Bryan Caplan  

Who Says Austrians Don't Do Good Empirical Work?

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After reading Walter Block's excellent defense of economic freedom indices, I made a wish that he would spend "more time doing creative empirical work, and a lot less defending Austrian economic theory against all challengers."  Thanks to David Henderson, I just discovered another Blockian empirical gem that predates my wish: a careful but inspiring piece on the labor economics of the econ Ph.D.

It's full of useful information and debunks many misconceptions about the "plight" of the econ Ph.D.  The highlight, though, comes in its wise, self-aware conclusion.  Walter didn't get tenure until he was 60, but prefers aggregate data to personal anecdote:
[M]y story is one of the worst that I know about, of all my colleagues. Many of them are they who obtained their Ph.D. without too much trouble, landed an acceptable academic job, and were awarded tenure after six years of satisfactory service. Also, there are many non-Austrian, non-libertarians who had more than an aliquot share of disappointment. No, everything is not wonderful in academia; but, in the business world, no one at all has anything like tenure; you can be let go on a few hours notice. In the university, contracts are typically for an entire year. And, how many lawyers failed to make partner in their law firms, and had to seek employment elsewhere?

In any case, there is a happy end to my oft-times bumpy career. I now have wonderful colleagues. I am publishing up a storm. My teaching load is three courses per year... At an approximate salary of $150k, that means for each class hour, where I plunk myself down and talk about things I love dearly, I earn a truly amazing (at least to me) $1,111.11. And that ignores a sabbatical every seven years. Wow. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to ensure myself that this is all real.

Me too.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Zac Gochenour writes:

Hey.. no need to rub it in. :)

Jared writes:

I believe that you and I, sir, have different standards on what counts as an "empirical gem." Interesting enough, and with sufficient content to convince me that Block is likely correct and North likely incorrect, but a gem? Of empiricism? Really?

Eric Hanneken writes:

[I]n the business world, no one at all has anything like tenure; you can be let go on a few hours notice.

At the places I've worked, the customary notice period is zero. The victim is handed a packet and escorted from the premises.
Daniel Lurker writes:

I have to side with Jared on this one.....

Business workers do not get tenure, it's true. But business workers can potentially make millions in a short period of time. Who needs tenure when you can fund your own department?

Gu Si Fang writes:

What about some empirical work on ABCT?

I have found two sources only, so far :
- Robert Mulligan : An empirical examination of ABCT (in QJAE)
- Francis Bismans & Christelle Mougeot : La théorie autrichienne du cycle économique, un test économétrique (in Revue Française d'Economie / The Review of AE)

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