Hugh Akston = Human Action?

By: Jörg Guido Hülsmann

I just received an intriguing email. The author suggests that Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged features Ludwig von Mises in one of the secondary roles (yet still as a hero). I had not at all seen the point that my correspondent raises, but I think he is right. When I wrote the Mises biography, I did not take the time to look up Atlas Shrugged again (I had read it in the mid-1990s), otherwise I might have noticed. Anyway, here is the message:

Dear Prof.,

I’m going through your profound “The Last Knight of Liberalism”. It made me pause a couple of times, just to be able to read entire books before I continue (e.g. “Critique of Interventionism”, “Bureaucracy”), and there were several fine points of Mises’ thinking that I had overlooked or misunderstood – your brief summaries of deep ideas are invaluable for making such errors apparent.


So, first of all, thank you for the amazing work. Plus your lectures, of which I’ve watched a few. (I think that there was a list of lectures, following the book, which I watched before reading the book, but now I can’t find, do they still exist somewhere?).

Though this message is not to express my gratitude, but rather, to ask you whether you made the same connection or not. I recently read Atlas Shrugged, and years ago I finished Human Action (which itself took years…). In your book, at some point you say: 

Mises was not a man to attach too much importance to material things. He once told Margit that, if she was after riches, she had married the wrong man. But neither was he the type of intellectual that Ayn Rand depicted in her novel Atlas Shrugged: the libertarian philosopher who in dire straits would descend stoically from his chair at the university to work behind the counter of a small-town burger joint. Had Mises ended up flipping hamburgers, his heart would have broken.

I’m dying from curiosity to know whether you spent a minute pondering about the name of that professor in “Atlas Shrugged”, which was: Hugh Akston. What are the chances that this was a coincidence? Hugh Akston? Really?

Isn’t this an “obvious” easter egg, hidden in plain sight, paying tribute to nothing other than Mises’ Human Action? (I checked online, nobody seems to have noticed this).

Though I seem to recall that Ayn was not particularly impressed or appreciative by the first part of the book, i.e. praxeology, where the title comes from, but maybe she had a different opinion when she wrote the book, who knows.

Best, D.A.

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