April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad

« EconTalk Podcast | Main | David Schmidtz to Teach Foundations of Capitalism »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Desperately Seeking Ludwig, F. A., and Milton:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

"And without that intellectual force, our future in the US is potentially very bleak as statism will crowd out market creativity, and wealth creation. Where is the next intellectual figure that will explain the impossibility of socialism, why the worst get on top, and why government policies are counter-productive?

How do we find these type of economists and how do we cultivate them? And without them can we survive the statist onslaught on our economic freedom?"

Some time ago, Pete, both you and Steve were claiming "It's getting better all the time," combined with such extraordinary statements as "I'm glad to be living in this generation than any other one in human history," and so on. (Not exact quotes, as I don't have time to search your archives this fine Sunday morning.) I challenged the former claim, I said statism is on the rise, blah blah blah. My argument was, quite obviously, so weak not to convince. But, I'm glad to hear that you've become convinced by other means, though I'm not as optimistic as you in believing economists will save us from this problem.

Hey, I haven't changed my tune. No doubt we can and will hit short-run bumps in the road, and I do agree that the ideological atmosphere has changed, but I also believe that the underlying forces of human creativity and markets (which, as someone once said, are like weeds and can't ever totally be eliminated) will outweigh the bad ideas, leading to ongoing human improvement over the medium and long run.

I still think I'd rather be alive now than any other time in human history, and increasing statism is not incompatible with ongoing human improvement (though at a slower rate!) if one thinks other factors are stronger than the negative effects of growing statism.

Prof. Boettke, before winning the public at large, shouldn't one win over the profession?

If one believes with certainty that current events do not undermine laissez-faire policy prescription, in any way, then yes, the problem is simply one of spreading the same old ideas. Clearly, the profession at large does not believe that, hence its uneasiness with universal, time-invariant policy prescriptions.

Why that is and why 95% of the profession failed to converge to your beliefs after decades are, I suspect, far more important questions in the grander scheme of things.

Lastly, if the old theory and rhetoric lack the "force" they once had, why should we still support their policy prescriptions as if they didn't? Maybe, simply put, those guys back then were wrong.

I disagree with your last point. Just because the theory of Mises, Hayek, and Friedman may lack the force that they orignally carried does not mean that their "policy prescriptions" are wrong or not applicable for today. The reason, in my opinion, that their rhetoric lacks the same force is merely because socialists have had time now since these mens' deaths to work on counter-arguments, and these have captured the minds of many in the profession and the public.

After Mises gave the great criticism of socialist calculation in the 1920s, socialists like Oskar Lange then had time to counter with new ideas like surplus-shortage based control systems. Hayek and Mises were able to respond well to these new forms of socialism, but their recommendations for prosperity and freedom stayed the same.

Years have now gone by and again the arguments for statism have evolved, arguing that they will bring not only stability but moral superiority. Despite the changes in arguement, the results of statism and regulation remain the same: retardation of growth and decline of freedom. The answer to remedy these effects is to have market oriented solutions just as Mises, Hayek, and Friedman called for long ago.

The next great thinkers must do the same, continuing to argue for the moral and economic superiority of free markets, while at the same time responding well to the ever changing arguments for statism that arise. The issue is and will always be not of spreading the same old ideas, but of spreading new convincing arguements for the using the "same old" solutions.

A change in the profession is important, but by winning the public, we can have authors, reporters, musicians helping to spread the word on harmful governmental policies.
Most of the public does not enjoy listening to an academic lecture on what is the right or wrong policy, but if a musician, a writer, an artist begins depicting what are the wonders of capitalism, we would see a rise in the public's knowledge of good economics which would affect the profession as more students would wish to study capitalism.
As for proof of many academics joining the Free Market beliefs, look at Sach's explanation of the housing market; that is just one, but one is always the beginning. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jeffrey_sachs/2008/03/the_roots_of_crisis.html

It is not hard to see where Pete is coming from, every sports fan wants their team to have a game breaker, a quarterback who can call the big plays, a batter who can step up to the plate and hit a homer in a clutch, a man who can sink big three-pointers to tie up the game with a few seconds on the clock. However, this is a battle of ideas and we need to follow the lead of Great Ideas, not Great Men. Every one of us can contribute to the distribution, defence and application of great ideas. We can all aim to lift the intensity and effectiveness of our game by (say) 10% and we need to get the ideas into those nooks and crannies of the intellectual world (actually the mainsteam) where for many people what we regard as the Great Ideas ideas are barely a distant rumour. Quite likely the game breaker you are looking for is somewhere around the place, training in some other lines of thought and has not even found the great ideas.

PS. Maybe if we had got to Samuelson and Krugman first!

There is not yet an audience and so no reason for the auteur. Maybe things will become so bad, or maybe statist ideas will re-assume the primacy that they had during the mid-20th century, but I don't think we are there yet on either front.

Despite the flurry of anti-market rhetoric in the current U.S. presidential campaign, despite the big government growth during wasted so-called conservative administration of the last nearly eight years, I don't think times are nearly so bad as to call forth a Mises or Hayek or Friedman.

