Human Action is the most important book on political economy you will ever own.
This treatise is the result of a life-long devotion to truth and the pursuit of the essential foundations of economic science.
Ludwig von Mises wrote Human Action in an attempt to prevent society from falling into economic ruin. To do so, he demonstrates that the only route to prosperity is to rely on the free market. Mises’ brilliant insight is that the market is not a place or a machine. Instead, it is a unifying process based on subjective value and purposeful action. It is necessary for social cooperation and enables every individual to choose the best way improve their lives.
In this work, Mises proves the whole of economic principles can be deduced from one undeniable fact; all humans act purposfully. Because of this, Human Action is the most comprehensive and powerful defense of the economics of liberty ever written.
Human Action is one of the ten most insightful books on economics ever written. This is impressive, but even more impressive that Mises has more than one book on this list (in my opinion). Human Action is the most recent (hopefully not the last) great treatise on political economy. While some treatises compile the ideas of others, there are many original and important insights to this book. Perhaps the most important insight of this book concerns economic calculation. Mises sees economic calculation as the most fundamental problem in economics. The economic problem to Mises is that of action. We act to dispel feelings of uneasiness, but can only succeed in acting if we comprehend causal connections between the ends that we want to satisfy, and available means. Mises is drawing upon Menger’s brilliant 1871 book here, but he has his own ideas as well. The fact that we live in a world of causality means that we face definite choices as to how we satisfy our 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.