Thank you to many who have congratulated me on the Wall Street Journal profile. The real story obviously isn't about me, it is about the amazingly enthusiastic and talented students that I have had the honor to work with at GMU, and the amazingly supportive colleagues at GMU. I have at last count chaired 22 PhD dissertations, 19 are now teaching or working in a research position at various universities and colleges. If you count 2 additional students that are already in teaching positions, and have completed their dissertations but yet to defend, the count would be 24 PhD students with 21 of them in academia. That is just over the past 12 years.
How is that possible? When I was at NYU, I chaired no dissertations, though I served on quite a few. But less than 30% of those I served on ended up in teaching or research positions at colleges and universities. Ironically, NYU is a top 10 department; GMU is ranked 42nd. GMU has produced PhDs who are teaching at Carnegie Mellon, Penn, UC Santa Cruz, and research positions have been at Penn and also now at UC Berkley -- but none of these are my students. Among my former students, one is professor in the philosophy department at UVa, another is a professor in the poli sci department at Duke, and another is in a research position at the Development Research Institute at NYU. Another just finished a year where he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. These facts made me wonder, how is that possible?
The real difference between NYU and GMU is the support for the students and faculty interested in Austrian economics --- at NYU there wasn't much support outside of our core group (Kirzner, Rizzo and myself); at GMU the biggest names on the faculty --- Jim Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Vernon Smith, Richard Wagner, Tyler Cowen, Charles Rowley, Walter Williams --- all not only support, but actively encouraged students to pursue the ideas of Mises-Hayek-Kirzner-Rothbard as best as they can. What a difference that makes!
So the story is about Austrian economics in academia, not Austrian economics as a popular movement. I just happen to be in the right place at the right time, at GMU. And I believe wholeheartedly in the academic mission and try to work as best as I can to help students get through the dissertation process in a way that produces journal publications, and land the best academic job that they can find. But the bottom line is, we need to get people out in the academic world teaching and doing research on these great ideas from Mises-Hayek-Kirzner-Rothbard. I wish there were 20 different PhD programs similar to GMU, that are producing high quality academic scholarship from a variety of perspectives within the Austrian tradition. Unfortunately, there isn't.
I have no doubt that many individuals are doing a better job spreading Austrian ideas in the popular imagination, and I am sure that there are individuals that are producing better scholarship as judged by my peers in the economics profession. I never claimed otherwise. And, in fact, I have always tried to claim that judgments are always best left to one's peers, rather than self-assessment. And, I would like to add, I have tried to be fair in my own judgments of others within the Austrian movement and give credit where credit is due. But again, I am myopically focused on publications --- refereed publication; SSCI ranked journals preferred; or elite university presses. Again, this is all because of the advancement of Austrian ideas in the scientific literature of economics, not in the popular imagination. Perhaps advancing the ideas in the popular imagination requires something different than my admittedly myopic perspective. I don't know, but I am betting that for my purposes and that of my students we are going to keep pushing the academic mission. I don't want to show up on the Daily Show, nor do I want to appear on the Tonight Show, and I certainly do not want to run for political office. I also don't offer investment advice by predicting the next downturn in the economy or anticipating the next upswing. That is not the business I am in. Others have a comparative advantage in such activities, I don't.
I have also repeatedly claimed that I do not want to get involved in internet wars, nor do I believe that internet contributions on blogs, etc. are really helping us in the task that I do care about exclusively --- advancing the cause of Austrian economics within the economics profession and academia. I might be wrong. In fact, I am somewhat caught in a contradiction because I am using blogging to try to pursue my goals of academic advancement of Austrian economics. My only "defense" is that I try to cultivate a different type of conversation on this blog than what takes place on other Austrian oriented blogs, but I don't always get what I would like in terms of the discourse.
Which now brings me to a second point of clarification --- Coordination Problem is not the name of an economic approach, it is a question or puzzle; the entrepreneurial theory of the market process and the economics of relative price adjustment provides the answer or solution. For those familiar with the Austrian tradition, this should be obvious because we made explicit reference to Gerald O'Driscoll's brilliant discussion of F. A. Hayek's system of thought -- Economics as a Coordination Problem. O'Driscoll demonstrated in that work how Hayek's Austrian perspective provided critical insight into the problems of socialism, problems of Keynesianism, and also how the competitive market process worked to solve the coordination problem.