Nice post. I've pondered this very issue recently as I've been reading many of Mises' works. Though they both came from different schools and backgrounds, it's remarkable how similar Mises' and Friedman's views regarding the economy and its central importance to human liberty and freedom were. I hope someone answers the call and steps in as the foremost proponent of free-market economics.

Rafe, although the strength of ideas is indeed important in deciding what ideas will be dominant, I tend to agree with Mises's view that the deciding factor will always be "mainstream" acceptance by university academics and among the "intellectuals".

It is really hard to overestimate the effect of Milton Friedman on laissez-faire ideas; it gives credence to any lay person in a culture where Science (with a capital S) is an undeniable truth, not a continuous process.

Selectively running my mind through history it appears that catastrophes have to happen in order for the best ideas to come to light. Keynes's ideas began to be challenged the most during the stagflation 70s, the fall of the Soviet Union really gave credence to Hayeks ideas, ect. Reading Mises's biography was pretty funny; every time there was a new inflation there was suddenly a reprinting of Mises's Money and Credit. Of course, we can't always rely upon catastrophes to bring to light the theories we regard as correct; for a long time the great depression was seen as the 'failure' of the capitalist system (and it is sometimes seen that way today).

Government provided public education only exasterbates the problem. In a world of regulations, curriculum, decisions of what books to be 'banned' from discussion, ect ect of course the regulations provide what should be taught; one idea, one Science, to be learned and memorized, not criticaly discussed. I really knew what Pete said in a post a couple of weeks ago that ANY book can be used in a classroom- The Communist Manifesto, The Fountainhead, ect.

Hmm this has gone on a bit too long. Basically government education makes even more of the public intellectuals to give credence to ideas.

Not being an economist, I am appalled from a moral viewpoint that banks and the Federal Reserve can create money from thin air (or fractional reserves). If enough Americans knew of this dishonest practice it would be abolished or at least not backed up by the government or Federal Reserve.


Have you read Andrei Shleifer's The Age of Milton Friedman? I think your interpretation of 95% of the economics profession is in favor of statism is either way too broad a definition of statism (one that would say anyone but an anarcho-capitalist is a statist) or you have way to narrow a reading of the economics profession.

I do believe the economics profession lacks a serious intellectual force for laissez faire, but I do not believe we lack forceful arguments for it. Instead what we lack is a set of preventative arguments against the alignment of interest groups and ideologues that thwart freedom.

But it is time to go on the aggressive offensive against statist interpretations of history and current affairs in our writings and in the classrooms.

95% would be an awful hard hill to climb, the 60% figure I would give is hard enough. The bottom line --- economic science needs smart and articulate individuals practicing it, and a subset of which needs to be bold and publically engaged. Recently the only really bold and publically engaged economists from my perspective has been Bill Easterly. But the voices of Sachs, Stiglitz and Krugman are louder. Shleifer's appeal to the facts against Stiglitz in the Age of Milton Friedman is devastating to Stiglitz, and Easterly has been very effective countering Sachs, and Krugman is often the best antidote to Krugman!

But we need figures like Mises, Hayek and Friedman (and Bastiat and Hazlitt as well) to counter the modern resurgence of statism. If we fail, I do fear we will enter into a new dark age of economic unfreedom and with that loss of economic liberties the material progress we so often take for granted. If the economics profession was already at 95%, I'd fear that the battle was already lost.


This is a phenomenal post. It is remarkably honest and heartfelt. Thanks to Pete for sharing his thoughts. His commitment to liberty (as I have always understood it) is encouraging; indeed, I think Pete has answered his own question with this post --- what is required are pleas for individual freedom stated like this.

Let me share my take on laissez faire. First of all, this is a philosophy that is easy to attack and extremely difficult to defend. However, I do think the advocates of market capitalism make a mistake in insisting that free market economics is absolutely necessary for personal fulfillment. The very foundations upon which this theory is based is flawed for several reasons, ranging everywhere from its 'ideals' to the motives it incites in human behavior. In an uncertain and complex world, there is no reason to believe that, absent government regulation, markets will be self-adjusting in a salutary way.

However, this insight does nothing (in my view) to provide scope for government control and centralization. It is incorrect to believe that governments can "rationally" control expectations and human action --- and it is undesirable even if it could be achieved.

This battle against centralization should not (in my view) be waged by economists. It should be fought by social philosophers. The Road to Serfdom Hayek has done far more on this score than the Hayek in Individualism and Economic Order (Individualism: true and false notwithstanding). This is a moral battle, it is not a pragmatic one. And our decision to make it pragmatic may prove to be our own undoing.

Thanks Jacob, we do not disagree, one of my points was the need to get to students and intellectuals who are not exposed to our ideas in the normal course of their training (if only it was education, that means being introduced to the best thoughts in the field). We have to get to them, for the most part they are not going to come to us or read our house literature. For that reason I concede Pete's point that we need strong and audible representation to speak over the heads of their teachers and their texts and their house journals, and this applies across the full range of the policy sciences and the humanities as well, not just economics.

This is just my opinion, so if I'm off, I'm certainly open to new ideas and criticism.

