Where There’s Smoke. . . .
| Peter Klein |
So I wake up about 2:30 this morning to the sounds and lights of emergency vehicles outside my house. I look out the front window and see my neighbor’s house, across the street and two houses down, engulfed in flames. Firefighters are already on the scene, hooking up their hoses. Flames are shooting 25 feet into the air. The occupants, a young couple without children, are outside already, and no one is hurt. The husband says they were asleep in the bedroom when smoke started pouring out of the ceiling vents. My next-door neighbor said he heard loud pops and cracks, like fireworks.
The wife is shaking and crying, asking if she can go in and look for her wedding photos. I begin to wonder, if this happened to me, once my wife and children were safely outside would I foolishly run back in to retrieve my laptop, or my signed first edition of Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit, or my CDs with old Compustat data? My Blackberry? (I wouldn’t want to miss an important email while standing outside watching my house burn down.) What would you do?
Mises, as many of you know, lost virtually his entire personal library, and most of his notes and research materials, when the Nazis entered Vienna in 1938. (The papers ended up in Moscow, where they were discovered in the early 1990s.) Mises arrived in the US in 1940, a refugee without an academic position, without substantial personal funds, and having lost most of a lifetime’s worth of accumulated books and materials. Can you imagine starting over, at age 59, under such circumstances?