The Limits of Numerical Probability: Frank H. Knight and Ludwig von Mises and the Frequency Interpretation


  • Hans-Hermann Hoppe Professor of Economics at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.



In the following I will (1) briefly restate the principles of the fre-quency interpretation of probability as originally formulated by Richard von Mises; (2) show why Frank H. Knight and Ludwig von Mises must be considered frequency theorists; and (3) discuss and evaluate the arguments provided by F. H. Knight and L. v. Mises against the possibility of applying probability theory in the area of economic forecasting (whether on the micro or the macro level).

Key words: probability theory, economic forecasting, frequency distribution.

Clasificación JEL: B41, B53.

Resumen: En este trabajo, 1) volveré a plantear brevemente los principios de la interpretación frecuencialista de la probabilidad tal y como fueron formulados originalmente por Richard von Mises; 2) mostraré por qué Frank H. Knight y Ludwig von Mises deben ser considerados teóricos de la interpretación frecuencialista, y 3) discutiré y evaluaré los argumentos proporcionados por F. H. Knight y L. v. Mises en contra de la posibilidad de aplicar la teoría de la probabilidad en el área de la previsión económica (ya sea a nivel microeconómico o macroeconómico).

Palabras clave: teoría de la probabilidad, previsión económica, distribución de frecuencias.


HOPPE, H. (1987), Kritik der kausalwissenschaftlichen Sozialforschung (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag).

— (1995), Economic Science and the Austrian Method (Auburn, Al.: Ludwig von Mises Institute).

— (1997), «On Certainty and Uncertainty», Review of Austrian Economics, 10, No. 1, esp. pp. 60-61, 73.

KNIGHT, F.H. (1936), «The Place of Marginalist Economics in a Collectivist System», American Economic Review: Sup-plement 26: 1, pp. 255-266.

— (1938), «Review of Ludwig von Mises, Socialism», Journal of Political Economy 46, pp. 267-68.

— (1940), «Review of T.W. Hutchison, The Significance and Basic Postulates of Economic Theory», Journal of Political Economy 48: 1.

— (1941), «Professor Mises and the Theory of Capital», Economica. New Series. 8: 32, pp. 409-427.

— (1971), Risk, Uncertainty and Profit (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), chaps. 7 and 8.

VON MISES, L. (1966 [1949]), Human Action. A Treatise on Economics (Chicago: Regnery), pp. 490-493, 848 f.

— (1978). The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, Kansas City: Sheed Andrews & McMeel.

VON MISES, R. (1951), Positivism. A Study in Human Understanding (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).

— (1957 [1939]), Probability, Statistics and Truth (New York: Dover Publications).

WINCH, P. (1970), The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).




How to Cite

Hoppe, H.-H. . (2006). The Limits of Numerical Probability: Frank H. Knight and Ludwig von Mises and the Frequency Interpretation. REVISTA PROCESOS DE MERCADO, 3(2), 11–38.