The problem as I see it, which is definitely coming from a lay person who studies economics in my own time, is that economists as a whole are generally not approachable by the average person. The arguments that I sometimes see are unintelligible (though I try to spend the time reading what I can so that I can at least understand the arguments) by the average person. I read a recent story on the application of game theory to finding a good guy (a Slate.com article) and went on and tried to read the paper which the article was based on and found myself way out of my league (forget about understanding the math, I had to use a dictionary just to understand some of the sentences). The average person needs an interpreter for economists in the same way that they would need one for someone who is speaking in Chinese, and unfortunately, interpreters seem to be in short supply.

I realize that some of you are doing your best to help the rest of us non-economists understand the important issues that affect us. I do my best to steer people towards the sites where they can read (and listen to) arguments that favor freedom over statism and tyranny. I'm just not sure what else can be done in the mean time to combat the bad information that's out there.

What about you?

Just give Pete Leeson a stadium tour and two or three hours to rant and I think you may have a revolution on your hands. It would be kind of like the evangelical churches only he could inspire through insight and preach fact instead of fiction.

Pete--You overlook (rhetorically, at least) a few possibilities. Here are two of them.

1. Please, readers of this site, don't attack me for saying this. But there may be no savior from the free-market team forthcoming, because the free-market team could be wrong in this case.

It's possible, isn't it?

Perhaps it's obvious to everyone on this site, but it's not obvious to me, exactly how government is responsible for the financial crisis, at least in a politically relevant way (relevant, that is, to Hayek-, Mises-, and Milton-Friedman-like assessments of capitalism vs. interventionism that would lead us toward "laissez faire").

There are several different free-market-friendly narratives (Greenspan is at fault, subsidization of homeownership is at fault, the Basel rules are at fault, etc.), and they seem individually plausible to this non-economist. And maybe they all add up to being the sole causes of the crisis now unfolding. It's an empirical question, obviously, and the data are not yet in.

But the key thing that market critics are seizing on--the bundling of mortgages into securities that investors had every incentive to vet, but didn't--does seem to be a *possibly* disastrous problem, if not in 2008, then in some other scenario. And it's a problem that seems peculiarly compatible with standard "animal-spirits" criticisms of the "irrationality" of markets.

2. There may be an answer to the above: Namely, that, while markets and animal spirits aren't perfect, and therefore either were, or could be, responsible for the crisis, interventionism would *tend to be worse overall.* Why? Because the public at large, and the "experts" advising the legislators and running the regulatory state, are even more imperfect, overall.

However: that is not an argument that economists are well equipped to make, because economists don't study *politics.* (Economists *theorize* about politics by trying to reduce it to the interactions of rational and/or self-interested beings. But these theories happen to be, for the most part, empirically false. Economists would know this if they had taken some empirically oriented political-science courses, but most haven't.)

People who are familiar with my work might think that since I'm a political scientist and have often made the above arguments, I'm nominating myself as the free-market team's clutch hitter. But I know enough about my own ignornace of *economics* to realize that I can't intelligently judge whether, on economic issues, the public plus the "experts" get it wrong more often than they get it right.

(Larry White, however, has an excellent Cato Policy Report article on the historical record of central banking vs. the gold standard/Canadian free banking--meaning, which one gets it right more often than the other.)


Jeffrey, I don't think it is just the lending crisis that Pete is talking about, it is the bipartisan acceptance of big government and interventionist policies as the automatic reaction to any problem at all. And it is not just the US, it is also the European Union and most other places. And that approach is in principle supported by the most visible economists (at least from a distance) like Stiglitz and Krugman. Check out Klein with Bartlett on Krugman in Econ Journal Watch Jan 2008.


Coming from a complete outsider to the world of professional sociology, I think you hit on what separates Austrian and public choice economics from the rest: they actually analyze and critique the ability of governments to make good on their promises. Compare that to say, the policy recommendations of a Joe Stiglitz, who assumes government will do whatever he wants it to do for his models to work as advertised. Models of how governments work just don't seem to be in the bag of tricks of most economists that I've read.

Even if the true cause of the housing bubble was "animal spirits" and nothing more, would any economists take that as a serious case for more government involvement? The incidence and cost of "animal" behavior in politics (e.g., the Iraq war) is obviously much greater than in the marketplace (I think for Caplan-esque reasons).

Jeff wrote:

"whether, on economic issues, the public plus the 'experts' get it wrong more often than they get it right."

Why must it be "public *plus* experts"? The problem, to my Buchanan-Caplan synthesizing brain, is that economists are generally right, or far less wrong than the public, but they have little influence over policy -- while "every man his own economist" does.

The underlying problem is the cognitive dissonance between what Bastiat clearly understood when he stated "Government is the great fiction whereby everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else," [or something like that] and the realization that all of us are part of the "market." People in general need to realize the value of their liberty and learn to respect the liberty of others as individuals. Our school system, particularly in higher education, does not even attempt to inculcate such a view of the world; rather, the arrogance of the "chosen elite" (whether they be in the Ivory Tower or Beltway) and their know-it-all "social-" agenda bullies the feebler-minded to buy into their euphonious malarkey; all the while, economists sit around playing with their beloved models that engineers from NASA would probably have difficulty understanding. Economics should not require anything more that high school level algebra; to argue otherwise is to flatter one's self that his superior mathematic skills justify his perception of people as nothing more than lego-pieces to be put together at his whim...

That is a breathless rant...

You know, there are these cult websites Mises.org and lewrockwell.com that put out about a dozen easily understandable economics articles everyday. Oh yeah there's also that Ron Paul kook that keeps telling everyone about economics and free markets plus the federal reserve.

And then there are those other wierdos at the Mises Institute like Tom Woods and Tom DiLorenzo who have sold thousands and thousands of books. How dare they publish in non-academic journals and do so well! We must do all we can to condemn and ignore those Mises Institute racists.

These are strictly cults and we should in no way associate ourselves with their efforts to bring free market economics into more simplified formats understandable by the public.. Let's just continue to publish in academic journals, inflate our egos, and keep telling ourselves that we're accomplishing something.

Why not you, Dr. Boettke?

You're a prolific writer and reader, why not YOU?

How about a book that examines the last 20-30 years through the writings of these 3 men vis a vis their intellectual rivals...and yours of the say?

I think the problem is that people in general are tribalists. The message of a free market is anti-tribalist. I'm not sure a new super-economist would help us much. The ideas are out there, people who are inclined to agree will stumble upon them. What we need then is a political figure who is able to express the ideas of liberty in terms that satisfy the tribal instincts of the voters. Reagan was good at that with the instinctive, honest image of liberty he projected; although some of his policies were surely ambiguous in practice.

Unfortunately, individual liberty doesn't really unite easily in groups, although opposition against authoritarians of all sorts (including the rise of uber-authoritarian Islam) might stimulate a sort of unity and direct more people to investigate the roots of Western individualism, and thus towards economic liberty also.

Pete is a big hypocrite... The only thing he´s got to do is to start publishing papers written by a person like me...-:)

A simple point about the economic profession and free market.

As I see it, the classical questions asked by economists a few decades ago are simply ignored today. In my university -to which I dont want to refer- what we do is finance, economics of energy, of health, stat/econometry, and things like this. When you work on the latest statistical tools or on the notion of Lyapunov stability, you dont work on the more general questions on the functioning of a market economy and, for the most of my colleagues, you just dont care!
Take two fashionable (perhaps for good reasons, that s not the point) sub-disciplines: game theory and experimental economics. Do they enlight the functioning of a market economy? Absolutely not. Robert Aumann has wrote extensively. A good job by the way. But he wrote about things that would not have been considered as economics in the 20-30s. Just read the AER. You will easily see that there is no debate anymore about the general vision one should have about the economy. Even the heterodox (Sraffians, post-Keynesians etc.) accept the inflation/wage spiral...

I have seen on TV two economists speaking about the current situation. One said (the Keynesian) that governments should increase their deficit. Problem: today, every government on earth has an unvoluntary deficit. This way of acting must thus be forgotten. The other (a crypto-liberal) said that you have cut taxes. That s all: technically, they both had a IS-LM model in head. The question was just: what should move first?

About the LvMI: entirely right!! I would say that the Institute is like Mises: dogmatic, rigid and tiresome (some will disagree for sure...)

Dr. Boettke is indeed a prolific writer and reader but he has never done any technical work in economics.


I think you're missing the point of Pete's post. Your comment is well taken (though hostile in tone). Mises.org and rockwell et al. do great work in promoting and spreading the ideas of liberty as Pete has applauded in the past. You seem to be berating him for not applauding them here but that demonstrates that you're missing his point.

This post is not meant to imply that there is insufficient effort in promoting good economics and liberty. Instead the post is calling attention to the phenomenon that economists may have overly specialized to the detriment of the cause of liberty. In other words, today we have mass communicators on the one hand and high theorists on the other but rarely do the two mix. Not to demean or diminish the intellectual efforts of anyone at LVMI but admittedly none of them aspire to climb the highest heights of the ivory tower. They have instead embraced the role of popularizing the basic tenets of Austrian economics via public commentary, conferences, publications, and the internet - and amazingly so.

Pete's post is not condemning nor ignoring these efforts it's pointing out something entirely different. In the past the most prestigious free market economists were also extremely talented communicators. Maybe this is because of the appeal of free market theory in common sense terms, maybe its just a fluke of personality types, maybe it's because the profession awards hyper-specialization rather than grand theory or maybe its because their particular topics of interest had a greater mass appeal than today, who knows? In any case the norm is radically different today. While we have had free market types win the noble prize (Schelling) and appointed to the highest positions in academics (Schleiffer), they do not seem to have the communication skills or popularizing appeal of Hayek, Mises or Friedman.

Pete is merely making the argument that we need another heavy hitter of this type to have the same turn of tide as they had in the past. Current efforts may not suffice.


It is in no way necessary to have advanced knowledge of economics to persuade the public. Ok, we don't have communicators with the knowledge of Milton Friedman. Do we even need one? The Left does an excellent job with Al Gore who is a blundering idiot. Why do we need a Milton Friedman in particular?

What of Hazlitt, Rand, Bastiat, Mencken? I don't see where very advanced knowledge gives one a comparative advantage in communication. Because that's what we're really talking about communication not knowledge.

