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Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  1,688 ratings  ·  72 reviews
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 r...more
Hardcover, 1128 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by Liberty Fund Inc. (first published 1949)
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Economics in One Lesson by Henry HazlittHuman Action by Ludwig von MisesThe Law by Frédéric BastiatMeltdown by Thomas E. Woods Jr.Man, Economy, and State by Murray N. Rothbard
The Austrian School of Economics
2nd out of 77 books — 79 voters
The Wealth of Nations by Adam SmithThe General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard KeynesThe Road to Serfdom by Friedrich HayekDebt by David GraeberNaked Economics by Charles Wheelan
Best Economics Books
13th out of 194 books — 191 voters

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Community Reviews

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One of the most important books of the 20th century, not yet as influential as it deserves to be.

I was brought to this book in 2009 after a growing feeling of dissatisfaction with "expert" explanations being offered for the various financial and economic calamities that seemed to be happening worldwide. Economic commentary by journalists and pundits struck me as being opaque, partisan, and contradictory. Gradually I had become interested in the ideas of the so-called Austrian school of free-mark...more
Ludwig von Mises is a major contributor to what is called the Austrian School of economics. Human Reason is his magnum opus, a thorough-going look at the way that the innate human desire to decrease uneasiness is the pursuit for which capitalism is the mechanism.

The thesis is simple. Human beings take action to make things better for themselves. If we were satisfied, there would be no economy. But most of us will be cautious in what we do, avoiding as much risk as possible in our attempt to get...more
Robert Taylor
Dec 07, 2010 Robert Taylor rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
After having read the first 500 pages 3 times over the course of 2 years, I finally completed my reading of Human Action. Without being overly poetic, it is by far the seminal intellectual book of the 20th century, and probably the most important contribution to human knowledge so far.

It may seem audacious for me to say something like that, but given that ANY other book dealing with one of the physical sciences (like a book on Advanced Quantum Mechanics)--or any other science for that matter--ca...more
This was very interesting. I think the Austrian economics by itself would not have provided the economic prosperity we have experienced until 2000. Austrian economics expects people to have a long term perspective for future growth and based our recent experiences this is highly unlikely. Example you pay an above subsistence wages to your employees because they drive you top line revenue growth. Prosperity of the labor pool means you sell more products... and during times of slow demand people n...more
Human Action is considered by many to be the definitive theoretical work for what is known as the Austrian school of economics. Reading it was 10 weeks of brain-stretching concentration, peppered liberally with moments of personal paradigm shaking, and demystification of how our actions affect each other. It enhanced my appreciation of the beautiful way in which life orders itself.

In the first section of this masterwork, Mises gets right down to laying a solid epistemological and methodological...more
Monica Perez
The best work on economics ever written. If Mises had been an anarchist he'd have been perfect.
Notable only now for ideological and historical reasons.
Von Mises makes a case for laissez-faire captialism that is insightful and (I guess, I'm no logician) consistent. His main point is that economics is like logic or mathematics, an abstract law that requires discovery through careful reasoning, and that trying to live without adjusting one's behavior to this reality produces frustration and failure. The scope of the book is huge and von Mises is bold in his proclamations. Put on your thinking cap and get out your philosophy glossary if you're goi...more
Great book. Another must-read for anyone intrested in Austian economics. It is a bit dry at times. But, if that's a surprise to you,you probably shouldn't be reading this.

Mises is a favorite of mine, so I really had a heard time writting that last part.
"Economics is not about goods and services, it is about the actions of living men." This set the stage for my understanding of economics.
Willie Red
This is and Man, Economy, and State by Murray N. Rothbard are works of genius!
Nov 19, 2008 Brian is currently reading it
my brain hurts. this book is intense.
Kevin Cole
I used to hate economics because I thought it related to nothing in my life. Certain others then began showing me, in flashes, that I was wrong. But it was Mises who not only showed, but--to my mind--proved economics has everything to do with my life; because economics doesn't exist without people behaving as people.

Whimsical example:

If you're in the habit of buying a pound of Brazilian coffee for $1 every week, then you hear on the news that an unexpected freeze has hit Brazil, with analysts ex...more
Eric Sexton
I agree with the other reviewers who claimed that this is one of the most important books of the twentieth century. In fact, if Mises' approach is indeed correct, this is undoubtedly one of the most important books in the history of human civilization.

In 'Human Action' Mises describes an a priori approach to the social sciences which he terms "praxeology". Although most of the book deals with the arm of praxeology specific to economics("catallactics") Mises repeatedly reminds the reader that pr...more
“Nobody is in a position to decree what should make a fellow man happier.”

