Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) was a precursor to the Austrian tradition, both in his attachment to scientific truth and his moral courage to tell the truth regardless of the circumstances and regardless of who tried to prevent him from doing so. Bastiat struggled his entire life to teach economic truths to every living person. His legacy is monumental and speaks to us today as clearly as it did France in the 19th century. He was at once a scientist and moralist who burned with a passionate desire to teach everyone about the blessings of economic liberty. Even on his deathbed he was writing his great treatise on his view of society and economy.
“Life, faculties, production – in other words, individuality, liberty, property – this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.”
“Life liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
F. A. Hayek (1899-1992) is undoubtedly the most eminent of the modern Austrian economists; …protégé and colleague of Ludwig von Mises, and foremost representative of an outstanding generation of Austrian school theorists, Hayek was more successful than anyone else in spreading Austrian ideas throughout the English-speaking world, and a recipient of the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. “When the definitive history of economic analysis during the 1930s comes to be written,” said John Hicks in 1967, “a leading character in the drama (it was quite a drama) will be Professor Hayek.
“Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom.”
“A claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) specifically insturcted that his gravestone carry the following inscription:
“Author of the Declaration of American Independence,
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia”
“Because by these,” he explained, “as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”
Jefferson also served two terms as the 3rd President of the United States.
“…in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution…”
“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for…”
Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, following many years of personal correspondence.
George Mason (1725 -1792) was an American patriot who participated in the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention and who was influential in penning the Bill of Rights. What really sets Mason apart from the other founding fathers, and what keeps him in a sense less well known than many others, is that he also vehemently objected to powers granted to the new government under the Constitution, which he believed to be ill-defined and overzealous [especially without a Bill of Rights]. (In fact, he said, “I would sooner chop off my right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands.”)
From the Virginia Declaration of Rights, June, 1776:
“…all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
Murray N. Rothbard (1926 – 1995) was an American scholar of extraordinary range who made major contributions to economics, history, political philosophy, and legal theory. He developed and extended the Austrian economics of Ludwig von Mises, in whose seminar he was a main participant for many years. He established himself as the principal Austrian theorist in the latter half of the twentieth century and applied Austrian analysis to historical topics such as the Great Depression of 1929 and the history of American banking.
“How can anyone, finding himself surrounded by a rising tide of evil, fail to do his utmost to fight against it? In our [this past] century; we have been inundated by a flood of evil, in the form of collectivism, socialism, egalitarianism, and nihilism. It has always been crystal clear to me that we have a compelling moral obligation, for the sake of ourselves, our loved ones, our posterity; our friends, our neighbors, and our country; to do battle against that evil.”
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the acknowledged leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, a prodigious originator in economic theory, and a prolific author. Mises was the first scholar to recognize that economics is part of a larger science in human action, a science that he called “praxeology.”
“Economics is not about goods and services; it is about human choice and action. Economics must not be relegated to classrooms and statistical offices and must not be left to esoteric circles. It is the philosophy of human life and action and concerns everybody and everything. It is the pith of civilization and of man’s human existence.”