I’m a Raging Optimist

I have
been working at the Ludwig von Mises Institute as a senior fellow
for the last ten years. I answer economic questions from students,
Mises Institute members, and the media. I also work in all the
Institute education and scholarly programs and do research.
It is probably the best job in the world.

We have
teaching programs that benefit high-school students, homeschool
students, college students, graduate students, instructors,
and professors, as well as the general public. These programs
are effective because they are well crafted, time tested, and
the staff is incredibly efficient and frugal in terms of execution.

My job
is to lecture and sometimes to serve as master of ceremonies,
so each and every one of these events is a real nail-biter for
me. They are all so important. However, they always seem to
turn out fantastically. The key is that we have the best speakers
talking about the most important issues of the day to people,
mostly students, who see that learning Austrian economics is
vitally important to them.

That was
not always the case. When I came to Auburn University to go
to graduate school in 1982, I was told that there were probably
only eight to ten graduate students interested in Austrian economics
in the entire world. One of my professors even told me that
there was no longer an Austrian School, there were only a couple
of Austrians teaching in universities that offered a PhD, and
that the Austrian School was just a fact of history, with no

were pretty miserable that first year. I entertained thoughts
of dropping out and getting a job. Then toward the end of my
second semester Professor Roger Garrison invited me into his
office. He told me that Lew Rockwell was moving the Ludwig von
Mises Institute to Auburn University. He said that Lew was going
to publish newsletters, journals, and books and that he was
going to invite all the leading Austrian economists to come
to Auburn to lecture.

I had never
heard of Lew Rockwell or the Mises Institute before that point
in time, but I realized right away that things would be better.
Next Professor Garrison told me that I would probably receive
funding for my studies at Auburn University from the Mises Institute.
Given Garrison’s reputation for pulling people’s legs, I naturally
started to get suspicious, but he assured me that it was all

After leaving
his office I was a bit dumbfounded, but I soon realized that
I might be as close as I ever would be to an event that might
change history. Back then, learning anything about Austrian
economics was incredibly difficult, but I was convinced that
Austrian economics was the solution to our problems. Having
grown up in the 1970s, the list of problems was long.

Nixon had
taken us off the gold standard and imposed wage and price controls.
Our economy was experiencing high unemployment and high inflation.
There had been waiting lines for gasoline. The country was decaying,
and we were told that the Soviet Union was the wave of the future.
My last two years in college could best be described as an economic

With all
that bad experience and with the country at its lowest point,
I suddenly found myself magically turned into a raging optimist
by Lew Rockwell. I have always sided with the underdog, and
this was the biggest underdog situation since David and Goliath.
Lew, Mardi, and Pat were stationed in small quarters with nothing
to assist them but an electric typewriter and two graduate students
to stuff envelopes. It did not appear that the entire Keynesian-socialist
state had much to worry about.

it’s been nothing but a steep uphill battle. The distance yet
to travel seems enormous. There have been difficult times and
the state is bigger than ever. However, my optimism has never
wavered and has indeed only increased. Austrian economics is
a message that the establishment now has to deal with.

We are
still the smallest school of economics, but we are the fastest
growing. We are one of the oldest schools of economics, but
the average age of Austrian economists continues to decrease.
We still work on the fringe of the profession, but our work
is having an ever-bigger impact in the real world. We have the
growth, the youth, and the impact. Much of this success is the
result of Lew Rockwell building an institutional foundation
for Austrian economics to thrive.

professors can do fine work, but putting together large instructional
conferences is beyond their means. Lew has also made it possible
to publish or to bring back into publication books that were
too radical for other publication outlets. Generally put, the
Mises Institute is the hub network through which the Austrian
School grows in size and impact. More than 20 other Mises Institute–like
organizations have been established in various countries, most
of which are modeled after and inspired by Lew’s design.

As an economist,
many people ask me where they should invest their money. My
response is that if you care about the future, if you care about
the free society, then the best place for your money is the
Ludwig von Mises Institute. We have had 30 years of growth and
increasing impact thanks to Lew, the ideas of Mises and Rothbard,
and to you, the members of the Mises Institute.

there are few people who could have anticipated this success.
I remember talking to fellow graduate students in the 1980s
at the Mises University conference. Someone wondered aloud,
“How many more years do you think they will hold the Mises
University before everyone who wants to has already attended
one?” Well, it doesn’t look like we are stopping anytime
soon. Last summer we were at full capacity, with four times
as many people watching live on the Internet.

seen programs like Mises University and the Summer Fellows Program
in person, I can tell you that they change people’s lives. Of
course these programs instill knowledge, but more importantly
attendees gain a better grasp of reality that only Austrian
economics can provide. In addition, with the state fouling up
everything it touches, creating chaos everywhere, attendees
come away from our programs with a newfound optimism and new
zeal to learn as much as they can.

As a donor,
the Ludwig von Mises Institute has always been my biggest charity.
I know it is easy to feel helpless against expanding evils of
the state, but I can tell you that knowing that my money is
going to the Mises Institute programs has always provided me
with a great deal of satisfaction. We share the right ideas,
and the history of man has shown that the power of ideas is
all that really matters.

Help us
take down Goliath. Be David. Donate