If you didn't notice, my post specifically attacked the overspecialization in academic journals and overwhelming importance placed on them in academia.

Further, what is the merit of climbing the heights of the ivory tower? If academia was as important as most professors would like to believe, we would have been living in pure communism decades ago. Many econ professors blindly focus on economics while forgetting that we've completely lost the fight in sociology, political science, philosophy, etc

Not to hurt anyone's feelings but academia is just not that important. It's a widely held myth. The research that really matters is being performed by lobbying groups making millions doing it while the professors get nothing for theirs. Which activity is the productive that causes real change? The one where the money flows or the one which is largely subsidized by the government. I don't see many econ professors driving porsches. That is because their research is largely useless and irrelevant. Anything is "significant" only within the tower and nowhere outside. The only thing professors are good for is teaching people who will utilize the knowledge to productive ends which is the last thing most professors ever focus.

One more thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with "overspecialization". There is something wrong when your methods are ineffectual. We need a special mix of academic and communicator no more than America needs a protectionist mix of steel and textile industries. The only question is whether the methods are effectual and would a mix for some reason be more effective? Micheal Moore and Al Gore say no.

P.S. I wonder when Pete the fan of Mises.org and Lewrockwell.com will add the sites to his links. Seems a bit odd to be missing on a site called Austrian Economists.

One more thing Tom DiLorenzo has been in the AER unlike some other people who have "aspired to climb the highest heights". There is a big difference in not being able to publish and not caring to because it is an ineffectual way of causing change.

Sorry put your name there by accident. That was me above for the record

Surely publishing in the Review of Austrian Economics is tantamount to climbing the highest heights of the ivory tower...


I'll make some empirical claims, maybe I'm wrong but I think I'm right.

1. Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek and Mises had more real influence upon not only peooples' ideas but on the actual shape and structure of society than did Hazlitt, Rand, Bastiat, or Mencken.

Are there a lot of libertarians who were turned on by the ideas of the latter? Of course. Have they significantly turned the tide of history to embrace free trade - not nearly as much as Friedman alone.

2. If Hazlitt, Rand, Bastiat, or Mencken were around today they would be college professors and strive for the highest positions possible. Why? Because that is the best avenue for influencing the minds of the people who will change society in the future.

The great communicators of old took hold of the best communication channels of their days. They existed in highly engaged societies were people read newspapers, magazines, readers digests, etc and constantly debated ideas therein. Today very few people read even the most popular periodicals and they rarely publish heated debates concerning grand ideas. Where do these debates take place? On college campuses - places were it is becoming standard for everyone to attend. Those communicators of the past would not have passed up the opportunity for captive audiences of formative minds in favor of publishing novels or op - eds in sinking ship publications. If they did then they wouldn't have influenced as many people in today's society.

3. We could go back and forth arguing whether I am over emphasizing the role of universities on ideas or you are underestimating but the same can be applied to the popular outlets that you seem to favor. Where is the great payoff? What significant events of social change have been galvanized solely by communicative resources?

PS I never claimed that anyone lacked any abilities in fact my post explicitly said I meant no offense on those margins. And I described the process as a choice and not a constraint.


You are simply taking as given that these people make real changes. (although there is proof for Milton Friedman) I already explained how you can see where the real changes are taking place. Follow the money. Lobbyists know how to change things. This is a clear objective analysis. Who gets paid to produce change. If they are continuing to be paid, they must be changing something.

I know that's what you've been told from 5 years at Mason publish in journals, get up in academia, and present papers at mainstream conferences.

Step outside the box for a second and dare ask yourself does this really cause any change?

We should talk back and forth about which method is the best because it is important that is if you want to produce change.

Where is the proof Hayek or Mises caused real change? certainly in academia, there was a change but did this ever transfer to policy. Show me. Don't just take it as a given.

Also explain political science and sociology. They are completely on the left. Where is their "vast" influence that should be present? (Last time I checked markets are still relatively free)

You're just repeating blank statements:

"Because that is the best avenue for influencing the minds of the people who will change society in the future." How is it the best?

"had more real influence upon not only peooples' ideas but on the actual shape and structure of society" Where's your proof?

Areas where communicative efforts were excellent include environmentalism, communism, and labor movements. These were spread by the lay man with great effectiveness even after being defeated academically. All of our graphs and rationalizations have still been unable to quench these fires for the very reason that they are spread by the layman and broad communication.

Imagine if you became a professor at Harvard and had 10 AER publications. How does this change the world? And then ask yourself, how would it change the world, if you wrote a weekly article in the top read newspaper in the country that not only gets read by millions of people but by politicians, their advisers, their lobbyists, and their constituents?

Or what about a libertarian-minded Bill o'Rielly type. You really think being a professor at an Ivy League school has more influence than him?

The major newspapers and writers got us into Iraq and Afghanistan without even a question. Anyone who objected was unpatriotic and yet you ask what major changes could been done through communicative ways? Communication to the public makes or breaks EVERY single war.

P.S. You also said early that the Mises Institute has set itself to "popularizing" ideas. How do you thing anything will change by focusing on obscurity? Ideas in obscurity have no Consequences.

