The liberty movement lost a hero this week in the death of Bettina Bien Greaves. She was key –vital– to the legacy of Ludwig von Mises. Here is Margit von Mises, reflecting on Bettina in Mrs. Mises’ biography:
Then there was Bettina Bien, now Bettina Bien-Greaves. She first came to the seminar in 1951 and attended it to the last session, not missing a single meeting. She is one of those rare individuals who combine intelligence and mental curiosity with warmth and understanding of human nature. With the passing of the years, she became a household word with Lu and me. If there was any infor- mation Lu needed, any refreshing of his memory, he would say, “Call Bettina,” and surely enough she had the answer.
After four or five years in the seminar, Bettina took her seat next to Lu, taking notes in shorthand-and no one would have dared to contest for that seat. I spoke first to Bettina in 1952 during a semi- nar in California. At that time she was still rather quiet, hardly asking any questions. But later, working with tremendous zeal, studying Lu’s books from beginning to end, reading them again and again, her inner security grew in relation to her knowledge. She wrote an excellent bibliography of Lu’s work, and for his ninetieth birthday she catalogued-with my permission and with- out Lu’s knowledge-his whole library of about 6000 volumes, to Lu’s greatest surprise and delight.
And here Tom Woods writes the following in his email today:
Many of the libertarian greats lived to ripe old ages. F.A. Hayek was nearly 93 when he died. Ludwig von Mises was 92. Henry Hazlitt was 98.
Bettina Bien Greaves, whom we lost this week, was 100.
Bettina spent many years at the Foundation for Economic Education, and was a senior scholar of the Mises Institute. She was an important assistant to Ludwig von Mises, whose New York University seminar she attended, and she went on to become a translator, editor, and bibliographer of his work.
And although a sweet woman, she was tough as nails when it came to principle.
I had very pleasant interactions with Bettina over the years. She was a big fan of my Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, at a time when fashionable libertarians couldn’t run away from it fast enough.
I fondly recall our dinner together after she came to hear me speak at Furman University.
She once wrote to tell me she loved my book Meltdown, but that I was making an unnecessary concession to the interventionists:
Your book is excellent!
But I don’t think you should cede “flexibility” to the expansionists. Gold money is flexible, not quantity-wise as is paper/credit “money.” Gold money’s flexibility is revealed in its purchasing power. The Fed and Keynesians want the quantity to be “flexible” to keep up with increases in population and production, but that plays havoc with its purchasing power. However, the purchasing power of gold money is flexible, and that is what counts. As people bid more or less for gold money, in response to supply and demand, the same unit/quantity of gold is, in effect, MORE; it buys more and raises living standards.
I asked for her opinion about Pearl Harbor, since her husband had been a noted revisionist on the subject. She wrote:
Although Washington KNEW the Japanese were going to attack somewhere circa December 7, and there was good reason to suspect they were likely to target the fleet at Pearl Harbor, the strongest evidence pinpointing the U.S. as Japan’s target, “disappeared” from the files. Washington sent Pearl Harbor no hint of the many warnings received in Washington and Pearl Harbor was deprived of men, ships, and planes that it had asked for continually. Admiral Kimmel in Pearl had been instructed to prepare for taking offensive action.
FDR was obviously anxious to get into the war on behalf of England — in the Atlantic to help Britain or in the Pacific to help the British and Dutch in SE Asia, Singapore and Indonesia. He had prepared an address to Congress that he intended to give on December 8-9 announcing the launching of a pre-emptive strike against the Japanese, to help our friends the British and Dutch being threatened by the Japanese in S.E. Asia. But the Japanese jumped the gun by attacking Pearl on December 7.
My conclusion — the attack on Pearl Harbor was FDR’s EXCUSE, not his REASON, for going to war against Japan.
The cover-up is another question. Messages disappeared. Witnesses changed their stories. Some witnesses were said to have reported that the saintly General Marshall had ordered the destruction of crucial files and then the witnesses denied emphatically that they would ever say any such thing about such a noble patriot as Marshall. But neither General Marshall nor Navy Chief of Staff could ever recall anything about where they were when crucial warning arrived in Washington.
I was glad to hear you speak and to have a chance to talk with you last week.
We need more Bettinas. Requiescat in pace.