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This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Essentials of Austrian Economics

This is the first essay in series “Essentials of Austrian Economics.” Throughout this series, we will explore important economic concepts and why they are crucial to an understanding of a free society.

MisesSuitMost people are unfamiliar with Austrian School of Economics and the work of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Friedrich Hayek, but thanks to the efforts of Ron Paul, the Mises Institute, and many others the ideas are becoming much more well known.

Austrian economics is more than just a sub-theory within the field of economics – it is an different way of thinking about economic science altogether. Most of modern economics falls into either neoclassical or Keynesian economics, which tend to focus on mathematical modeling and statistical analysis. Austrian economics, in constrast, claims that economic activity is too complex and varied to be reasonably described through mathematical models. This is not to say that mathematics and statistics are bad altogether when doing economics, but such tools have limitations that do not permit them to access the core of economic theory.

Instead of statistics and numerical models, Austrian economics begins with basic axioms of human action, a study known as praxeology. The starting point that humans utilize means to achieve desired ends begins the elucidation of economic law. Ludwig von Mises defined human action in this way:

“Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.” [from Human Action] Read More→

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The Politics of the Millennium

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Murray Rothbard wrote the following article for Liberty Magazine in 1990. It provides an interesting summary and perspective on the implications of millennialism upon the political landscape. Though this comes from a non-Christian author, I think it is instructive and insightful.


Christianity has played a central role in Western civilization and contributed an important influence on the development of classical-liberal thought. Not surprisingly, Christian beliefs about the "end times" are very important for us right now.

Christian Reconstructionism is one of the fastest growing and most influential currents in American religious and political life. Though the fascinating discussions by Jeffrey Tucker and Gary North (in the July and September issues of Liberty) have called libertarian attention to, and helped explain, this movement, to clarify Christian Reconstructionism fully we have to understand the role and problem of millennialism in Christian thought.

The problem centers around on the discipline of eschatology, or the Last Days, and on the question, How is the world destined to come to an end? The view that nearly all Christians accept is that at a certain time in the future Jesus will return to earth in a Second Advent, and preside over the Last Judgment, at which all those then alive and all the bodily resurrected dead will be assigned to their final places — and human history, and the world as we know it, will have come to an end.

So far, so good. A troublesome problem, however, comes in various passages in the Bible, in the Book of Daniel, and especially in the final book of Revelation, in which mention is made of a millennium, of a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth — the Kingdom of God on earth (KGE) — before the final Day of Judgment. Who is to establish that kingdom, and what is it supposed to look like?

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I have been asked often over the years when and how I came to be such an outspoken critic of war, the military, and the warfare state.

I have been writing about these evils since Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. My first article on the subject was "Eight Facts about Iraq." It was first published in an obscure monthly newsletter soon after the invasion of Iraq and then published by Lew Rockwell on January 2, 2004. My next piece, and first article for this website, was "Christianity and War," which appeared on October 29, 2003. Little did I know that it would turn into a book, now in its second edition, lectures, and the theme of scores of other articles. But my antiwar odyssey did not begin when Bush launched his unconstitutional, immoral, unjust invasion of Iraq. It goes back at least ten years before that dreadful event.

I grew up in sunny central Florida near Patrick Air Force Base. Although I live in central Florida now, for twenty-four years I lived in Pensacola, Florida – the home of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron and the "Cradle of Naval Aviation." I was once a conservative Republican – albeit a very libertarian-leaning one – with the usual respect for the military. If it seems to you that I am the most unlikely person to be such a critic of the military, then I agree with you.

Until the late 1980s, I had never really given the subject of the military much thought. It was about then that I began to read – where I have no idea – about how the United States had troops in over a hundred foreign countries. I thought this rather odd, unnecessary, and ridiculous.

The next influence I can recall is Pat Buchanan in 1991 criticizing Bush Sr. for invading Iraq the first time (the Persian Gulf War). This made a notable and lasting impression on me because I was reading Buchanan’s columns and knew he was a conservative Republican. Buchanan went on to write one of the most important studies of World War II ever penned, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World (2008). I reviewed the book here.

It was sometime in 1993 or 1994 that I made the acquaintance of Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute. I had stumbled across – where I have no idea – a reference to the Mises Institute publication called The Free Market. This was before LRC and before the Mises Institute had a website. I remember calling and requesting some copies of The Free Market, which were graciously sent to me through the mail. I went on to write for this publication, beginning in 1996. It was through articles in The Free Market that I was introduced to Murray Rothbard. This led me to the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, which I used to read at my mailbox the moment it arrived. It was then that I came to realize that I was more of a libertarian than a conservative. For me, it didn’t begin with Ayn Rand; it began with Murray Rothbard.

Some time in the mid 1990s, I came across an article – where I have no idea – critical of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For years I thought it might have been written by Doug Bandow, but he told me one time when I asked him that he can’t recall if he wrote it or not. This was my first exposure to historical revisionism. My analysis of World War II is "Rethinking the Good War."

In 2001, I began to reprint old books and articles as part of my Classic Reprints series. Two articles I came across in the late 1990s, which I reprinted in 2003 as the Classic Reprint titled Christianity and War, were from Baptist ministers writing in the Christian Review. The first article was called "Wickedness of War." It appeared, unsigned, in June of 1838. It was put online in October of 2002 here. The other article, by someone who called himself Veritatis Amans, appeared in September of 1847. Here I read things like:

War has ever been the scourge of the human race. The history of the past is little else than a chronicle of deadly feuds, irreconcilable hate, and exterminating warfare. The extension of empire, the love of glory, and thirst for fame, have been more fatal to men than famine or pestilence, or the fiercest elements of nature.