One more thing, we've had these ideas for a long time. No one out there is on the fence because an academic article on market process in the 16th century Germany hasn't been written. No one who is still against markets needs just one more example from an academic journal. There is overwhelming evidence already that the market works.

We already have the ideas. Let's spread them. We haven't effectively communicated the things we already have.

Oh yeah, there is also this gentleman Noam Chomsky who is the most cited author in the world last I heard.

Let's just say most of those citations aren't on his linguistic work


Yes a newspaper has more readers than a scholarly journal, but your making the wrong comparison. Compare the entire scope of activities between an academic and a communicator. I'm not just talking about publishing in journals, I'm talking about the entire process of publishing, teaching, researching and educating on the one hand, compared to communication through opinion editorials on the other. The average newspaper article has thousands of more readers than the average journal publication. But if you think they hold more influence than professors you should ask yourself how many people you've met who have changed their worldview based on something they read in a newspaper. Compare that to how many people attribute their intellectual development to inspiring teachers or great thinkers. The outlets your talking about are predominantly consumption goods. People like you and I read them, when we agree we cheer, when we disagree we boo and hiss. Students in a class room are self-sorted - they are there to learn. Now we can complain about the lowering quality of students in recent years, but I think those complaints are bogus.

I'm shocked to hear this from you of all people - a Walter Block student. Go ahead and ask Walter, who's minds have you had more influence upon? I think his students have been more influenced than his editorial readers (he's written vastly more op eds btw, as he is a step in the direction Pete is talking about scholar + communicator). Also despite the numerical disparity between students he's had as formal students compared to the hundreds a year he sees at conferences, I'll bet the former have stayed more active and more in touch with him and his ideas than the latter.

I don't think Bill Oreilly is very influential, I'd argue that the majority of his viewers already agree with him when they watch and very few people actually change their minds based on anything he says.

Where's the proof that scholars matter? The recent trends of international markets becoming more open to international trade is a testament. Friedman was crucial to this process. To pull out Friedman alone isn't fair as his motivational project was spawned by Hayek who was motivated by Mises. As a suggestion you should watch Commanding Heights.

Oh I absolutely agree that teaching matters a lot like Walter does especially. But as I said in my second post, teaching seems to be the last thing professors focus on. They try to have the least amount of classes with the least amount of office time and focus instead on academic journals and their own projects. A professor who truly teaches has immense influence but how many really make an effort to teach maybe 10-20%

But as far as academic journals go, they're an abyss of time and creativity. Block is a great example. Nothing has been more influential of Block's writing than Defending the Undefendable that he wrote in grad school.

Teaching has great influence. Hence we need to see more teaching, more office hours, a focus on students, instead of a focus journals.

I also think we need to give students more direction. Political science teachers at Loyola as I remember would get people into non-profit groups and government jobs after graduation. They would help them get jobs on political campaigns. We don't give much direction to the students. A better game plan is needed encouraging students to go into lobbying, government, even teaching high school

"The only thing professors are good for is teaching people who will utilize the knowledge to productive ends which is the last thing most professors ever focus [on]." Here's my quote from earlier


I agree that Walter's most influential work is Defending the Undefendable, BUT its short sighted to say "Walter wrote that in grad school and it's a popular book therefor research and scholarly journals are not important." Look at the advertisements from the book's first release in the seventies. Yes, Walter was a lowly grad student but he garnered attention from Hayek and several other big shots, in promoting the book. Walter wasn't just any graduate student he was writing under Gary Becker. The credibility that he earned through rigorous research and application of sound economics earned him a reputation for excellence. People were turned on by the book because he was a talented scholar and a clear writer without the former I doubt it would have gotten off the ground as much as it did.

Do you really think the average person who reads Defending the Undefendable needs to know Block's dissertation adviser or his academic journals. Once again for the millionth time, does anyone care about Al Gore's credentials as an environmentalist or Micheal Moore's? As long it says you have a Ph.D preferably from a good school and you teach is enough. Also the book was written when Walter had what one publication.

You're once again treating journals like magical fairy dust that if sprinkled fantastically creates change with no direct connection.

People read the book because it was a good book not because of his publications. There are plenty of professors who have vastly more journal publications and better reputations whose books no one reads. Apply your own idea to other professors and you quickly realize the fallaciousness of your views.


No one is treating credentials as fairy dust. Again your complaints expose that you don't understand the purpose of pete's original post. Credentials are necessary but not sufficient to implement change. This is not a discussion of some contest between academics on one side and communicators on another. It is a call for credentialed economists to be more engaged in spreading ideas. Something you obviously agree with, but you change the debate when you deny that publication in respectable journals has any influence. I'm merely saying that it does and that it helps to buttress the influence of popularized communications (who's influence you grossly over-estimate).

If you truly believe your position on the matter to be true than I would suggest you drop out of graduate school immediately. Don't spend another second reading or studying economics in order to obtain credentials. Don't strive to expand the science with new perspectives. Get a blog and go to town.

