical to political, Mises was the soul of rigor and consistency. Never would Mises compromise his principles, never would he bow the knee to a quest for respectability or social or political favor. As a scholar, as an economist, and as a person, Ludwig von Mises was a joy and an inspiration, an exemplar for us all."
- Murray N. Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero