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I like to think that most of Auborn just burst into flames.

Amen!

Leeson: At the Austrian Scholars Conference last week, one of the grad students emphasized that Austrians should focus on economic history. I whole-heartedly agree. What do you think about that?

Josh,

The grad student is right on. This is the kind of applied, empirical work I think Austrians are ideally suited to do. Their interdisciplinary approach, and innate interest and ability to work on historical subjects makes economic history the number one research area I think Austrians should engage. Plus, I expect the stature of economic history in the wider profession to continue growing over the next years. This is a chance for Austrians to have a renewed relevance and impact.

7. You are not going to write a treatise that revolutionizes economics.

Really, you're not. But if you work on specific, applied topics, you may contribute something interesting that others find useful nevertheless.

You can tell. I'm still desperately waiting for an interesting paper by Boettke or Leeson. I read the last ten papers and, honestly, I've already abandoned hope that this will change.

What utter rot by pearl.

I think the papers are interesting.

What utter rot by pearl.

I think the papers are interesting.

Good for you. So, you can tell me the great insights, can't you? To my knowledge, there was nothing worth quoting it. (I'm talking about the last ten papers by Boettke, in particular). But I guess that's a problem of the "quantity" race in Academia. Too many papers without any interest instead of focusing on something more relevant. At least, you can show off with the great quantity of papers, yahoo.

and what the hell has pearl ever published (interesting or otherwise?)

and what the hell has pearl ever published (interesting or otherwise?)

I can't remember that I wrote a blog entry in which I pretend that "by any means" you won't publish anything revolutionary in Economics (big motivation for students and on-going economists). But I agree that the author's theory applies in his own case; he has published nothing that revolutionized economic theory or whatsoever. Instead of denouncing Austrians for living in the past and doing worthless stuff in many fields of study (except for history of economic thought, whooo), it would be more appropriate to watch his own evolution. I can't detect an ounce of originality or creativity.

I can't work out if Pearl has problem with boettke or leeson

peter l is right anyone who thinks they'll revolutionize economics is a nut

is pearl a professor any how?

Dr Leeson is easily the most creative & talented young austrian around.

Other rising young austrian stars to watch out for include Dan Damico and Professor Douglas Mackenzie (a young economic historian)

I can't work out if Pearl has problem with boettke or leeson

peter l is right anyone who thinks they'll revolutionize economics is a nut

is pearl a professor any how?

I don't have any problems with Boettke or Leeson, but I can't stand this know-it-all attitude telling how Austrian Economics need to be. Actually, nothing of their work qualifies them to give us a lesson about "how to put Austrian Economics into a more mainstream perspective". By flirting with this kind of strategy, you won't succeed in the long run either (cf. post by Boettke about the neglect of his articles in top-tier journals).

You really got brainwashed by the GMU spirit given the names that you cite. Actually, I liked MacKenzie's article about calculation debate, oh yes, we should not write about this, I'm sorry.

rof. Leeson & Prof. Boettke are stars in the profession & very well known. They both regularly get in top journals. That speaks for itself on their knowing 'how' austrianism should best proceed.

I am not sure what Pearls annoyance is (envy?)

My final word: I don't see any self-styled austrians rebutting Dr Leesons advice. All of what he says is very sensible (what kind of kook says they work on capital theory anyhow?)

More or less I agree, but on one point I completely disagree:

"2. No more attempts at rewriting "capital theory."

Most economists will have no idea what you're talking about if you tell them you're working on "capital theory." "Capital theory" is not a field (at least not one that has existed in the last 50 years). Furthermore, you are not going to do this. Do not pretend otherwise. In fact, "grand theory" or "treatises" of all kinds should be avoided until you're a full professor or 65, which ever comes first. Nearly all Austrians at one point have these delusions of grandeur, but they are just that--delusions. The sooner you recognize this and start working on specific, applied topics the better off you will be."

The problem is that, in my opinion, capital theory is the core of the Austrian approach, and it is what makes AE different from the mainstream. Without it, there would be no AE at all, only some sparse insights added to a mainstream model. The fact that it is an out-of-fashion topic is equivalent to saying that AE is out of fashion.

Anyway, I would also add "11. Stop confusing AE with libertarianism! Science and ideology should be separated".

Pearl is wide of the mark in his critical comments on the Boettke Boys. They are reviving the integrated program of economic and social thought that got lost in the 20th century. Mises (especially) and Hayek kept the flame alive but they were rendered practically invisible for several decades. I am not a betting man but I have got $1A (that is US 80.08c) that says Pearl can't come up with a cogent critique of the line that Boettke el al are taking on development theory.

It is important to carefully reread Pete’s original post. I do not read his post as saying that one should “never” work in the areas of history of thought, methodology or capital theory. Instead, I read Pete as emphasizing that it is difficult for a school of thought to advance if all its practitioners do is history of thought, etc. This is why Pete provides the rule of “1 history of thought paper for every 5 non-history of thought papers.”

It is also important to keep in mind Pete’s audience. At the outset of his post Pete mentions that these points emerged from a discussion with “young Austrian students.” Within this context, Pete is trying to emphasize to young economists what is needed to advance Austrian economics. Some of the comments being made are taking what Pete is saying out of context and twisting it around to make him out to be an Austrian-hater. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

Pearl,

You seem disgruntled against the "GMU" applied approach. Which is a fine position. I recognize that it is not for everyone. As for your accusation that Leeson and Boettke's work is uninteresting and unimportant, that's you opinion and your entitled to it. However I think your alternative position has one major flaw. Where are all the students? Boettke has produced literally handfuls of productive scholars working in the Austrian tradition.

The first generation Austrians (Menger, Bohm Bawerk, etc) gave rise to the second (Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Kirzner) which in trun gave birth to the third (Block, Salerno, Boettke, etc). While I have the utmost respect for every member of that third generation of Austrian scholars, I am puzzled by the infertility that their ideas have had on growing a forth generation. Look at the people you consider "Austrians" proper, or even the bodies of research that match up to your topics and ask yourself, where are the students and dissertations coming out of that research project?

I agree with Coyne's view of Pete's post that these are not meant to discourage you from doing any subjectivism, coordination, or calculation theory, but merely pointing out that you cannot be a professional economist only doing these sorts of things. Now being a professional economist is not for everyone, but the fact of the matter is we can't expect to get far if our scholars work at Starbucks by day and write Austrian economics by night. Building a workable and fruitful research agenda includes a major role for applied theory and current relevant engagement.

Economic history is where the party is at so to speak. Austrians armed with causal realism and and the subjectivist framework have a comparative advantage at making sense out of the complicated and incomplete visions of our past. If you don't find this interesting fine, but that does not mean it is not valuable. On the contrary I would argue that it is of infinite value. When Austrians are the people who get turned to when someone asks a question about the depression, the cold war, the colonial era, or even as far back as the ancient world. We will have shown the profession that the role of social science is to explain the real world rather than model the ideal.

Weird coincidence that Peter Leeson issued his no-capital-theory injunction a day before Chicago released its new edition of The Pure Theory of Capital (a few weeks earlier than advertised, unless Amazon has made a mistake).

The Pure Theory of Capital is a largely unreadable book & was the first of 2 projected volumes. There is a very good reason Hayek abandoned work on capital theory. Pete Leeson is spot on target with his injunction about capital.

rof. Leeson & Prof. Boettke are stars in the profession & very well known. They both regularly get in top journals. That speaks for itself on their knowing 'how' austrianism should best proceed.

Top journals? I'm talking about top journals according to all sorts of citation indexes, etc. You must be kidding me, but I don't care as long as they stick to their theories. However, they force themselves to adapt their theories in order to make "mainstreamable" and, still, no article published in a top journal. Life is unjust, isn't it :)

Pearl is wide of the mark in his critical comments on the Boettke Boys. They are reviving the integrated program of economic and social thought that got lost in the 20th century. Mises (especially) and Hayek kept the flame alive but they were rendered practically invisible for several decades. I am not a betting man but I have got $1A (that is US 80.08c) that says Pearl can't come up with a cogent critique of the line that Boettke el al are taking on development theory.

Again, I'm glad for you. I really envy those people who find some interesting stuff in their writings and even think that they revive whatsoever.

Pearl - take a look at Dr Leeson's CV & his working papers.
Also, please name a top journal

Pearl - Prof Tyler Cowen knows his stuff:

Cowen on Leeson:

Where are the economic historians?
Tyler Cowen
Read Eric Rauchway's excellent post. Excerpt:

Economic history might have moved out of history departments for market reasons as well. If, to pursue economic history, you had to master technical skills that would make you eligible for an appointment in an economics department, you would probably prefer that to an appointment in a history department: economists get paid more because they're eligible for employment in government and business as well as universities.

Some of the economic historians are coming to George Mason; this year we hired John Nye, Werner Troesken, and Gary Richardson. New hire Peter Leeson does some economic history as well. We've gone from a minor player in the field to a top department for economic history.

But will they be fun at lunch?

Daniel D'Amico wrote:

"for your accusation that Leeson and Boettke's work is uninteresting and unimportant, that's you opinion and your entitled to it."

I'm seriously asking (no provocation indeed) in which way they contributed to the development of Austrian Economics. Every foreword of Hülsmann revealed more insights.

Where are all the students?

There is an another continent. I can't remember, but I think Europe was its name. You GMU guys really think that there is only GMU and that's it.

Economic history is where the party is at so to speak. Austrians armed with causal realism and and the subjectivist framework have a comparative advantage at making sense out of the complicated and incomplete visions of our past. If you don't find this interesting fine, but that does not mean it is not valuable.

I never said that History of Thought was not valuable. I only criticized Leeson's opinion according to which we should concentrate on it and don't touch certain fields of study (capital theory, etc.)

But you know, in order to do some research in Economic History, it is necessary to speak some foreign languages.

Ok Pearl. First, economic history and history of thought are different fields.

Second, Hulsmann!!!!!! LOL LOL LOL. Any wonder that you do not see why Leeson is bang on target when he points out some stuff that is wrong with contemporary Austrian economics. The ideas of Mises & Hayek could well do with more Leesons to promote them & far fewer Hulsmmanns & similar types.

Hulsmann! My sides still ache from laughter.

It pains me personally to read a lot of what Pete Leeson has to say. In fact, I take it as a personal assault. When I first came to graduate school, my favorite topic in all of economics was capital theory. I still find fascinating and want to be an expert in the history of ideas. I think the calculation debate is one of the single most important events in economic theory _ever_, and I agree with Hayek (I would block-quote him if I could) when he said that most of the advances in economic theory over the past [however long it is now] have been advances in the theory and consistent application of subjectivism.

All that being said, I have to acknowledge that Leeson is right about just about everything. The problem with Austrians is that we've historically been a small-time movement and we're experiencing the growing pains of becoming a larger scale movement. Think about it, we've got Menger, Boehm-Bawerk, Wieser (if he hasn't been excised already), Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Kirzner, Lachmann... Really only a couple handfuls of people relative to the size of the economics discipline. Even in the biggest of big-tent groupings, where we include the proto-Austrians, crypto-Austrians, and Austro-friendly economists, not to mention liberty-friendly intellectuals of non-economic training, we're still probably less than 1% of all economists or political economists throughout history. And that rate is falling as PhDs all over the world are being cranked out. We've always been a small but fiercely contentious group.

At ASC a few weeks ago, there were more than 100 people there. That's a phenomenal showing, and it demonstrates the growth of the movement. The problem, as I've hinted at, is that we don't know what to do with such a huge movement. We all want to emulate the greats who inspired us. For many it's Murray, many others Mises, and for some it still goes back to Menger. These men wrote treatises. They thought big thoughts and they thought them well. But Leeson is right; most of us will never be a Mises. And, honestly, that sucks. Luckily, we don't have to all be Mises, Menger, or Murray.

And that's why I'm bullish about the future of Austrian economics. I had better be, I've bet my professional career on it. I'm optimistic because right now we're at the edge of something amazing. For the first time in the history of our school, we have the chance none of our forefathers had. We have the opportunity to engage in an extensive intellectual division of labor. This means that we can't all be system-builders or treatise-writers. Some of us will excel in working out theory, others of us will blaze a trail of empirically relevant work. Our social science grows on the back of both endeavors, theory AND history. There is room and need for both.

We can't all be like our intellectual forefathers. I don't want to put words into Leeson's mouth, but I think that's part of his message. The great minds who inspired us, who taught us how to see the world, will always be with us in our work. We don't have to leave them behind completely, but it's no longer going to work—if it ever did—to bash our intellectual opponents over the head with Human Action (though personally I find Man, Economy, and State has more pointed corners). We have to crush them with our own work infused with the ideas of Austrian economics.

So I think it's time to take up the call of our discipline. This means embracing the division of labor and reaping the gains from trade. We need to go forth and specialize, trade, and be more productive. We need to build off one another, cite one another, and construct a literature steeped in Austrian ideas and the best and most interesting analysis out there. Our training as Austrians gives us the ability to do this better than most economists out there. This can all be ours if we will recognize the opportunity before us. Adam Smith famously put forward the idea that the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. Gentlemen, the market for Austrian economics has never been bigger. What are we going to do with it?

"Ok Pearl. First, economic history and history of thought are different fields."

Jesus Christ, you exactly know what I meant; economic got lost in my writing. There is no edit function at all.

Second, Hulsmann!!!!!! LOL LOL LOL. Any wonder that you do not see why Leeson is bang on target when he points out some stuff that is wrong with contemporary Austrian economics. The ideas of Mises & Hayek could well do with more Leesons to promote them & far fewer Hulsmmanns & similar types.

Hulsmann! My sides still ache from laughter.

Yeah, you are right. Let them promote their really original and creative stuff in top journals like the American Journal of Economics and Sociology as well as the Indian Journal of Economics. (And I know that Hulsmann did not publish his stuff in better journals, but at least he is not pretending whatsoever).

What's so funny about Hülsmann? His theories about interest may be flawed, but at least they were original and gave me some thought provoking stuff. His articles make me think (sometimes); this never happened with any article by Boettke or Leeson.

Geoffrey - the joke about MES & pointed corners is a good one.

That said, my guess would be that most of the 100 folk at ASC exemplify all the bad stuff Leeson rightly suggests we ditch.

Pearl - first, Hulsman gets in much lousier journals than the one's you name (I assume he gets in Boettke's journal as an act of charity - don't split the movement & all that BS). Why are JLE & JLS, JEBO etc not top journals?

Pearl,

Please reread Pete Leeson's original post. He suggested that Austrians work _less_ on history of thought -- not more, as you claimed above. Pete clearly believes that young Austrians would do well to focus _more_ on economic history.

Regarding the claim that one must have knowledge of different languages to engage in economic history, note that Leeson has done economic history which has led to publications in the Journal of Law and Economics and the Journal of Legal Studies. As far as I know, a large majority of his source material was British. Further, to my knowledge, he has a very strong grasp of English.

Please note that the AJES is ranked in the Social Science Citation Index.

Finally, would you be willing to reveal your identity? It would be interesting to compare your academic placement and CV to Leeson's.

bravo to chris coyne, given Pearls remarks about gmu & europe my guess is that pearl is a europe based austrian. As a vehemently anti-austrian friend of mine once put it "the only thing worse than an american austrian [he seems to like me though!] is a european austrian" I assume he had some of the god-awful methodlogical papers (or one's on natural law & austrianism - even worse) by french or belgian austrians in mind.

I am unsure as to whether Geoffrey's joke about pointy-cornered MES (a god-awful hack book BTW) or Pearl's joke (unintentional one at that) about Hulsmanns' creatvity & insights made me laugh the more.

Still, economics is a quantitative science - possibly even an aprioristic one that allows me to construct an apodictically certain architechtonic intellectual edifice that says nothing about th real world (unlike pete leesons excellent economic history papers).

Apologies for not happily bandying around similar Austrian BS terms like thymology & praxeology.

Pete Leeson should add the admonition that no Austrian should ever use the slogan "science of liberty" (which Kook Koch ripped off from Rothbard when he was happy funding the latter 7 having the latter do his thinking for him" - only problem would be that Prof Boettke would fall foul on that one!

Pearl,

I want to clarify my earlier "where are the students?" question. I'm not trying to pit Europe v. America, GMU v. other Austrians or any other divisions. I think the divisions that do exist are more a result of personalities and petty arguments than they are founded upon actual theoretical rifts. What I do gather from the up and coming Austrian generations is that there is a wide spread intention to move beyond these petty dividing lines and instead just do good work. If you are indeed a student I would have to say that you are possibly the only young student within these next generations that sees any value to heralding one scholar as a "real" Austrian or a "real" contributor and others as pretenders or imitators.

While I didn't intend to dismiss all of Europe as unproductive or imply that GMU is the only Austrian center, I still fail to see how pointing to Europe has answered my question, "where are the students?" The dismal answer to it is that the fourth generation is small far too small given the profundity of the ideas of our predecessors. This is a real issue that we must come to grips with. Hooray to Leeson and anyone else for that matter who is concerned with this issue, is willing to look it in the face, and at least suggest a way to maybe fix it in the future.

Say what you will about the theoretical content of Coase, Friedman, Becker etc. How many dissertations and major scholars came out of their work. Dozens each, together hundreds. Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Lachmann, Kirzner, etc. How many fruitful research agendas are ripe for the picking, but only a handful have been explored? How much of the world is waiting to be explained with these amazing insights. But instead if you want to rehash the socialist calculation debate or redefine what capital means, fine go for it, but don't expect the profession to sit up and say wow. And it just comes off as rude to hold that work up only by putting down what other people do.

We've got the ideas, we've got the insight now lets get busy.

bravo to chris coyne, given Pearls remarks about gmu & europe my guess is that pearl is a europe based austrian.

Impressive deductive reasoning. Besides, I'm not opposed to GMU as such. There are many people like Stringham, Caplan, Tullock, Buchanan, etc. that I appreciate. Actually, I think Leeson's work as well as that of Boettke is valuable as well so to speak. It was only the "sort of denouncing" unoriginal writings etc, at the same time they publish papers like "Was Mises right?" which contradicts like half of his points.

Edit function would be nice.

Pearl,

"Please reread Pete Leeson's original post. He suggested that Austrians work _less_ on history of thought -- not more, as you claimed above. Pete clearly believes that young Austrians would do well to focus _more_ on economic history."

Ok, I give you this point and I think that I exaggerated to some extent.

"Regarding the claim that one must have knowledge of different languages to engage in economic history, note that Leeson has done economic history which has led to publications in the Journal of Law and Economics and the Journal of Legal Studies. As far as I know, a large majority of his source material was British. Further, to my knowledge, he has a very strong grasp of English."

Ok, I don't get it. My reproach was not directed at Leeson or someone in particular. But let's say that there are "Say"- specialists who don't speak French, Mises experts who don't speak (read at least) German or people who write things about the Soviet Union without speaking a word of Russian.

I'm not familiar with Leeson exact background, but English is not his mother tongue?

"Please note that the AJES is ranked in the Social Science Citation Index."