Over the course of the next twenty years you blog and write op eds. I'll research, teach, lecture, travel, publish in refereed journals and write op eds. We will both keep a list of names and contact information of people who will be willing to accredit us with "changing their minds on matters of economics and politics." Who ever has the shorter list pays the other say a thousand dollars. Hell say ten thousand dollars. What do you say?


I specifically said that credentials as a Ph.D at a school matter but journals do not and then your defense is that I don't acknowledge credentials.

"As long it says you have a Ph.D preferably from a good school and you teach is enough."

"You're once again treating journals like magical fairy dust that if sprinkled fantastically creates change with no direct connection."

You see where I say journals.....did I write "credentials" there??? No sure doesn't look like it to me

And I also said teaching was great but you try to bring that up again as if I'm saying it doesn't matter. I specifically said it matters. Want to try to actually attack my arguments?

"Oh I absolutely agree that teaching matters a lot like Walter does especially"

I plan on teaching, researching, and writing for popular avenues. Ask Walter Williams how that's going for him.

I don't see why you're getting your panties in a wad by someone suggesting writing obscure academic articles that no one reads is not the best way.

How many journal publications do you have out? Three last time I checked on your website.

P.S. Only an overly egotistical person would go around keeping a list of people with their contacts who they converted. If you can think of a better way of measuring this, I just might agree and raise the bargain.

A side note:

For the billionth time, you fail to address my examples of Al Gore and Micheal Moore.

You said: "Credentials are necessary but not sufficient to implement change. "

Obviously not in their cases

One more thing, I welcome new perspectives and if someone has something truly new that others in academia need to know, write in the best journal you can.

But the VAST majority of academic articles are applying old ideas to new things. Look how the market works here or there. Or the market fixes this situation or that situation. But there's nothing really new about it


To me the Moore and Gore examples are no different from the O'Reilly one. Sure they get a lot of viewers but they don't produce lasting change on the tides of history. When policies are on the docket they don't sight those documentaries. Again those who agree go in and they agree when they come out. I've never talked to anyone who has said I believed X until I saw that movie by Michael Moore, now I believe Y. These examples, are examples of people expressing trends that already exist.

You say a good school is enough. How do good schools to separate bad without research and publications? Being a good professor means publishing - other things too - but it means publishing. Who cares how great of a speaker or enthusiastic someone is unless they really know what they are talking about and can offer advice and assistance for their students to pursue their career goals? Too often are teachers on one or the other side. Either people are dynamic and fun, but they never publish so they can't open doors for you nor do they have any idea where more research needs to be done. Or they are research-a-holics and are too aloof to students. I agree with you on this, but that's another interpretation of Pete's original post. A call for balance.

Once again your pointing to people who support my case not yours. Go ahead and ask Walter Williams. "Professor Williams would you have been as successful of a communicator of economics and liberty without having produced high quality research and publications? If we went back in time and erased all the peer reviewed articles from your CV what would the remainder look like?"

I never claimed to be the ideal example of a publishing machine, writing is a learning process that I continue to struggle with. But despite the fact that my lowly three articles appeared in journals rather than popular media I have been contacted several times by readers to discuss the arguments therein. I've been asked to field interviews for news articles, and most recently requested to advise and sit for an interview in a documentary.

These were rare but more than I've ever had when I published in popular outlets or blogged. In popular print I never get people saying wow you changed my mind or can I clarify your arguments? I get two responses, they either say "!@#$% off" or "heck yeah." Don't get me wrong I'm happy for the readership, and even happier for the feedback, even the negative, but that process is not a learning process. Nor is it promoting change.

My panties aren't in a twist and I take no hard feelings to your disagreement. But I do think your perspective on this topic is not only wrong but hazardous. It will harm not only your career but also your success as a communicator of liberty and economics.

It's this last point that I want to hound you on the most that's why I recommend the bet. I wasn't trying to be vein or arrogant by keeping track. I just want you to think about success or failure on your own terms and the associated probabilities. I still can't think of any better tangible way to track successful influence. If you can think of something better the offer still stands though I'd prefer you admit that you'll be more successful in accomplishing your own goals by publishing quality academic research even if it is only to gain credibility when writing your popular material.

Guys, let me break up the argument for a second with a little anecdote about the influence an academic can have. It is not only the direct teaching that influences people; it is the development of a research program.

Perhaps Samuelson's greatest influence came from the hundreds and hundreds of grad students that read his work and subsequently pursued his research program in graduate school, both under him and other like minded economists. Not too many people pursue "Austrian" research programs. although more people seem to be attracted to it recently, and it is great that a place like GMU is friendly towards Austrians.

and Vedran, i can't help but say that you are not credibly trying to understand Daniel's arguments. Its way to easy to search through a post and quote a piece of text that does not really indicate his meaning. Insulting the number of articles? Obscure? Obviously bloody obscure articles is not what Dan is talking about; he is talking about trying to influence academics, and ultimately what is taught in universities. Thats a low blow, rediculous.


First off how would I be insulting three articles, I only have two myself? That would be an insult to myself even more so. Three articles is great for a graduating Ph.D; plenty have none. The achievements that came along with them are equivalently impressive. Far more than I expected from the articles and I'm glad Dan told me about them.

