Report on the Austrian Economics Conference, 1975
By David Henderson
Many people have written about the first Austrian economics conference, the one held in 1974. I remember it well and have many reminiscences. But that’s not my purpose here. In going through a box of correspondence this morning, I found a carbon copy [Yes, we actually did use them] of a letter I wrote to a friend. I wrote on the back, “excerpt from letter to Marilyn.” I think it was Marilyn Flowers.
I’ll leave out the bad parts–the parts where I was critical of various attendees–and quote two paragraphs, one on Emil Kauder and one on Friedrich Hayek. Both attended.
Have you ever heard of Emil Kauder? He’s an old Austrian who teaches at the University of South Florida. He seemed senile to most of, until one night when everyone was listening to [Leland] Yeager claiming that politicians should have principles, and Kauder started shouting to get attention. “No, no,” he said, “when politicians have principles. you end up with Adolf the Unspeakable.” He then told us about how he had been the liaison man between the army and the Socialist Workers’ Party in a plot to overthrow Hitler. I asked him if he had been a socialist. He answered, No, monarchist.” He told us that we shouldn’t try to overthrow the government until they try to destroy liberty. “But if it’s just a matter of the milk contract at the local hospital . . . .” Kauder then went on to tell us stories about some of the great Austrians, e.g., Schumpeter. His stories were not old man’s stories. He had a vitality in the way he told them and his stories were concise. He generally would concentrate on telling us about the physical characteristics of the people. He described Schumpeter as looking like a Javanese god. Someone asked him if Schumpeter was German-born. Kauder said, “No, Austrian as apple strudel.” He was a chivalrous old gentleman. When someone toasted him, he bowed.
[Current day note: Writing this reminded me of another story he told that, for some reason, I didn’t put in the letter. He was describing a woman–I think Schumpeter’s daughter–and he described her face the way an artist might.]
Hayek was a lot of fun. He was spirited, much more so, I am told, than before he won the Nobel Prize. He had gone to a teaching post at Salzburg where no one had heard of him and ended up teaching a principles course there. He was down in the dumps, and his physical state also suffered. His wife pushed him to do the first volume of Law, Legislation, and Liberty. Then when he got the Nobel Prize, he became a new man. I noticed that when people would get more libertarian than him in their pronouncements, he would smile broadly. I think he likes the idea of being out-libertarianised, simply because it’s never happened. He told me that Buchanan had told him that he had got his interest in public choice from Hayek (from reading The Road to Serfdom) but I’m a little skeptical. He also claims, by the way, to have encouraged his student, John Hicks, to develop the notion of indifference curves.