Where There’s Smoke. . . .

29 April 2008 at 8:58 am 2 comments

| 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?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Ephemera.

Occupational Psychosis NIE Workshop for Law Professors

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Per Bylund  |  29 April 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Hardware and software can easily be replaced, what matters is data. Which is why it is so important to make frequent backups. With free services such as SkyDrive and softwares making automatic backups of files there’s no excuse anymore not to have backups.

    At least such high-tech services makes it easier in case of fire – they minimize the number of times you have to run into the burning building to save your stuff. After all, all you would have to save from the flames are physical objects with [sentimental] value: treasured books, pictures, and prizes. So you can leave laptops and Blackberries in the flames (if you can rely on your insurance coverage)… ;-)

  • 2. Rafe Champion  |  29 April 2008 at 4:25 pm

    On the topic of re-starting careers in middle age, Karl Buhler had a similar experience to Mises although he did not fare so well. They were both on a hit list of people whose apartments were raided by local agents when the Germans invaded Austria. Mises was in Geneva so he was physically safe but Buhler was in prison for about six weeks before he was released and told he would have to divorce his Jewish wife if he wanted to keep his job (running an institute for psycho-social research). She was overseas at the time and he walked over the border with a backback of possessions to start a new life in the US. His career never got off the ground in the US although he was arguably the most important of the Viennese psychologists and he laid the foundations for the modern approach to studies of language.
    I wanted to mention Buhler in relation to Hayek because there is no mention of Buhler’s work in “The Sensory Order”.

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