Our group here is pretty much in the Mises-Hayek-Kirzner branch of Austrian economics. There are other branches in contemporary Austrian economics --- Rothbardianism is one; Lachmannianism is another. We draw from both Rothbard and Lachmann in our work here, but there is no doubt that we are more in the Mises-Hayek-Kirzner approach. And, as has repeatedly been admitted, we mix into that approach the best insights from the UCLA property rights school, the Virginia tradition of pubic choice and political economy, the Bloomington approach of institutional analysis, and Coasean law and economics. And we are focused on modern problems that have attracted the attention of the top professional economists such as Acemoglu, Shleifer, Levitt, Easterly, etc. Of course, I am being remiss for not mentioning the monetary theories of Yeager, Clower, Leijonhufvud, etc. So if we are impure then so be it. We have our roots in the ideas of Mises-Hayek-Kirzner, but we are trying to develop those ideas in new directions to address new problems and think creatively about new applications.
One of those new directions is the study of the "road from serfdom". Since I have written two books -- Why Perestroika Failed and Calculation and Coordination, and have continued to publish several essays in the field of transitional political economy, I do not deny that we have some ideas about what to do. In fact, at a broad brush agenda I think you cannot do better than the summary provided by Murray Rothbard in America's Great Depression. But the application of Rothbard's broad brush agenda to specific circumstances raises other questions not only about time and place, but more importantly rules and institutional structures. Gerald O'Driscoll actually had an excellent comment to a post the other day specifically on this issue of rules and institutions. This is where Hayek and Buchanan have the most to offer. So I do think we have something valuable to say, but I also think we need to be more creative about what we have to say.
There are other things I would like to clarify, but this post is too long already. Hopefully, this might clear up some of the confusion that is out there -- assuming we are dealing with good faith intellectual exchange partners. At least this might be a start on a path toward mutual understanding.
Still reading this New Deal stuff, and here's some great lines from Walter Lippmann in The Good Society (p. 107), in the chapter on "Gradual Collectivism:"
[The gradual collectivist] thinks it absurd that a few oligarchs in the Kremlin or demagogic dictators in Berlin or Rome should pretend that their personal decisions are the comprehensive purposes of great nations. Yet the gradual collectivist, under the banner of popular sovereignty, believes in the dictatorship of random aggregations of voters. ... Thus by one fiction the gradual collectivist identifies passing majorities with the nation. By another fiction he treats the legislators as representative of the majorities which elected them. And finally, by a third fiction he pretends that the executive and administrative machine represents the will of the majority of the legislators.
For a conference this coming weekend, I'm reading a fascinating series of radio debates between Senator Robert Taft and Representative T. V. Smith that took place during the late 1930s. In the final installment, Taft is summing up his concerns about the New Deal. At one point he says the following, much of which could be applied to our current situation, especially with a double dip a distinct possibility. The italics are mine, as that section provides a tad more evidence for Bob Higgs's "regime uncertainty" argument, aside from any relevance they have for today. Here's Taft:
[The New Dealers] are willing to sacrifice individual freedom in order supposedly to improve the condition of the poor and increase their material welfare. But in this purpopse the policy has completely failed. There are more than 10,000,000 people unemployed today, and the largest relief expense this year, 10 years after the depression, than any in the history of the United States. Farm prices are lower than they have been for 6 years. Businessmen are discouraged and indignant. Deposits have piled up in the banks because rich and poor alike are afraid to put their time or money into private enterprise, because they fear that Government regulation will prevent success and Government taxation will take whatever profit there might be. The New Deal policy is the only one which has ever plunged us into a second depression before we were out of the first. If any policy leads backward and not forward, it is the policy of spending billions of borrowed money and piling up a tremendous debt for future generations to pay. A policy which leads inevitably to the bankruptcy and inflation of the currency will not only make the poor people poorer, but it is likely to force a socialism which will utterly deprive them of individual freedom.
This whole series of debates, which was reprinted as appendices in the Congressional Record, is really fascinating history.
No Googling. Who said the following (italics mine)?
The railroads were subsidized, sometimes by grants of money, oftener by grants of land; some of the most valuable oil lands in the United Sttes were granted to assist the financing of the railroad which pushed through the Southwest. A nascent merchant marine was assisted by grants of money, or by mail subsidies, so that our steam shipping might ply the seven seas. Some of my friends tell me that they do not want the government in business. With this I agree; but I wonder whether they realize the implications of the past. For while it has been American doctrine that the government must not go into business in competition with private enterprises, still it has been traditional particularly in Republican administrations for business urgently to ask the government to put at private disposal all kinds of government assistance. The same man who tells you that he does not want to see the government interfere in business - and he means it, and has plenty of good reasons for saying so - is the first to go to Washington and ask the government for a prohibitory tariff on his product. When things get just bad enough...he will go with equal speed to the United States government and ask for a loan...Each group has sought protection from the government for its own special interests, without realizing that the function of government must be to favor no small group at the expense of its duty to protect the rights of personal freedom and of private property of all its citizens.
