We can't sit at the feet of Mises at his famous Vienna private seminar. We can't go back in time and attend his New York seminar, or follow him to the speaking engagements that he held in the 1950s and '60s.
But we do have access to what he said. He is warm, funny, passionate, and learned. This book provides a candid look at the man and his teaching style. It demonstrates his dazzling command over the material, and teaches in a breezier way than his treatises.
This volume contains nine lectures delivered over one week, from June 23 to July 3, 1952, at the San Francisco Public Library. Mises was at his prime as a teacher and lecturer. He shares a lifetime of learning on topics that were (and remain) central to American public life.
As the title indicates, his main focus is on Marxism. He discusses Marx and his place in the history of ideas, the destruction wrought by his dangerous ideology, the manner in which his followers have covered up his errors, and how the Marxists themselves have worked for so long to save Marxism from itself. He discusses Marxist claims about history and refutes the Marxist smear of the Industrial Revolution.
The approach is systematic but casual, so the reader encounters wonderful insights in the form of short asides. For example, "The worst thing that can happen to a socialist is to have his country ruled by socialists who are not his friends."
As a lecturer, Mises is steady and relentless. The reader can nearly "hear" him speaking through the prose. And there are times when he reveals a level of rhetorical passion that you would never encounter in print. That's because what is printed here are not prepared lectures. They were transcribed by Bettina Bien Greaves from what he actually said.
Thus can we hear this passage: "It is not true, as Marx said, that the improvements in technology are available only to the exploiters and that the masses are living in a state much worse than on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. Everything the Marxists say about exploitation is absolutely wrong! Lies! In fact, capitalism made it possible for many persons to survive who wouldn't have otherwise."
Some readers of Mises's larger works have said that while his rigor is dazzling, the man himself can seem remote. Whether or not you agree with this observation, Mises comes across in these lectures as brilliant but very warm and charming in an old world sense.
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