And what is more sad and painful, many of the wars whose desolating surges have deluged the earth, have been carried on in the name and under the sanction of those who profess the name of Christ.

It has not been till recently, that the disciples of Christ have been conscious of the enormous wickedness of war as it usually exists. And even now there are many who do not frown upon it with that disapprobation and abhorrence, which an evil of such magnitude as an unjust war deserves.

These articles confirmed for me that there was a conservative religious antiwar tradition that I had never been exposed to.

I have also been influenced along the way by some other individuals, organizations, and institutions, but as they would not wish to be associated with me, I will not mention them.

The immediate occasion of my first writing about the Iraq War was an e-mail that was forwarded to me in 2003 that defended U.S. foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, and the yet-to-come war in Iraq. The bulk of the text was actually from a London newspaper editorial written in 2002.

Now, I normally ignore or at least don’t reply to e-mail that is forwarded to me. I made an exception in this case because I was so sick of the adoration that many Christians at that time had (and unfortunately still have) for George W. Bush. Here is what I wrote in reply:

Tony Blair is a jerk. George Bush is a jerk. The U.S. has no business sending one soldier to any foreign country, and especially to invade it (as is the case now). The U.S. has been meddling in every foreign country for 100 years. September 11 was a reaction to our stupid foreign policy. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember your physics classes?

Then I simply listed some quotes from the Founding Fathers:

Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none."

John Quincy Adams: "America . . . goes not abroad seeking monsters to destroy."

George Washington: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."

This unexpectedly ended up being forwarded to a Bush-worshipping, military-loving individual who had also been sent the original e-mail that I had been forwarded. The emotional God-and-country screed that I personally received as a result of my negative comments prompted me to begin writing about the Iraq War. And the rest is history.

I have now written twenty-five articles about the Iraq War. A war in which of 4,484 American soldiers died, not defending our freedoms or fighting "over there" so we don’t have to fight "over here," but unnecessarily, duped, in vain, and for a lie.

Although the war in Iraq is "officially" over, by the grace of God I will continue writing about the folly of war and the idolatry of military worship, and especially by Christians. With the war in Afghanistan now in its eleventh year, with drone attacks increasing, with the U.S. empire of troops and bases still garrisoning the planet, with U.S. foreign policy still as reckless, belligerent, and meddling as ever, and with the warfare state further eroding our civil liberties, there is a greater need than ever to press on.

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Robert Wenzel at the Economic Policy Journal has put together an excellent list of articles that can help anyone interested in libertarianism become proficient in the basics in just 30 days. Having read almost all of these essays in the past, I can attest to the quality of these articles and their capacity for informing someone about the essentials of liberty. I would probably add two more essays to the list, though. First, Rothbard’s seminal work The Anatomy of the State is what I like to call a “mental detox” from the perils of ingrained statism in our minds. I would additionally recommend Rothbard’s article Society Without a State as another essential piece.

Here is Robert’s description of his list, followed by links to every article he recommends:

The list below will not make anyone a scholar in libertarianism or an expert in Austrian Economics, it is designed to introduce to the busy individual the essence of libertarianism. There are 30 articles listed below. If one reads one article, slowly and carefully, per day, by the end of 30 days one should have a very strong grasp of libertarian principles and a basic understanding of Austrian economics. The list contains articles on a variety of topics, but does not cover all possible libertarian topics. More than anything it provides an overview of libertarianism and how libertarians think about issues of the day. The completion of the 30 days of reading should not be considered an ending point but rather the start of the beginning of more detailed study.

Day 1: The Task Confronting Libertarians by Henry Hazlitt
Day 2:  The Fascist Threat by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 3:  Free Economy and Social Order by Wilhelm Röpke
Day 4:  The Peculiar and Unique Position of Economics by Ludwig von Mises
Day 5:  What Soviet Medicine Teaches Us by Yuri Maltsev
Day 6:  Economic Depressions: Their Causes and Cures by Murray Rothbard
Day 7:  Is Greater Productivity a Danger? by David Gordon
Day 8:  Taxation Methods Evaluated by Murray Rothbard
Day 9:  Hitler Was a Keynesian by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 10:  Seeing the Unseen by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 11:  The Watermelon Summit by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Day 12:  Equality and Inequality by Ludwig von Mises
Day 13:  How to Think Like an Economist by Murray Rothbard
Day 14:  The Health Plan’s Devilish Principles by Murray Rothbard
Day 15:  Vices Are Not Crimes by Murray Rothbard (Read Lysander Spooner’s original essay here.)
Day 16:  Repudiate the National Debt by Murray Rothbard
Day 17:  The Fallacy of the ‘Public Sector’ by Murray Rothbard
Day 18:  The Road to Totalitarianism by Henry Hazlitt
Day 19:  The Many Collapses of Keynesianism by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 20:  The Crippling Nature of Minimum Wage Laws by Murray Rothbard
Day 21:  Who Owns Water by Murray Rothbard
Day 22:  Defending the Slumlord by Walter Block
Day 23:  The Freedom of Association by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr
Day 24:  How to Help the Poor and Oppressed by Walter Block
Day 25:  Everything You Love You Owe to Capitalism by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 26:  Is There a Right To Unionize? by Walter Block
Day 27: What If Public Schools Were Abolished? by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 28:  Why Austrian? an interview with Robert Higgs
Day 29:  Economics and Moral Courage by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Day 30:  Do You Hate the State? by Murray Rothbard

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In this week’s podcast we get to hear from Laurence Vance on Religion and Libertarianism, the subject of his talk at the Austrian Scholars Conference 2011. This is a great talk to help you solidify how to present libertarianism to Christians, and even how to talk about Christianity to libertarian non-believers. Enjoy!


Download the podcast directly by clicking here.

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