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The Rebirth of Classical Political Economy: Pedro Schwartz
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In their diverse ways, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, James Buchanan and Ronald Coase can be seen as leaders of the group of economists who helped reestablish the philosophy of freedom, economic and political, after the drift of the first part of the 20th century. I could bring more names into the fray but I will take these five champions as the representatives of different ways of restating the philosophy of the free market. They did not see eye to eye on everything, especially in matters of methodology. But this group of Nobel laureates is rightly seen as having brought about real progress in economic theory and policy. They were not the clique of 'neo-liberal' ideologues that market haters say they are. Indeed, one could follow William Coleman in glorying in the 'neo-liberal' moniker, so as to show pride in what they and their many followers have contributed to the science and application of political economy.1 I still incline to saying 'classical liberals'.


I am no eclectic in questions of method nor indeed in matters of economics. I do think that social reality is many-faceted.16 I do not see why studies of aspects of social life by economists such as Gary Becker or Milton Friedman should be excluded on principle by strict followers of the Austrian School. Economists should be free to make the assumption they think most productive to explain social phenomena and see how many miles they can run with them. The basis should be individualistic and the object to find the truth—if possible. The choice I have made of the five rescuers of freedom economics shows that I deny that there is a single orthodox methodology in social questions: philosophical reasoning as in Hayek, statistical criticism and historical revision as in Friedman, microeconomic explanation and prediction as in Becker, democratic individualism in Buchanan, or the new institutional theorizing initiated by Coase should not be ruled out of court just because they do not fit our methodological preconceptions—as long as they hold to strict individualism and give fruitful results.


Karl Popper, who was the outstanding theorist the hypothesis and falsification methodology of science [as Milton Friedman recognized in his (1998), pages 214-6], did on no account propose the excision of all metaphysics from scientific inquiry.