I never said that it was not in SSCI. When I'm talking about top journals I mean those which rank 1-30 in general, and 1-5 in their specific research area (in order to simplify my view).

In addition, I've never stated the ranking of the journal is that important. Hülsmann published also papers in the AJES for example. Besides, Hülsmann was just an example and not representing anything in particular. I just made my point that his forewords are more interesting than many papers of some people. (Indeed, it does not imply that his forewords are interesting in an absolute way).

"Finally, would you be willing to reveal your identity? It would be interesting to compare your academic placement and CV to Leeson's."

If I wanted to reveal my identity, I would not use a fake name, fake account and fake IP.

Daniel,
Coase, Friedman, Becker, etc. are geniuses and I have nothing to complain or whatsoever. It is not about the purity of Austrian theory; it is about good or bad theory.

And I agree mostly with you, but I don't want to lengthen this debate either. Do what you want and feel free to pursue your academic career.

Pearl,

Let me restate this point one more time because I am still not sure it is clear based on your latest comments.

Leeson is NOT saying that an Austrian scholar should NEVER engage in history of thought, etc. Again, please carefully reread his initial post, especially when he suggests the rule of 1 history of thought paper for every 5 papers written.

Given that, I am not sure how citing "Was Mises Right?" and then claiming that Boettke and Leeson violate half of what was written in Leeson’s initial post makes any sense.

Let me try to restate Pete's core point. One should think of their research program as a portfolio of papers. In his initial post, Pete was suggesting the different weightings for the general categories within that portfolio. More specifically, Pete’s point is that the portfolios of young Austrian scholars should not be history of thought-heavy, methodology-heavy, etc. Pete's claim is that younger scholars should assign a greater weight to papers that are likely to advance AE. It is Leeson’s contention that applied work in economic history is the best means to achieve the desired end of advancing AE. You can disagree with his suggested means, but instead you keep taking various parts of his initial post out of context.

In my reading of Leeson's post, a young scholar's portfolio should consist of 75-80% applied work (economic history) and 20-25% “other” (history of thought, methodology, capital theory etc.). Indeed, if you look at Leeson's CV I think this allocation would just about hold.

In sum, I would urge you to focus on Leeson’s initial post as a whole instead of pulling out random parts and then combining that with random lines off Leeson's CV to make your points.

I also suggest that the personal comparisons stop. This is not an issue of Hülsmann vs. Leeson, Boettke vs. “insert name here”, students at GMU vs. “insert students from XXX here”, etc. Pete’s post is focused on advancing AE and the strategy for young scholars pursing work in that tradition. Let’s stay on topic.

The hell with that. I still wanna know what makes Judas a "Catholic."

"Leeson is NOT saying that an Austrian scholar should NEVER engage in history of thought, etc. Again, please carefully reread his initial post, especially when he suggests the rule of 1 history of thought paper for every 5 papers written."

I don't think that my posts are incompatible with your paragraph. And I honestly don't think that the "Mises was right" paper is consistent with vices to avoid. You should read this paper again and compare it with his 10 vices. At least four vices are included.

Besides this was my last post.

I have great respect fopr Prof. Coyne. That said, however, I do think he is wide of the mark in suggesting that "This is not an issue of Hülsmann vs. Leeson, Boettke vs. “insert name here". I suggest that it is. Who are young Austrians to attempt to emulate? Leeson or Hulsmann? Surely the former is the way to go. It is time for Austrians to follow Prof Leesons advice - stop prattling on about subjectivism & capital theory, natural law, natural rights, thymology, praxeology, & similar nonsense that the average player in the economics profession does not know about & would not care about (|& think kooky) if they did know about it.

Leeson is right: do economic history. And he is surely right that Austrians should do less history of economic thought (generally they are not very good at it. What Austrian other than Prof Boettke, Prof Vaughn, or Prof Caldwell) even gets in the good history of thought journals?

Jesus f**cking Christ. All this bullshit is why I always distanced myself from the "Austrians."

Uh, xyz, I've been in HOPE three times and JHET several. So would you please add me to your list of Austrians who have published in the good history of thought journals? :)

If I had more time, I'd jump in on this more thoroughly, but Leeson's advice is largely right on, especially for grad students whose human capital has yet to be locked in. For us middle-aged farts, who came of intellectual age at a time when the opportunities for Austrians were a bit thinner, we're likely to keep doing much that we've done. And that's okay. But what Austrian economics does NOT need are more Boettkes and Horwitzes (lord knows). We need more Leesons, Coynes, Stringhams, and Powells.

And we certainly do NOT need more Hulsmanns.

"Jesus f**cking Christ. All this bullshit is why I always distanced myself from the "Austrians."

I don't know to which posts your refer exactly, but I'm not representative for the Austrians or whatsoever. This sort of labeling does not arrange anything. Actually, I reread my posts and I can't understand half of the reactions.

