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Epistemological Problems of Economics
Ludwig von Mises

Remarks on the Fundamental Problem of the Subjective Theory of Value


The following essay makes no claim to originality. It presents nothing that was not already contained at least implicitly in the writings of the founders of the modern theory and explicitly in the works of present-day theorists and in my own writings. Nevertheless, I believe that what I am about to present here must be said once again, and precisely in this form, in order to put an end to the serious misunderstandings that modern economic theory repeatedly encounters.

What needs to be especially emphasized is that, above all others, Menger and Böhm-Bawerk are the ones responsible for this misunderstanding of the theory. Neither understood it in all its ramifications, and both in turn were themselves misunderstood. The writings of Menger and Böhm-Bawerk include propositions and concepts carried over from the objective theory of value and therefore utterly incompatible with the subjectivism of the modern school. The problem arises not so much from imperfections of theory, because there can be no doubt about the fundamental ideas of their system, as from stylistic faults in the presentation of it, which do not detract from the thought, but only from the writings in which it was expounded. It was not difficult for those who came afterward to find the right way and to present the ideas of the masters in logically developed form. But it may be conceded that it is not easy for everyone to avoid error here. The great many who want to study the system, but who are not professional economists and turn only to the works of its masters, or who view subjectivist economics merely from the factional standpoint of its opponents, cannot help being led astray.

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