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Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  3,521 ratings  ·  150 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 i ...more
Hardcover, Third Revised Edition, 924 pages
Published June 1st 1966 by Contemporary Books (first published 1940)
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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
Patrick Peterson
This book is one of the greatest of the 20th century and will endure as a bright beacon of wisdom for centuries to come.

I began this book in a curious, but still recommended fashion, in college. Because of its size (over 800 pages) and at times, especially in the beginning, difficulty, I chose to use it as a reference book. In going to classes or doing my other reading, if I came across an idea/critique of free market capitalism that bothered me, or one which I thought, "there is no way the free
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
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
Brian Michels
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There cannot be a serious conversation about economics without Mise's. Human Action is the definition of Free Market and delivers the goods for a just economy while cutting down to size any alternative economic system.

This is a "must read in your lifetime" book. The sooner the better
Kevin Cole
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Monica Perez
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The best work on economics ever written. If Mises had been an anarchist he'd have been perfect. ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Von Mises was a psychopath. The evil Mises Foundation has an article actually saying that in Dicken's A Christmas foundation Carol Scrooge BEFORE his transformation had the right ideas. ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
There are so many problems with this work. The fundamental is a rejection of empirical observations. He dismisses all attempts to understand Economics by looking at historical data or using mathematics as WRONG. He sees all human actions as irreducible and too complex to be understood. He then builds an entire argument ostensibly on rationality. If you look from a probabilistic world view, you see that each step he takes away from an empirical fact introduces uncertainty. Since each claim that i ...more
Jacob Aitken
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All deductive systems are dangerous if formulated incorrectly. Their appeal lies in their power, and Mises’s system is powerful indeed. Mises advances Praxeology, an economic doctrine emerging from the Classical School when it was realized that human action and not the inherent value of an object is what drove economics (Mises 3). Since our knowledge is limited, our choices will always have an element of uncertainty.

Thus, Mises can advance his main theorem: Human action is purposeful action. And
Johhny Appleseed
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ludwig von Mises is a god among free-market capitalist / libertarians. Since conservatives now seem to think being an intellectual is a bad thing, I had to go back a few decades in the hopes of reading a real thinker from the right. I wasn't disappointed in von Mises for the first few hundred pages, he was thoughtful and academic. He started to get dogmatic and dull after that. He stated at the beginning that he wasn't interested in morality or what we should do, but only with what works economi ...more
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
To the modern reader, this is probably a three star book (if they are economics enthusiasts), but given that it was written the 1930s-40's, it gets four starts for it's importance at the time. Slogging through Von Mises magnum opus was no easy task, not because it's particularly hard (although one section was full of equations and went it one ear and out the other) but because it's fairly dry with nuggets of humor and passion. It's amazing how much we take for granted now that wasn't so obvious ...more
This book is a bad idea to read even if you like to indulge in free market fantasies. I would recommend that one read Milton Friedman instead of Mises, same dose of capitalist ideology, but shorter and with better arguments.

Normally I would have rated it with two stars given the author's clear writing, but I couldn't do it due to the vacuous content. I was utterly dismayed when I read the following in chapter 10 (The Procedure of Economics):

[..] it is expedient to establish the fact that the sta
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely BRILLIANT book, a true eye-opener that goes way beyond economics, destroying innumerable myths. It explains human action in such terms that one reaches a true understanding of society and politics.

Prof.von Mises distinguished himself by accurately predicting the outcome of various policies and ideologies.

In 1922, he wrote his "Gemeinwirtschaft" (Socialism), in which he predicted the fate of the recently founded USSR, including the economic collapse, the famines, the dictatorship, t
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
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
Eric Sexton
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Vagabond of Letters, DLitt

What this book loses in terms of elevating Benthamite utilitarianism and ethical/valuational subjectivism to the importance of First Principle and Ultimate Given, it makes up for in historical importance and its incisiveness and catholicity of analysis. Secondly, in importance to libertarianism and anarchocapitalism and firstly, in providing the premiere demolition of socialism via demonstration that allocation of goods can not be efficiently performed without the market feedback mechanism
John Yelverton
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Let me start by saying that this is NOT light reading; however, it is extremely understandable if you're willing to put the effort in, which is saying something for a concept as complicated as economics. The author believes that economics is a pure science and therefore has very little patience for Political theory, Philosophy or Theology. In fact, it's rather glaring as he continually takes pot shots at wishful thinking on how economics ought to work versus how they actually work. The result is ...more
Nov 19, 2008 is currently reading it
my brain hurts. this book is intense.
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Jones
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book has had a powerful influence on many. It is definitely highly philosophical and reminded me of reading Cornelius Van Til. For example, epistemological (how we know what we know) issues regarding human action affect our perceptions of the actions and their value on the free market.
This man was a deep thinker.
Honestly, much of it went over my head as I tried to grapple with it because he doesn’t use all that many practical examples.
However, at a philosophical level, it provides a stron
Aug 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Willie Red
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is and Man, Economy, and State by Murray N. Rothbard are works of genius!
Mar 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Notable only now for ideological and historical reasons.
Arash Ahsani
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Logic at its best.
Don Lim
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Forgotten in America and for the most part in Europe, Ludwig von Mises' contributions to not only economics but also political science, philosophy (epistemology and methodology), and history remain unrecognized. Mises' treatise, Human Action, provides a grand explanation for human choices, behavior, and action--hence, the title. Since the marginal revolution of Menger, Jevons, and Walras, economic theory applies not only to exchanges on the market and the value between goods and services but thr ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, money, society
A very strong defense of laissez faire capitalism, and a fairly strong attack on socialism. Mises takes a bottom up approach of economics. He looks at humans in the light of their existence in a surprisingly philosophical perspective. He sees humans as organic beings living in the shadow of death who out of necessity of their need to continue existing for as long as possible must acquire certain things... I wonder how he would have responded to the idea of climate change, but who knows.

If you a
Arsen Zahray
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most insightful books on economics I've ever read. It contains a lot of conclusions which it took me some time to achieve on my own, and than some more.

Even through it's rather long, this is one of the books I think that everybody should read.
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
The chapter on epistemology is fascinating.
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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 Austrian government's economic policies in the first third of the 20th century, the Austrian School of Economics, and the modern free-market libertarian movement. ...more

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