My Latest Paper on Austrian Economics - and Why I Keep Writing Them
By Bryan Caplan
I’m a critic of Austrian economics. I’ve published general critiques (see here, here, and here), and questioned their positions on economic calculation and the impossibility of socialism (see here and here). Today I just submitted a new piece to the Review of Austrian Economics, entitled “Mises’ Democracy-Dictatorship Equivalence Theorem: A Critique.” Here I explore and criticize Ludwig von Mises’ claim that dictatorships, like democracies, have to be highly responsive to public opinion.
Fair question: If I’m so critical of Austrian economics, why do I bother?
The answer: I respect the Austrians as adversaries. Even when they’re dead wrong, they’re intellectually stimulating, try to answer important questions, and write well. Though often misguided, the Austrians get me thinking, and hold my attention. And once in a while, they get things very right.
A corollary of my respect for the Austrians is my belief that their movement is wasting precious libertarian human capital. Perhaps half of all hard-core libertarian economists are Austrians. If I’m right that they’re (largely) wrong, we libertarian economists are engaging the mainstream with one arm tied behind our backs. Strategically speaking, the purpose of my anti-Austrian writings is to convince them to reallocate their human capital in more productive directions. If I didn’t think the Austrians had a lot of potential, I wouldn’t be trying to convert them.
Austrians may take all this as a backhanded compliment. But it’s actually the opposite.