Rename Austrian Economics?
By Arnold Kling
Let me delineate a set of economists, different from but highly inclusive of the Austrian communities. First, consider only those seeing The Distinction between voluntary and coercive as analytically crucial; these economists, inevitably, are wise to the statist/collectivist instincts and superstitions of society at large (and of academia, in particular). Second, of those, consider only those who are wise to the intellectual poverty and foolishness of exalting statistical significance and equilibrium model building to premier and even exclusive scientific status. Now, what to call the resulting set of comparative-institutions economists? Here I shall call them “spontaneous order economists.”
To which Pete Boettke replies,
I fully support a general movement in the social sciences to promote spontaneous order. But in making his case he understates the contribution that the Austrian theory of the entrepreneurial market process, as well as other purely economic theory points concerning money and capital that are identified with the Austrian tradition
I do not want to describe myself as an Austrian, for a number of reasons.
1. I do not wish to commit myself to the Austrian theory of the business cycle. I do not wish to commit myself to any theory of the business cycle.
2. I do not wish to be confined to the methodological straitjacket of Austrian economics. Every once in while, one of those dreaded neoclassical empiricists does something interesting. The World Bank Study of the intangible sources of wealth, for example.
3. I agree with Klein that the term “Austrian” has come to suggest a devotion to a group of thinkers born in the nineteenth century. There is an element of necrophilia that I find off-putting.
I do not think that those of us who focus on property rights, government failure, entrepreneurship, and innovation necessarily need a name for what we are doing. The key will be to continue to pose interesting questions and provide credible answers.