Tomorrow's print edition of The Wall Street Journal will include a profile of my colleague and co-blogger Pete Boettke titled "Spreading Hayek, Spurning Keynes." The article is now posted online and can be read here.
The article focuses on how Pete is leading the Austrian revival through his tireless work in building the Austrian aspect of the Economics program at GMU, and through his mentoring and teaching of students who then enter the academy to teach and research Austrian ideas (you can see a list of Pete's former graduate students here). As Pete's wife Rosemary, who I should note is one of the most generous and kind people I know, puts it, Pete is "always on" when it comes to economics. The quote by Bruce Caldwell sums it up--Pete "has done more for Austrian economics...than any individual in the last decade." Indeed, Pete is a master teacher, mentor, fund raiser, and program builder. I should know; I have had the honor of having Pete as an undergraduate professor, graduate professor, mentor, and now as a full-time colleague.
Some may consider the Austrian program at GMU to be a "niche" program, but the reality is that GMU is the place for aspiring academics to seriously study Austrian economics if their goal is to engage the profession and advance Austrian economics, both in the academy and in public discourse. We have Pete Boettke to thank for that.
Please join me in congratulating Pete on the WSJ profile.
Addendum - As usual, co-blogger Steve beats me to the punch! Like Menger and Jevons...a simultaneous discovery!!
There is little I can add to it, so I'll just say that Pete is the subject of a Wall Street Journal feature on the resurgence of Austrian economics that just came out on the web this evening. It quite rightly puts Pete in the role of prime mover and ringleader of the last decade's growth in Austrian economics in academia. And it gives long-suffering Rosemary a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take some loving whacks at Pete in front of millions of readers.
My favorite bit is undoubtedly this:
Still, Mr. Boettke isn't too concerned with matters of style. More
folksy than formal, his commitment to economics, as his wife Rosemary
says, is "always on."
He has a tendency to ramble, interrupt and
use salty language. In between the dozen books and over 100 articles he
has written, he spends hours debating with students around his backyard
Often, when Mrs. Boettke needs him to run
errands, he makes students pile in the car with him to finish the
debate. He also has trouble closing down his inner economist.
Congrats to my bestest buddy and intellectual comrade in arms for the last 25 years. You have earned the accolades.
The Gulf Coast will be receiving a lot of media attention over the next week. It was 5 years ago on August 29th when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I started a research effort to study the rebuilding of New Orleans (physical plant, but more importantly the society and economy) almost immediately, and we had individuals on the ground gathering information very quickly.
An early summary of our work can be found in the Southern Economic Journal -- Download 2007_SEJ_PolEconSocKatrina But several academic papers and policy papers were produced by our research team at Mercatus between 2005-2010 which can be downloaded by following this link. In additional to traditional economics, we also collected an oral history of the efforts at community rebuilding and the reforming of civil society. Emily Chamlee Wright's The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery (Routledge, 2010). Emily's work is the outgrowth of hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours of analysis. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand this event and situate it in the social sciences. As Deirdre McCloskey points out about the work, Emily shows that economy is not a machine, and that social order is embedded in culture and civil society. To do this, McCloskey says, and to do this well, you need an "empirical yet Austrian economics" and Emily's work is the "sterling example" of this genre. There will be several more books and articles coming out of this project that are in this genre of ethnography and economic analysis, but Emily's is the first and more thorough-going treatment of this unusual synthesis. This was what Don Lavoie was trying to establish with the interpretive turn, and Emily's book, in many ways, is the fulfillment of Don's vision for a reconstructed political economy that put real humans with their purposes and plans, with their intentions and meanings, with the social relationships and shared intersubjective understandings.
Richard Ebeling has unearthed a very interesting column by Hayek from The Spectator in 1945. The context was as a response to some of the critics of The Road to Serfdom. As Richard noted in his email to us, this presages Hayek's discussion of principles and expediency in Law, Legislation, and Liberty. It is also very relevant to our own times. You should be able to click on the PDF link below to download it. Thank you Richard for sharing this with us.