Mises, Rand and the 20th Century

Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies, Forthcoming

GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-04

24 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2016 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016

Peter J. Boettke

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 1, 2016

Abstract

The two most ardent critics of collectivism in the 20th century were arguably Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand. Mises was a hard-nosed economist and political economist; Rand was a hard hitting novelist and philosopher. Mises attacked the economic and political workings of collectivism; Rand attacked the morality and aesthetics of collectivism. This essay discusses the relationship between these two modes of argumentation, what I will term the “head” and the “heart” arguments and why the “head” must be used to temper the “heart”. Both Mises and Rand emphasized the primacy of private property in their defense of individualism. Whereas Mises was using the “head” argument to emphasize the role of private property as the necessary institutional framework for rational economic calculation, Rand appealed to the “heart,” emphasizing the role of private property in securing the conditions necessary for the operation of human reason. I then discuss why a “heart” tempered by the “head” is still nevertheless a beating “heart”. The essay addresses the relevance of the relationship between technical economics and social philosophy and explains why the abysmal failure of collectivism should be seen not as a weakness of humanity, but as a failure of the ideal.

Keywords: Ludwig von Mises; Ayn Rand; individualism; collectivism

JEL Classification: B31; B53; P16

Suggested Citation

Boettke, Peter J., Mises, Rand and the 20th Century (January 1, 2016). Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies, Forthcoming; GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2722861

Peter J. Boettke (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-1149 (Phone)
703-993-1133 (Fax)

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