The Ludwig von Mises Institute was established in 1982 in the wake of a dispute which occurred in the early 1980s between Murray Rothbard and the Cato Institute, another libertarian organization co-founded by Rothbard.
Early after its founding, the Mises Institute was located at the business department offices of Auburn University, and relocated nearby to its current site in 1998.
Kyle Wingfield wrote a 2006 commentary in The Wall Street Journal that the Southern United States is a "natural home" for the Institute, as "Southerners have always been distrustful of government," with the institute making the "Heart of Dixie a wellspring of sensible economic thinking."
The Institute is founded in Misesian praxeology ('the logic of action'), that holds that economic science is a deductive science rather than an empirical science. Developed by Ludwig von Mises, following the Methodenstreit opined by Carl Menger, it is a self-conscious opposition to the mathematical modeling and hypothesis-testing used to justify knowledge in neoclassical economics. Externally, this economic method usually is considered a form of heterodox economics.
The Mises Institute has been criticized by some libertarians for the paleolibertarian and right-wing cultural views of some of its leading figures, on topics such as race, immigration, and the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump.
In 2003, Chip Berlet of the Southern Poverty Law Center described the Mises Institute as "a major center promoting libertarian political theory and the Austrian School of free market economics", also noting Rothbard's opposition to child labor laws and the anti-immigrant views of other Institute scholars.
In 2017, the president of the Mises Institute, Jeff Deist, gave a speech at the Mises University conference, where in his concluding remarks he stated that the ideas of "blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people". Deist's use of the phrase blood and soil, originally used by the Nazi party as a call for racial nationalism, was alleged by some to be an explicit signal to Neo-Nazis and other white nationalist groups. In particular, Nicholas Sarwark and Arvin Vohra, then the chair and vice-chair of the United States Libertarian Party, condemned Deist's speech, with Vohra stating that "the Mises Institute has been turned into a sales funnel for the White Nationalist branch of the Alt Right". Vohra further accused the Mises Institute as a whole of being "authoritarian, racist, nazi".
^Lee, Frederic S.; Cronin, Bruce C.; McConnell, Scott; Dean, Erik (2010). "Research Quality Rankings of Heterodox Economic Journals in a Contested Discipline". American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 69 (5): 1409-1452. doi:10.1111/j.1536-7150.2010.00751.x.