“The Market economy is the social system of the division of labor under private ownership of the means of production. Everybody acts on his own behalf; but everybody's actions aim at the satisfaction of other people's needs as well as at the satisfaction of his own. Everybody in acting serves his fellow citizens. Everybody, on the other hand, is served by his fellow citizens... The market directs the individual's activitie...more
The original virtue of the Austrian School of economics, aside from Menger's ability to coherently connect cause and effect for Austrian policymakers who never listened to him, is that it was an early adopter of the idea that economics as a school of thought must be based on what are now called "micro principles" like individual human behavior. An economy, ultimately, is the sum of individual market choices, each one made because the actor thought they would gain from it. Mises attempted to (and...more
Bobby Mckeown
This is the seminal work of one my most admired thinkers. Mises is to economics as Einstein is to physics. This was the hardest read for me only because of it's gigantic size. It isn't for the timid or early student in economics. Although the concepts are simple enough to grasp I would recommend Rothbard's "Man, Economy and State" before reading this work. As Rothbard said when asked what the book was about, he simply replied, "Everything". So true.
Connor Boyack
Heavy stuff. Powerful, and important to read and consider -- Mises is a juggernaut for liberty -- but other treatises exist which describe many of the same ideas in more understandable ways. Still, Mises is worth reading, and Human Action is an important asset, if not as material to slog through reading, then to have on hand as reference for discussion and research.
Charles Goodwell
Mar 04, 2009 Charles Goodwell is currently reading it
This will be my holidays reading. Very interesting lessons on human cooperation, which is the way the author classifies the economic activities.
Now that the current crisis is rumoring the end of the Austrians economists is time to retake the basic principles of economic liberalism set for in Von Mises masterpiece.
A monumental classic work from the Austrian School. Comprehensive and thorough is an understatement.

Quotes I want to remember that are central to his economic and political philosophy:

On Economics:
"Economics is not about goods and services, it is about the actions of living men."

On Felt Uneasiness:
"Strictly speaking the end, goal or aim of any action is always the relief from a felt uneasiness." - p92

"What acting man wants to know is how he must employ the available means for the best possible...more
...уф :( Утомила меня эта книга...

Эти 900 страниц (в ридере получилось почти 2500 страниц :)) я читал почти целый месяц. Она вызвала у меня море эмоций: от восхищения отдельными проблесками гениальности автора, до отвращения и ужаса.

Сразу хочу предупредить, что писать рецензию (в полном смысле этого слова) на данную книгу я не собираюсь. Во-первых, объём её очень велик. Мой краткий конспект книги составил более 50 стандартных страниц А4 :) И это только мысли и идеи, которые "зацепили", показал...more
Joshua Hruzik
Ludwig von Mises' Human Action was written as an advanced version of his work Nationalökonomie. Its intention was no other as to deliver a sound and comprehensive body that covers all core aspects of economics.
Mises understanding of economics distinguishes itself by proclaiming that intentional human action to remove uneasiness is the main source for economic behavior and that economics is a science solely based on reason and logic. The most important duty of economics ought to evaluate whether...more
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quotes:

"It is a poor makeshift to dispose of a theory by referring to its historical background, to the 'spirit' of its time, to the material conditions of the country of its origin, and to any personal qualities of its authors. A theory is subject to the tribunal of reason alone. The yardstick to be applied is always the yardstick of reason."

-Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

"There is, of course, no guarantee that the voters will entrust the office to the most competent candidate. But...more
Mike Fox
While the historical contributions of Ludwig von Mises to the Austrian school of economics are monumental, Human Action is a very difficult book to read and understand. Mises's style of writing is one of a European aristocrat and he writes more to the professional economist with a background in philosophy which ultimately will lose most readers. Murray Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State is a book that fully encompasses all of Mises's contributions with further elaboration and crystallization of...more
Mises expounded about the root of our economic problem was due to lack thereof, of comprehension causality, that man's faces volition as how to appease his wants, and intentions. He explained that action is the essence of man's nature and existence, his only means of preserving life and raising himself above the level of plant, and animal.

He determined that man needs praxeology (the study of human action and conduct. The general ethics falls into two parts: Aretologie, and Praxeologie i,e. virtu...more
Zachary Moore
A grand treatise on liberal economics, starting from the very beginnings and proceeding to a complete theory of political economy. I found the sections on methodology to be the most useful for their strong presentation of the case for economics as a theoretical (ie non-mathematical) science--just absorbing Mises' discussions on the theoretical errors of mathematical economics gives one a strong grasp on the fatal flaws of contemporary neo-classical and monetarist economics. Also noteworthy is Mi...more
Aaron Crofut
Hard to even write a review of this incredible book. Critics of the free market would do well to read this book first; most of the arguments made against capitalism were pretty well dispatched 60 years ago. Mises' insight into credit expansion is particularly insightful, given what we just went through and what policies are pushed by our current government. The sad fact of it is, very few people understand where or how wealth is created but rather take it as a given, which leads to ridiculous no...more
Everyone who wants to understand how an economy works, and why rampant Keynesianism has kept us in a recession for so long, needs to read Human Action.
بینش بیگ
I have taken so many dayz to finish this book. This is a great Economics book that I would recommend to anyone.The best work on economics ever written.It examines many of the fallacies in popular economics and explains how things really work and should be handled. It is a very tough read though, not something you would sit down and read through in a couple weeks. It is very dense but also extremely valuable. I suspect that this will take most people months if not years to fully read and comprehe...more
Feb 18, 2014 Uzomah added it
why I love eco, and should add as a major to get, of many, of a masters in the field. I love Ludwig
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Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (German pronunciation: [ˈluːtvɪç fɔn ˈmiːzəs]; September 29, 1881 – October 10, 1973) was an Austrian economist, historian, philosopher, author, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern free-market libertarian movement and the Austrian School.
More about Ludwig von Mises...
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