"Paradise for an Austrian Researcher"
Murray Rothbard had long dreamed of a fellowship program at the Mises Institute where students could work on research with the help of Austrian economists. In the twenty years since Rothbard’s death, the Mises Institute has worked with hundreds of graduate students to build a new generation of scholars.
David Sanz Bas was a Mises Fellow during 2010 and 2011. He is now the Dean of the School of Social Science and Law at Catholic University of Avila, Spain. He obtained his PhD in Austrian Economics at University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid under Mises Institute Senior Fellow Jesús Huerta de Soto.
MISES INSTITUTE: How did you first become familiar with the Mises Institute?
DAVID SANZ BAS: When I started my bachelor in economics, I considered myself a Marxist. By chance, when I was twenty (it was 2004), I had the opportunity to read Carl Menger’s Principles of Economics. This book made a deep impression on me and, after a lot of thinking and more reading, I became an Austrian.
By that time, I had become interested in activism, and, in 2005, some friends and I founded an online forum where we discussed and debated lively topics on economics, defense, history, political options, environmentalism, etc. We did this with random online socialists, libertarians, neocons, fascists, and hippies. Through this, I discovered the Mises Institute and its website, and I liked it a lot. I was so surprised by all the online resources that I found there. They were good ammo for my struggle!
A few years after, in 2009, the Mises Institute awarded Jesús Huerta de Soto (who by that time was my PhD advisor) the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Liberty. The Institute organized an impressive event in Salamanca called “The Birthplace of Economic Theory” where, among other things, Jesús Huerta de Soto received his award. It was the first time the Mises Institute did an event outside of the US. I volunteered as staff to help the attendants to this conference. During this event, I had a chance to meet many people from the Mises Institute. They were very nice to me and they told me that I could apply to get a scholarship and become a Fellow at the Mises Institute. I applied immediately and I got accepted. I was very excited!
The following year, in 2010, I was awarded with a scholarship from the Mises Institute. I am very indebted to the Institute! Being a Fellow at the Mises Institute has been one of the greatest honors (if not the greatest) that I have received.
MI: Why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
DSB: Because I wanted to devote my entire life to looking for the Truth. I think that it is our human nature to try to look for it. This is one of the most important reasons why humans have reached their current level of development.
In this regard, being an academic is a privilege, because your job consists, basically, of learning new things as a researcher and as a university professor. If you have this eagerness, you will be very happy as a Fellow at the Mises Institute because all the people there share this desire!
MI: What was your favorite part of being a Fellow?
DSB: For me the Mises Institute is like an ”Austrian monastery.” While I was there, I felt isolated from the real world, relaxed, without any worry and with all the resources I needed to carry on my research. In a way, the time stops and you become an ”Austrian monk.” For me the Mises Institute is a real paradise for an Austrian researcher.
With this I do not want to suggest that being a Fellow is boring: seminars, BBQs, racquetball and basketball matches, parties in houses organized by professors and staff of the Mises Institute, chess tournaments, games, occasional weekend trips, etc. People (professors, staff, and the other Fellows) are very friendly and there is a good atmosphere. If you are a social person, you will have a great time with a lot of laughs and funny moments.
However, as a Fellow, you cannot forget that the Mises Institute is a serious research center and you are part of its researcher body. You have to become an “Austrian monk” and pursue and accomplish your academic aims! If not, your stay at the Mises Institute loses its meaning.
MI: What benefits for your academic career have you received thanks to your time at the Mises Institute?
DSB: There have been many.
First of all, I did a lot of research and academic work while at the Institute, and I was able to finish my thesis and to write several papers.
I feel that the quality of the scientific research that I did in Auburn was better than what I could have done in my home, Spain. It is not only because I had more time to focus on my research, or because of the amazing library that the Mises Institute has; also, it is because I received a lot of feedback from the other Fellows and from the professors, including Joseph Salerno, Mark Thornton, and Tom Woods. I was able to do this both in organized seminars where I presented my research, and in private conversations with them. These enriched my work a lot!
The contacts I made during my stay were another remarkable benefit that I received. Actually, I think it is necessary to have good contacts with other scholars to become a good scholar yourself. Other scholars are very important in doing joint research, solving academic doubts, and sharing the joys and frustrations of scholarly work, among other things. In this sense, the Mises Institute Fellowship program is a perfect opportunity to make contacts.
Also, as a Fellow, you will learn many new things thanks to the weekly seminars, the Mises University, and the Rothbard Graduate Seminar, all of which occur during your time as a Fellow.
Besides, the Mises Institute is a reputable research center. In this regard, being a Fellow lets you add a line in your CV, and that is always something good.
Finally, if you are not from an Anglo-Saxon country, you will improve substantially your English level. English is the ”Latin of our times” and any good researcher will have to master it.
MI: What advice would you tell to a new Fellow?
DSB: Being a Fellow it is also a great responsibility. You cannot forget that all the costs are paid by private donors.
The Mises Institute aims to promote a free society and, as we know, economic resources are always scarce (especially for the defenders of free market ideas). In this regard, if you receive a scholarship, you have to think of the honor because you were chosen over another researcher.
Therefore, please, seize this unique opportunity by working hard and being thankful!