Austrian Economists and the mainstream
By Arnold Kling
Pete Boettke highlights that Frederic Sautet asks, Why Aren’t Austrians at the Discussion Table [Our thanks to Pete Boettke for correcting this attribution in a comment below.]
• H1: We are simply delusional as to what Austrian economics (AE) can explain. It explains far less than what we believe.
• H2: AE contributions are very important, but they have already been incorporated into the mainstream (this is what Gary Becker told me once).
• H3: AE is a school of chiefs with no soldiers. These chiefs are perceived to have lots of wisdoms but no conjectures about the world that could be tested by the community.
• H4: Verbal logic is not adequate to explain economic relationships. In the absence of formal logic, one cannot really test propositions. In other words, syntactic logic matters more than semantic logic.
• H5: Science is not about absolutes, but about refutation. If AE is about (apodictic) certainty, then it is not a science, but a pastime.
• H6: AE (i.e. praxeology to use Mises’ term) is the only correct approach to social science, but because of their belief in H1 to H5, other economists don’t get it.
The hypothesis that comes closest to my point of view is (H2), but I do not believe that mainstream economics has gone nearly far enough. Ultimately, I think that a lot of Austrian ideas will rise to the top in economics, but perhaps without giving Austrian economists a seat at the table.
Boettke alludes to my view, which is that Austrian economists themselves do not want to compromise or work with mainstream economics. When someone agrees with many but not all Austrian ideas, many Austrian economists think that this deserves not encouragement but denunciation. You don’t get a seat at the table that way.