By the way, I never suggested that we need more Hülsmanns, etc. We need more good economists and that's it.

BTW, what's the big deal with Hülsmann? He is not the legitimate successor of Mises or whatsoever, but the notorious mocking of his person seems bizarre to me.

(Unfortunately, I initially posted this comment under Pete Boettke's latest post, but it is more germane to Pete Leeson's post, so I am reposting it here.) I have to agree with Pete Leeson and Dan Klein in this discussion. Pete Boettke does not adequately meet their objections. If one's goal is a successful career at a top, or even mid-tier, government-funded research university, then the habits and inclinations they enumerate are indeed "vices to be avoided." I would add a twelth vice to be avoided at all costs: characterizing oneself as an Austrian economist. The contemporary modal mainstream economist neither knows nor cares what an "Austrian economist" is. You do yourself no favors by self-reference in terms of any school of thought; it will only muddy the waters, mark you as an eccentric, and not improve your chances at landing a job at a top forty research university. I gently chide Pete Leeson who seems to have lapsed into precisely this vice by referring to his "young Austrian students" in his post on "10 Vices to Be Avoided by Austrians."

Apologies to Prof. Horwitz. He has been in HOPE (his piece on Hilferding is excellent in particular). So that makes 4 austrians who get in real HET journals

Shouldn't this post be titled: 10 Things You Should Do If You Want To Work At A State-Funded University In The State With The Lowest Educational Scores In The Country While Still Pretending To Be An Austrian And Trying To Gain Some Modal Economist Street Cred At The Same Time?

As the editor of the new UChi Press edition of Hayek’s Pure Theory of Capital (mentioned above), I feel moved to react to Pete Leeson’s Vice #2: “No more attempts at rewriting ‘capital theory’.” My reaction is: who’s been trying? Nobody I could find, except perhaps Roger Garrison, and what Roger has done to integrate the essentials of Austrian capital theory (as found in Prices and Production, avoiding the additional complexities of the Pure Theory of Capital) is extremely useful. If there is an army of grad students trying to make sense of The Pure Theory of Capital, I hope my editors’ introduction and footnotes to the new edition will help them. But I agree with Pete Leeson that the expected return to additional work in that direction is low.

The items addressed in Professor Leeson's paper seems pertinent only to those familiar with the Austrian approach to economic theorizing. These sorts of discussions can only occur in places like GMU today or NYU 20 years ago. But for the "uninitiated", subjectivism is indeed a radically novel concept. The Austrian concept of capital theory is equally revolutionary to those (professors included) reared in schools like the one I attend (Washinton University). These ideas and concepts are responsible for converting me to the discipline of Austrian economics. It is imperative that we NOT dispense with these ideas for the sake of academic expediency.

The number of readers of economics journals would fit into a Wal-Mart in Manhattan. That is to say, no one reads them. What some do check are the number of citations and publications a particular author has. This is a monopolistic barrier to entry akin to the licenses granted to florists in various states.

Of course, some do read a few papers available elsewhere, but only the florists with the license already. Those who post on the Mises website have more influence on the dissemination of ideas than any professor teaching less than a hundred students a year ever will have. Most "students" don't care and only want a grade and a piece of paper with the signature of the Dean after four years. The game has changed and to try to subvert austrian economics in order to be more amenable to academia is to go against the whole tradition and the insights that have been recognized by those elders we all hold in such great esteem. The point is not to gain cozy tenured posts for some, but to educate the public on austrian theory which definitely includes capital theory, history of economic thought, the errors of socialist calculation, block quotes from the wisdom of Menger/Bohm-Bawerk/Mises/Hayek/Kirzner/Rothbard and on and on...

If you are never going to revolutionize economics then I suggest you model your career after Henry Hazlitt and write for the popular press (Leeson included).

I think Leeson's point about the history of thought is very important, and it's hard to say whether he's right or wrong. Right now, it seems as though maybe 85% of self-identified Austrians primarily work in HET. If my guess is roughly correct, that's too many, percentage-wise. But in the economics profession, history of thought is in danger of dying out. So preserving HET is extremely important, and heterodox economists of all stripes (Austrians, Marxists, old Keynesians who've actually read Keynes, etc.) have a tendency to concentrate on HET, because it's a) in their interest to preserve HET and b) doing HET allows them to write about the heterodoxy. The problem is that very few of them are trying to do anything else in terms of new theory, political economy, or even economic history. For all I care (and boy am I ever biased) Marxism and old Keynesianism can die. But I do believe young Austrians (maybe not all of them, all the time) need to start applying what they've read in Human Action, Individualism and Economic Order, etc. etc. to specific political and economic issues. And they need to market that work to the rest of the profession, not just each other. That would mean, for instance, that they shouldn't lean heavily on insider Austrian-school jargon, or block quotes from Mises and Hayek. It may also mean an openess to game theory, econometrics, and other tools that aren't necessarily incompatible with Austrian methodology.

