Arnold Kling  

Rename Austrian Economics?

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Dan Klein says

Let me delineate a set of economists, different from but highly inclusive of the Austrian communities. First, consider only those seeing The Distinction between voluntary and coercive as analytically crucial; these economists, inevitably, are wise to the statist/collectivist instincts and superstitions of society at large (and of academia, in particular). Second, of those, consider only those who are wise to the intellectual poverty and foolishness of exalting statistical significance and equilibrium model building to premier and even exclusive scientific status. Now, what to call the resulting set of comparative-institutions economists? Here I shall call them “spontaneous order economists.”

To which Pete Boettke replies,

I fully support a general movement in the social sciences to promote spontaneous order. But in making his case he understates the contribution that the Austrian theory of the entrepreneurial market process, as well as other purely economic theory points concerning money and capital that are identified with the Austrian tradition

I do not want to describe myself as an Austrian, for a number of reasons.

1. I do not wish to commit myself to the Austrian theory of the business cycle. I do not wish to commit myself to any theory of the business cycle.

2. I do not wish to be confined to the methodological straitjacket of Austrian economics. Every once in while, one of those dreaded neoclassical empiricists does something interesting. The World Bank Study of the intangible sources of wealth, for example.

3. I agree with Klein that the term "Austrian" has come to suggest a devotion to a group of thinkers born in the nineteenth century. There is an element of necrophilia that I find off-putting.

I do not think that those of us who focus on property rights, government failure, entrepreneurship, and innovation necessarily need a name for what we are doing. The key will be to continue to pose interesting questions and provide credible answers.


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CATEGORIES: Austrian Economics



COMMENTS (4 to date)
Dave Meleney writes:

Dan Klein is very smart. Labels are often crucial in any persuasive process.

I sell bonsai trees and long ago gave up the way my friends in the bonsai world pronounce the word "bonsai" because a discussion of pronunciation often distracted the customer from their initial fascination with a specific tree.

The half life of fascination is often very short.

"Spontaneous Order"....yes, it leads immediately into great conversation and the very essence of our message.

"Austrian" ....no, it so often wastes a precious curiousity. Moreover it's no longer accurate in any meaningful way.

Alcibiades writes:

I'd like to offer a somewhat OT comment and simply say that it is so wonderful that at GMU we have a department thoroughly infected by free-market thinkers. I think of GMU's econ dept in the same way that hippies looked to Cuba's example in the '60s. I say this only half-jokingly -- i really think it's fabulously exciting the introads "radical liberalism" -- or whatever we wind up calling it -- has made in at least one bastion of academia. Hopefully through that outlet your combined voices will be heard by the public at large.

liberty writes:

Since you took us offtopic, Alcibiades, can you tell me whether those free-marketers from GMU make visits to UVA? Is their any collaborative work of interest between the two? I may move to Charlottesville and be in that area doing economics work.

Daniel Klein writes:

Arnold,

You write:

"I do not think that those of us who focus on property rights, government failure, entrepreneurship, and innovation necessarily need a name for what we are doing."

Notice how long it took you to identify who we are.

Instead, we can call ourselves spontaneous-order economists.

We can infuse that term with the meaning: economists who focus on focus on property rights, government failure, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Dan

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