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Human Action
Author(s) Ludwig von Mises
Country United States
Language English
Subject(s) Political economy
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Yale University Press, Ludwig von Mises Institute
Publication date 1949, 1998, 2010
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 881
ISBN 9780865976313
OCLC Number 730271204

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics is the thirteenth work of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. Widely considered Mises' magnum opus,Template:Citation needed it presents the case for laissez-faire capitalism based on the author's praxeology, or rational investigation of human decision-making. It rejects positivism within economics. It defends an a priori epistemology and underpins praxeology with a foundation of methodological individualism and speculative laws of apodictic certainty. Mises argues that the free-market economy not only outdistances any government-planned system, but ultimately serves as the foundation of civilization itself.

Nationalökonomie: Theorie des Handelns und Wirtschaftens is the 1940 German-language predecessor to Human Action.


Mises sees economic calculation as the most fundamental problem in economics. The economic problem to Mises is that of action. Man acts to dispel feelings of uneasiness, but can only succeed in acting if he comprehends causal connections between the ends that he wants to satisfy, and available means. The fact that man resides in a world of causality means that he faces definite choices as to how he satisfies his ends. Human action is an application of human reason to select the best means of satisfying ends. The reasoning mind evaluates and grades different options. This is economic calculation.

Economic calculation is common to all people. Mises insisted that the logical structure of human minds is the same for everybody. Of course, this is not to say that all minds are the same. Man makes different value judgments and possess different data, but logic is the same for all. Human reason and economic calculation have limitations, but Mises sees no alternative to economic calculation as a means of using scarce resources to improve our well being.

Human action concerns dynamics. The opposite to action is not inaction. Rather, the opposite to action is contentment. In a fully contented state there would be no action, no efforts to change the existing order of things (which might be changed by merely ceasing to do some things). Man acts because he is never fully satisfied, and will never stop because he can never be fully satisfied. This might seem like a simple point, but modern economics is built upon ideas of contentment-equilibrium analysis and indifference conditions. It is true that some economists construct models of dynamic equilibrium, but the idea of a dynamic equilibrium is oxymoronic to Mises. An actual equilibrium may involve a recurring cycle, but not true dynamics. True dynamics involve non-repeating evolutionary change.

Mises explains dynamic change in terms of "the plain state of rest". A final state of rest involves perfect plans to fully satisfy human desires. A plain state of rest is a temporary and imperfect equilibrium deriving from past human plans. Though any set of plans is imperfect, to act means attempting to improve each successive set of plans. Movement from one plain state of rest to another represents the process of change, either evolutionary or devolutionary.

Mises links progress and profits. Profits earned from voluntary trades are the indicator of economic success. It is monetary calculation of profits that indicates whether an enterprise has generated a net increase in consumer well being over true economic costs. The close association that Mises draws between economic calculation and monetary calculation leads him to conclude that market prices (upon which monetary profits are calculated) are indispensable to progress in bettering the human condition. Without markets there are no prices, and without prices there is no economic calculation. One point that Mises made, but did not get enough attention, is that monetary calculation takes place primarily in financial markets. Monetary calculation is vitally important.

Mises stresses the importance of entrepreneurship because it is entrepreneurs who actually do monetary calculation. This fact puts entrepreneurs at the center of all progress (and failure). Entrepreneurs who estimate costs more correctly than their rivals earn high profits while also serving consumers. Such men rise to top positions in industry. Entrepreneurs who err seriously in their calculations experience financial losses and cease to direct production. Mises described this market test of entrepreneurial skills as the only process of trial and error that really matters. The concepts of monetary calculation, financial speculation, and entrepreneurship form the basis for the von Mises critique of socialism.


Human Action Scholar's edition blue cover

Scholar's Edition, 2009. Courtesy Ludwig von Mises Institute and Wikimedia Commons'.'


  • Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1949; London: W. Hodge & Co., 1949.
  • 2nd edition, revised and enlarged. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.[1]
  • 3rd revised edition. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1966.
    • Reprint of 3rd revised edition. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1978.
    • Contemporary Books reprint of 3rd revised edition (with a new preface by Margit von Mises). Issued in a special limited leatherbound edition (200 copies) by Laissez Faire Books (New York), 1985.
    • Contemporary Books paperback reprint (3rd revised edition.) San Francisco & New York: Laissez Faire Books, 1990.
  • 4th edition (with revisions by Bettina B. Greaves).[2]
  • Scholar's Edition: reissue of 1st edition (with new introduction by Jeffrey M. Herbener, Hans-Herman Hoppe, Jörg Guido Hülsmann and David Gordon and an expanded index). Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999.[2]
  • Pocket Edition. Unabridged 1st Edition designed to be portable with dimensions 4"x7" 25 oz (710 g). Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010.[2] ISBN 978-1-61016-145-9.


  • Italian: L`Azione Umana: Trattato di Economia (translated and edited by Tullio Bagiotti). Turin: Unione Tipografico, Editrice Torinese, 1959.
  • Spanish: La Acción Humana: Tratado de Economía (translated by Joaquín Reig Albiol; 2 volumes). Valencia: Fundación Ignacio Villalonga, 1960.
    • 2nd Spanish-language edition (incorporating Mises' 2nd and 3rd edition changes and additions). Madrid: Editorial Sopec, 1968.
    • 3rd Spanish-language edition (translation from 3rd [1966] English-language edition). Madrid: Unión Editorial, 1980.
    • 4th Spanish edition, paperback. Reprint of 3rd (1980) Spanish edition. Madrid: Union Editorial, 1986.
    • 5th Spanish edition; reprint of 4th (1986) Spanish edition. Madrid: Unión Editorial, 1995.
  • Chinese: 人的行為 : 經濟學硏論 / Ren de xing wei : jing ji xue yan lun (2 volumes) by 台湾銀行經濟硏究室 (translation by Tao-Ping Hsia). Taiwan: yin hang jin ji yan jiu shi (Bank of Taiwan), 1976-1977. OCLC 33160039[2]
    • Chinese (translation by Tao-Ping Hsia revised by Hui-Lin Wu) (2 volumes). Taipei, Taiwan: Yuan Liu Publishing Co. (Nos. 1 & 2 in series of famous books on liberalism), 1991.
  • French: L`Action Humaine: Traté d`Économie. (translated by Raoul Audouin from the 3rd revised edition). Paris: Presses Universitares de France, 1985.
  • Portuguese: Açao Humana: um Tratado de Economia (translated by Donald Stewart Jr. from 3rd revised edition). Rio de Janeiro: Il Instituto Liberal, 1990.
  • Japanese: Ningen-Koi-Gaku (translated by Toshio Murata). Tokyo: Shunju Sha, Inc., 1991.
  • Japanese: ヒューマン・アクション : 人間行為の経済学 / Hyūman akushon : Ningen kōi no keizaigaku. 春秋社, Tōkyō : Shunjūsha (2008.[2] ISBN 9784393621837 OCLC 675632995
  • Czech: 2006.[2] ISBN 80-86389-45-6.
  • Polish: Ludzkie działanie : traktat o ekonomii. Warszawa: Instytut Ludwiga von Misesa, 2007.[2] ISBN 9788392616009 OCLC 749787775
  • Turkish: 'İnsan eylemi : iktisat üzerine bir inceleme. Ankara: Liberte Yayınları, 2008.[2] ISBN 9789756201411 OCLC 434438770

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Ludwig von Mises Institute.[3]

Audio / video Edit

  • Human Action (unabridged audiotape version). Read by Bernard Mayes. Ashland, OR: Classics on Tape, 1990. 30 cassettes.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. This edition, also by the Yale University Press, was full of mistakes and another one had to be done quickly afterwards, by another editor. Margit von Mises, My life with Ludwig von Mises
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 "Human Action," Wikipedia, Nov. 30, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) Chronological Bibliography, Ludwig von Mises Institute. Web, Nov. 30, 2012.

Full textEdit