Second, I fully understand Dan's argument. I'm simply asking for proof. Where are these people reading today's academic journals who then turn against everything they've studied before. I haven't met them. In fact, I think it is far easier to convert someone in undergraduate and get them to go to graduate school then it is to convince someone already with a Ph.D or someone in graduate school of your position. These people have already invested a lot of human capital into a certain position. It's really hard to convince them no matter how good your academic article is.

I agree that there is this process of knowledge production that I think you will find in agreement as it follows.

1. A Mises or Hayek and other professors manufacture significant ideas.

2. These ideas are further spread through teaching by lesser professors who are good and very smart people but just not a Hayek or Mises.

3. Students taught by these professors further spread these ideas through becoming journalists, politicians, government officials, lobbyists, etc. (professors can themselves fill this role as I suggested)

4. Common guy who is in general favor of these ideas learns about them through publications that reflect his mindset in magazines, news channel, and websites.

5. This guy tells his friends who may not have the same viewpoint about the ideas.

6. Societies viewpoint slowly changes

Dan's argument as the usual for journals is that we should contribute to step 1 because this filters down to everything else.

My argument is: Yes, we can contribute to step 1 but I think that we've done pretty well in step 1. We have good ideas and it seems the ideas that are being added on are adding a little to the body of ideas but not much more. Dan believes we are failing in step one. I believe we did great in step one but have instead failed at 2 and 3.

Perhaps I have been too harsh by saying publishing is useless. I meant more has much smaller returns for hour of effort.

I agree completely that knowledge ultimately must come from academia, but just that step 1 is a place where we are facing diminishing marginal returns.

Well my official plan Dan is to do academic articles and then try to churn out 5 to 10 popular articles on the same topic. Killing two birds with one stone.

But besides that may I say that I'm impressed by the reaction for your academic articles. Let me tell you some of my bigger successes from writing online popular articles. Writing online is hit or miss. Sometimes people just can't get enough of you. Sometimes, you get one link and one e-mail. You may have simply just been unlucky. I encourage you to give it another try.

I will say that not a lot of people get converted by articles but I have gotten a few "thanks for writing lewrockwell.com it converted me etc." This doesn't happen often and it's not why I write more on this later. There are also, "I showed everyone I know this article emails which happen quite often actually"

So, I've had about 30-40 online articles and here is the best stuff that's come of it:

Offered a job at minor investment magazine.

Article read in entirety on the Rush Limbaugh Show.

Article used as chapter in book "Family Opposing Viewpoints"

Contributed a chapter to Ron Paul's first ever biography. "Ron Paul: A Life" coming out in September. I think that might have a couple of sales.

Part of article used in James D. Miller's upcoming econ texbook, Microeconomics.

Part of article used in our own Tyler Cowen's book Discover Inner Economist

Wrote an article about Bono's clothing line. Bono's public relations team had to make a statement in response

Had articles translated into several languages and posted on think tank websites in various countries including Serbia, Poland, Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Then there are other things such as even being admitted to GMU had a lot more to do with my writing than my GPA. As well as getting to go to various conferences. It had a lot to do with my writing.

Now on a separate issue of change.

I completely agree with you that the people going to see Micheal Moore movies are the ones that already think that way. As I said rarely does anyone tell me that they were converted with lewrockwell.com or mises.org (but it does happen....maybe for 0.001% of readers or something) We're in complete agreement on this.

However, Hayek doesn't have special powers either. If Micheal Moore can't do it, neither can Hayek outside a class environment. The people that are interested in reading are also already believe in his stuff usually.

So what is the point of writing? My idea is centered around the Sierra Clubs strategy that I learned while canvassing door to door signing people up and getting donations for the environmental cause. (foolish young kid I was)

They told me:

"Don't waste your time trying to convert people. Identify the people who are on our side. Bring them together with information. Make them take action"

A convert is little good. A convert who takes action is powerful.

A believer goes into a Micheal Moore movie already converted. However, they come out ready to give money to Obama, put a yard in their sign, and talk to their friends about the issues. That is the goal of the movie.

The articles and communication give information to people who are already on this side. These people then armed with good information go convince their friends. The better articles I write the better ammunition I can give them in a debate with friends and family.

My article doesn't change anything. The person changes other people on a personal one to one approach. Articles give the knowledge and the fire to do this.

All Austrian professors are good at teaching. But think of how many people we knew at Loyola who Walter converted by they decided not to take action.

Writing popular articles is not about converting but making people take action. Action leads to change.

oh by the way Dan, I got you a graduation present. Are you going to be around Enterprise third floor at a particular time tomorrow?


I think that our positions are much closer now then they were when we began this discussion, or at least I understand to be now. As for the marginal rates of return I still think that publishing in higher quality academic outlets will have exponential returns for popularizing your other writings. Like a multiplier effect. Just take any prominent academic slash communicator Williams/Block etc. and ask would they be more influential where they are or at Harvard? I think the latter.

As for the gift you shouldn't have but yes, I should be around enterprise most of today.

Yeah I think the blog format sometimes cause conflict because people have to communicate particulars in shorter format. When in reality, when each person writes down entirely what they mean the difference is small.

The comments to this entry are closed.