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.