Travelling With Mises

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Writes Charles Burris:

Today I was showing my Economics classes the Mises Institute video, Liberty and Economics: The Ludwig von Mises Legacy. It was well received. Many students immediately recognized Murray Rothbard from his picture on our classroom wall. (Not too much of a stretch really since I teach in the Murray N. Rothbard Room at my high school in Tulsa.) At one point I felt compelled to pause the film and tell the following story:

Several years ago I went to downtown Tulsa’s Central Library for their Saturday morning book sale. This was where the Library sold its out-of-date materials. I had gotten in the habit of buying many of these surplus items — hardbacks 25 cents, paperbacks a dime — for students to use in my classroom. As I was paying for a couple of books (one being Rose and Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose) the elderly gentleman behind the cash register desk commented on the book, expressing his approval. I agreed but said I preferred economists Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard to Milton Friedman. He then proceeded to tell me the following anecdote: In 1962 he was travelling from Tulsa to Denver via a train (trains, you remember trains, don’t you?). The trip was in the nighttime and early morning hours. Most passengers were asleep. But this gentleman was kept awake by a nearby conversation of four men. They were discussing socialism. Since this gentleman considered himself a socialist, he paid particularly close attention to what was being discussed. After a while he got up, gently interrupted the men, and remarked how fascinating he thought this conversation he overheard had been. The men asked him to join them. The conversation continued. When he reached Denver he was no longer a socialist. The four men were Ludwig von Mises (the 20th century’s most brilliant economist), Henry Hazlitt (the journalistic champion of Mises), Lawrence Fertig (the businessman who raised the money for Mises’s NYU professorship, and Leonard Read (president of the Foundation of Economic Education). Imagine this chance encounter with those particular four libertarian giants! The elderly gentleman had gone through a “Saul of Tarsus” conversion from socialism to individualism and the free market. He soon headed up Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign in the Sooner State, which at that time was a gathering for proto-libertarians and anti-collectivists. I shook his hand and told him how honored I was to have met him.

9:59 pm on February 3, 2009