As of January 1, 2010, we are changing our name to "Coordination Problem". This name change is symbolic as well as substantive. The term "Austrian economics" has become as much a hindrance to the advancement of thought as a convenient shorthand to signal certain methodological and analytical presumptions. We started this blog with a clear purpose to emphasize ongoing research in the scientific literature, and developments in higher education as related to economics and political economy. As a group we are committed to methodological individualism, market process theory, institutional analysis, and spontaneous order theorizing. And while we do not shy away from policy discussions, we do not identify with any political party or specific political movement.
As an experiment, over the past six months we have been tracking the use of the term Austrian economics in the news and in the blogosphere. Less systematically, we have also been listening carefully to the use of the term among fellow professional economists and what they think the label means. The results do not fit our intention. Google alert, for example, inevitably points to financial advice or libertarian politics, rarely to the research paradigm of F. A. Hayek, never to the scholarship of Israel Kirzner. Mises is often mentioned, but Mises the ideological symbol, not Mises the analytical economist. The "Austrian" theory of the business cycle is mentioned, but only in relationship to anti-fed politics and hard money advocacy, and never as an ongoing research program among professional economists.
These trends are not recent, but have been constant throughout our respective careers. We have always been among those who attempted to offer resistance to this use of the term. It has become evident to us that our efforts have been futile. Rather than resist the pure ideological identification, we are choosing to devote our efforts elsewhere. The name Austrian economics has been lost as a focal point for a tradition of economic scholarship, and is now a focal point for something else. We have to let it go.
Why "Coordination Problem"? The answer to this question has its origins in the seminal work of the 1970s development of market process theory and Gerald O'Driscoll's brilliant depiction of F. A. Hayek's research program in Economics as a Coordination Problem. The contributors to this blog are convinced that O'Driscoll put his finger on the central unifying theme in Hayek's long and diverse research career. But our intent goes well beyond Hayek studies, we are convinced that Mises and Hayek identified in the 1930s through the 1950s the central elements of sound economic and social analysis: the problem of economic calculation and the division of knowledge; the cultural and institutional conditions which make possible social cooperation under the division of labor; and the arranging (and re-arranging due to changing circumstances) of heterogeneous and multi-specific capital goods into a coherent production plan that must mesh with diverse consumer demands. The role of money, interest, and prices in market analysis all point back to the central theme of the discipline --- the coordination of economic activities through time that results in the "wealth of nations".
As we head into a new decade in a new century, we believe it is time to think anew the best way to communicate the animating ideas of our shared research and teaching interests. Adam Smith represented the Scottish Enlightenment, but not all economists who followed Smith's intellectual path were "Scottish"; and the same is true we contend for those following in the intellectual footsteps of Menger, Mises and Hayek who represented the great contributions of the Austrian school of economics.
We hope by focusing on the substantive proposition of coordination (including what it means, how it emerges, and what institutional arrangements facilitate or retard it, among many other important research questions) we can avoid fruitless debates over intellectual heritage and intellectual purity, and instead open up the discourse to a wider set of economic thinkers. As we said: "New Thinking for a New Decade."
Please update the name on your blogroll to "Coordination Problem" and the url to read www.coordinationproblem.org.