Amen to what Prof. Miller says. Its not even as if the history of thought produced by the majority of austrians (the exceptions noted above with Prof. Horwitz included) is appearing in any real history of thought journals.

Game theory yes; thymology ansd praxeology no. Moreover, even if game theory and econometrics were incompatible with austrian methodology that is where much of the action is.

How one views Professor Leeson's remarks perhaps is determined by whether one considers economics, as Professor Salerno has noted, to be a vocation or profession. Or put another way, does one hold the pursuit of truth and a more accurate understanding of our world as the foremost goal of an economist and of any scientist, or do professional considerations also exert notable influence.

Or possibly, the disagreement boils down to one of strategy: which approach better helps Austrian insights to become more integrated into mainstream economics while avoiding the mainstreaming of Austrian thought. However, from a strictly scientific perspective, given the general state of mainstream economics, Austrians should be quite careful as to how accommodative they are of mainstream theory.

One thing that I do believe is counter-productive is the cheap shots and personal attacks. This pettiness serves no worthwhile purpose, and only serves to reinforce the stereotype of many academics.

Regarding the socialist calculation debate, while Professor Leeson is certainly correct in noting that Austrians “get the point”, many mainstream economists do not. Socialist governments are responsible for the death of tens of millions, if not 100 million human beings (not to mention tremendous economic waste in non-human terms). Those mainstream economists who do not acknowledge the immense practical significance of the socialist calculation issue, I believe represent a fundamentally different type of person and "scientist" than Mises and other Austrians that have devoted considerable time and resources to its study. If the entire world were to adopt state ownership of the non-human factors of production, thus barring any socialist economy from parasitically using the price system of market economies to crudely calculate, how would civilization and human existence be impacted? Austrians realize the gruesome answer to this question. The mainstream’s general refusal to acknowledge the implications of the Austrian position in the calculation debate is inexcusable, and in my opinion, the mainstream should continue to be taken to task regarding this issue by Austrians.

And regarding capital theory, given the crucial importance of capital to production in advanced economies, economies to which most of us owe our lives, attempting to better understand this concept is also of immense practical significance.

I agree with Leeson that there's too much beating of old drums among Asutrains. But he's mostly off target.

The real problem with trying to be a better Austrian economist is that it's a problem the best Austrians never considered, becuse it is irrelevant. Mises, Hayek, and Kirzner were too busy trying to be better economists. And Austrian insights, including some that Leeson downplays, are important for that today.

Re vice 2: Modern Macro is a lot of tail chasing, and little more. Capital theory (something that is clearly inadequate even in its Austrian versions) is one important part of getting out. *Everyone* in the NC mainstream knows that "capital" is a mess; the mess cannot be fixed w/o attention to heterogenity of capital, which basically only Austrians think about. If we cast out our devil of capital theory, it will be as Nietzsche warned "you may find out the devil was your best characteristic."

Vice 4: Someone should tell Stiglitz and Sachs, or for that matter Caplan, that the calculation debate is dead. OK, agreed, we don't have to attack Lange's CPB any more. Actually, I think there are many useful applications of calculation arguments yet to be made.

Vice 5: Subjectivism is far more than the subjectivism of preferences, and always has been for Austrians. The entire profession is moving towards increasing subjectivism. This would be a bizarre time for Austrians to abandon it.

Leeson argues (in vice 4) Austrians should tackle applied work -- but if by applied work he means historical/empirical work, most Austrians I know are ill-prepared for this. The best stuff done requires hard work with data -- surveys and other data collection, innovative applied econometrics, and the like -- most Austrians have comparative advantage in other things, like thinking clearly and carefully about concepts, and applying them in econ theory. This is a perfectly legitimate enterprise, but I think too much of Leeson's advice would have us give it up.

Footnote to my previous comment:

I recently had a conversation with an economist who graduated from UCLA (PhD) a few years back and has an excellent publication record in major journals. I mentioned Austrian econ to him, and he said until recently he had no familiarity with it, but had happened to read an old paper of Hayek's (possibly "Use of Knowledge"): his reaction: "My god, these are really important ideas -- what a shame we didn't read this in graduate school."

So much for subjectivism, socialist calcualtion, etc. being dead issues.

You guys have piqued my interest. Where can I learn about “Capital Theory?” What’s a good book or chapter of a book to read?

You might want to try Ludwig Lachmann's 'capital and its structure'

israel kirzner has a book on capital theory also but i forget the title.

I would add one additional item to the list:

11 (or is it 14 by now?): Do not spend your time writing critiques of aspects of neoclassical economics that you do not fully understand.

I do not have my armor handy or I would suggest yet another item: go to the best department you can for your graduate work, do neoclassical work until you get tenure, and then indulge your Austrian proclivities. This plan has many advantages: (1) you will know neoclassical economics better and so better be able to compare it to Austrian economics and (2) you will end up at a better university with better students, a higher salary and more time to do research.

