One of our readers asked the following: "Sorry if this hijacks the thread, but among the living Austrian
economists, who would you say have had the most impact on the
mainstream of the discipline? And has their influence been due to
uniquely Austrian insights or could their most influential work have
been done by a non-Austrian?"
I didn't want the question addressed in the comments section where it would be burried. Instead, I thought we should discuss this as a separate post. Of course, the answer here has some obvious objective criterion --- academic appointment, journal placement, social science citation impact. On the other hand, we have to recognize that there are serious problems of (a) timing, (b) thin market fields in the discipline, and (c) truth tracking independent of scientific popularity. What I mean by that is that a truly original and bold idea often meets resistence and comes to be appreciated only over time. For example, James Buchanan's work in public choice and constitutional political economy took some time before its influence was felt and even then much of the academic establishment in economics remained woefully innocent of the implications of Buchanan's revolutionary ideas. Similarly, if a scholar works outside of the "thick market" fields of IO, monetary theory, or public economics, he may in fact rise to the top of the field but not necessarily land in the top position or place their work in the top general journals. Finally, there is still the case that a scholar outside of what is currently "mainstream" may in fact make a fundamental contribiution to economic science that will not be recognized until the end of his life and not necessarily in his lifetime. It is a mistake to make too much out of Ludwig von Mises's outsider status --- he was an internationally recognized figure in Europe prior to WWII, and after WWII he published his treatise with Yale, it was reviewed in the NYT, he was named Distinguished Fellow of the AEA, etc. So Mises was a well-known figure in the discipline of economics. On the other hand, he was in my opinion probably the most under-appreciated economist and political economist of the 20th century since I would argue he was that century's greatest economic mind. But we should be careful because to say someone is recognize as a great economist and international leader of classical liberal economic thought (which was definitely Mises's status) is not being assigned to the scientific dustbin just because he is not recognized for being the greatest economist.
With those qualifiers in place, let me take a stab at answering Mike's question. Obviously, the #1 Austrian to meet the objective criteria would be F. A. Hayek. He held appointments at LSE and U of Chicago, published in the AER and JPE, won the Nobel Prize, and remains to this day an influential economist and social thinker based on citations. Look at recent Nobel Prize winners such as Douglass North and Ned Phelps and how they rely on Hayek's work to discuss the dynamic market process. Hayek's influence is profoundly felt even in the work of 2007 Nobel prize winners and the theory of mechanism design. The knowledge issues Hayek raises are uniquely Austrian, and escape the intellectual grasp of both perfect information economics and imperfect information economics. And Hayek's works such as The Constitution of Liberty and Law, Legislation and Liberty has impacted greatly the "institutions rule" literature that has captured the intellectual imagination of some of the best and brightest currently practicing economics and political economy.
#2, Israel Kirzner and his work on entrepreneurship and the dynamic market process. Again, Kirzner taught throughout his career at New York University --- one of the top 20 departments in the world in economics consistently throughout his career, often in the top 10. He published papers in the JPE and Journal of Economic Literature, and his books are with University of Chicago Press. His influence has been felt in economics and management studies. His work on the dynamic entrepreneurial market process is beyond the intellectual grasp of traditional models of perfect competition and even those of imperfect competition markets.
#3, Lawrence White and George Selgin and their work on free banking and altenative monetary institutions. Again, they have published in the JEL, AER, EJ, etc. They have published their books with major publishers. They have taught at NYU, GMU and U of Georgia --- all PhD programs.
#4, Roger Garrison and his work on the history of economic thought and the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle. Garrison has been in the AER and other top journals. He has taught at Auburn throughout his career. He is internationally recognized as the leading representative of the ABCT.
#5, Mario Rizzo his work in law and economics and the philosophy of the social sciences. Rizzo has taught at NYU throughout his career, his law and economics articles have been published in the JLS and top law reviews, and his books have been published with top tier presses. Rizzo's (along with Glen Whitman) current work on paternalism promises to have a major impact.
#6, Bruce Caldwell earned a niche as the professions leading interpreter of Popper and of Hayek. This has led to significant surveys in the JEL on both thinkers. But Caldwell has also been able to publish methodological work in the AER --- a major accomplishment. And now Caldwell is moving to Duke, pehraps the leading university in history of economic thought in the world.
OK, that would be my list of scholars who have had the most influence in the profession, and have done so in a way that is uniquely Austrian.