Per Bylund raises a fundamental point in the comments of Steve Horwitz's post objecting to the language I used in my 10 propositions characterizing Austrian economics. Per is a perceptive scholar and his argument is one I am in 100% agreement with, which is why I stress to my students the importance of the first 100 pages of Mises's Human Action. I also stress to make this point about the difference between human action and robotic choice, Kirzner's discussion of openendedness, Shackle's discussion of the choice dilemma, Buchanan's "natural and artifactual man" as well as his classic Cost and Choice, and Lin Ostrom's APSA presidential address "A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Theory Theory of Collective Action." Bottom line: the approach to political economy that I pursue (inspired by Mises and Hayek) is one that is rational choice, but as if the choosers were human, and institutional analysis, but as if history mattered.
Human choice is not, as McCloskey has so colorfully put it through the years, not the same exercise as engaged in by our Korean jewish friend, Max U. But this was, I would argue, implicit in my 10 propositions. The emphasis on methodological individualism, subjectivism, and exchange means were are not dealing with robotic choice. But I made a mistake by leaving implicit the focus on human action, and should have made that explicit. I believe that a reading of the essays in The Handbook on Contemporary Austrian Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010) do a better job of making the point Per is making explicit, so I encourage readers to look at those essays in Part 1 by Tony Evans, Chris Coyne, and Virgil Storr, and the essay on subjectivism by Ed Stringham.
Now Per also says I don't mention methodology. Again this is implied. If you look at the proposition about the facts of the social sciences, and my discussion of it, some methods are ruled out of court explicitly. This by the way is also why I thought my implicit defense of Misesian human action was not so implicit --- but rule #1 of writing is that if a reader says something is unclear by definition it is unclear! Uncertainty, time, ignorance are all discussed in the 10 propositions, as is the non-neutrality of money, and the structure of production. So many of the ideas that Per points to as following from a human action, as opposed to maximizing agent, perspective are discussed throughout.
Anyway, Austrian economists, dare I say, good economists, deal with human action, not mechanical choice. We are not playing with puppets in toy economies, but trying to understand man in his human dilemma striving to achieve his goals, caught between alluring hopes and haunting fears, attempting to realize the gains from trade with others, etc.. As Menger put it, man is the alpha and the omega of economic analysis. The logic of action captures this, the pure logic of choice does not. Mises's first 100 pages of Human Action are required reading, or as I often say after someone has gotten very excited about the Beckerian approach, read Becker alongside of Shackle and attempt to reconcile them. The mind-quake that would result will produce Buchanan's "Natural and Artifactual Man" (which historically it did). And once you are there, you are back to the sort of emphasis on the open-endedness of human action that Mises was talking about in Human Action, and which Kirzner elaborated into a theory of the market process in Competition and Entrepreneurship and subsequent works.
Thanks Per for prodding me to make this discussion explicit, and I agree that it is the critical difference -- an economics of capable but fallible human beings is much different than an economics of flawless robots.