Jeff


Of course Jeff's advice assumes those are your goals.

On the other hand, if you want to be happy and research and write about ideas you think are valid and that matter for making the world a better place, you might want to pursue Austrian economics from the beginning. Yes, you might wind up at a less prestigious university and yes you might actually have to teach (and influence?) more undergraduates, but you might also do a better job making the world a better place in the process.

I'd rather be happy and know I was changing the world than have a higher salary and more time to do research for the sake of my career.

I agree with Dr. Horwitz. The stealth strategy is lame and ineffective. Better to wear your Austrianism on your sleeve.

[olive branch]Which you can now do literally thanks to the fine products at mises.org[/olive branch]

Dr. Horwitz has misunderstood my remarks, most likely because I did not express them very clearly. My suggested algorithm is intended to maximize happines. The "career concerns" are an input into that, not an end in themselves. Moreover, if I were really a careerist, and not just someone on a different path to the same end, I would be working at a consulting firm.

I am also quite serious in advancing the view that a thorough understanding of neoclassical economics will almost certainly make one a better Austrian economist. This is particularly true for someone who intends to go into economic history, where a sound knowledge of applied econometrics will be of great use. I do not think that anyone, even on this board, will argue the position that that one can best learn applied econometrics within the Austrian tradition.

Also, I am an enthusiastic teacher of undergraduates but I will never forget the story an Austrian economist once told me about an undergraduate at Auburn who came up during an exam and asked if she needed to simplify 10/2 or whether she could just leave it as it was. Teaching students who should be working or in a vocational school rather than in university is not my idea of fun or of a particularly useful social contribution.

By all means, let 1000 flowers bloom but also, by all means, let the young folks have a clear understanding of the available options when they make their course decisions as undergraduates and their graduate school application and enrollment decisions after that.

Jeff

Peter's advice against publishing history of thought is bad advice for most Austrians. The fact of the matter is that most schools do not care what you publish, so long as you publish something. Pete has worked at research orientated school's that care about where you publish. Most Austrians teach at teaching schools that have very different standards. If you are at a liberal arts college or a smaller state school your Dean will likely be happier with a large number of HET pubs than with a small number of techy applied pubs.

While I agree that there is no point in merely rehashing the calculation debate, there are good reasons to criticize existing accounts of this debate. I have several papers that challenge existing views on this issue.

Generally speaking, the rules implied by Pete's ten vices set up artificial constraints. Focus on your most original and important insights for research, don't worry about if its an old or a new topic, or an in or an out field. If you hit upon a good idea for something that is topical in the profession or applied, fine. If you hit upon a something really intersting from Menger or Max Weber, go with it. You will not get into Harvard with HET work, but you can get a teaching job with HET.

There should be a division of labor in Austrian economics. Not everyone is cut out to do applied or techinical economics, and you can do quite well for yourself by writing HET out of a teaching institution.

Some Austrians should follow Larry White's examples by targeting the AER and JMCB, others should follow Tom Rustici's example by focusing on top quality teaching at the expense of more 'advanced' research. Someone has to do the 'dirty work' of teaching.

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We absolutely cannot have more Hulsmanns. No way. I mean, a bum like Bob Higgs could say of Hulsmann's Mises biography merely this:

"I have finally finished reading your great book about Mises. When I use the word “great,” I mean not simply that it weighs at least a kilo and contains more than 1,000 pages. I mean most of all that it is a magnificent scholarly achievement. I can’t remember when I have taken more pleasure from a book. It is a joy to read, in every way. The English is precise and polished, and everything is put just right. The research is amazingly broad, yet deep, too. The judgments are sensible and mature. The coverage–from the personal details to the content of Mises’s ideas to the context in which he lived and worked–is extraordinary, and the organization puts everything into comprehensible order. The bibliography is more than impressive. All in all, the book is simply an amazing accomplishment, and a fitting tribute to its great subject.

"If I had ever written anything half so wonderful–and I recognize that I lack the abilities to do so–I would consider my career a complete success, and feel myself justified in taking my ease, to rest on my laurels. I do not perceive that you have this plan in mind for yourself, and therefore the world will be the better, not only for your great book on Mises, but also for all the great achievements that lie in your future. I salute you, my friend, not without a touch of envy, but with my whole heart."

By all means rescue us from the kind of work that merits such a timid response.

The calculation debate may be irrelevant in modern economics, but it is still highly relevant on university campuses, where most of the humanities departments are overrun with socialists, and Marxism is still considered a valid intellectual paradigm. These are the people who end up running everything.

Following up Charles Steele's story about the PhD from UCLA, who hadn't been exposed to Austrian ideas in school, it would be interesting to see a list of 10 non-Austrian, mainsteam vices, compared against the 10 Austrian vices. (Ok, maybe 10 of the former wouldn't be anywhere near exhaustive.)

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