I got excited about the ideas in the Austrian School of Economics through my undergraduate teacher Hans Sennholz. He changed my life by introducing me to the books I needed to read to continue to learn and deepen my understanding of the economy and the science that studies purposive human action within that context. Sennholz didn't stress the universal applicability of praxeology to all human endeavors, he focused primarily on the economy and economic policy. My penchant for economic reasoning beyond the realm of the market context was picked up elsewhere. In rethinking my undergraduate position, I imagine it was one laid out by Rothbard in Man, Economy and State, chapter 1, p. 64. Nevertheless, from Sennholz I learned about economic theory and economic policy analysis, and he inspired me enough that I wanted to study economics in-depth and become an economics teacher.
In graduate school, Don Lavoie taught me not only about books, but how to read those books. I mean that sincerely, I didn't know how to read until Lavoie taught me. He stressed a critical engagement with texts that was physical as well as intellectual. It is why to this day it is hard for me to switch completely over to e-books and e-files for my reading, though convenience necessitates such a move so I am trying. Still, Don with red pen in one hand, and book in other taught me how to read over the course of 2 years of intensive reading groups outside of the classroom that ranged from classics in Austrian economics to philosophy of science to aesthetics.
Along with me for that ride through self-improvement was my best friend Dave Prychitko. Dave first helped me learn economics as we became close study partners in our first year microeconomics class (we both scored the highest on the mid-term so we gravitated to each other after that and basically became inseparable). Dave had been trained as an undergraduate by students of Armen Alchian and Milton Friedman. What better study buddy could one have for a GMU -- so we worked our way through Alchian and Allen, and we worked our way through Friedman's Monetary Framework just as the background for study of the standard textbook material we were learning. We studied Arrow-Hahn-Debreu together later, and we also studied the Young and the Old Marx together -- all outside of the formal class work. If Sennholz taught me to appreciate books, and Lavoie taught me how to read books, Prychitko taught me how to think about how to build on what I had read and to make arguments and marshall evidence. Dave remains the most acutely critical mind I have ever encountered, and given our very close intellectual relationship he basically taught me the importance of being self-critical, of being one's own harshest critic. He is better at that than I am, it is actually probably our biggest difference. I know what he is saying, and I understand the importance of what he is saying about self-criticism, but I probably think to myself more often than Dave does that I have successfully answered potential criticisms and that my argument is on more solid ground than what it is. But one of Dave's wisdoms has been important for me throughout my career these past 30 years, and that is the ability to accept the criticism and move on. If an argument doesn't work, discard it and continue trying to learn which ones actually work or don't work again, and if they don't work, try again. If I have a "thick skin", I probably owe that to Dave, if I have a "thick skull" that is just on me. I probably have a bit of both if I am honest with myself.
Finally, Dave is a very humble individual and never has engaged in the sort of acts of self-promotion that one sees among academics, especially in this age of social media. So I am going to do some bragging for him. Young scholars should realize that Dave Prychitko was awarded a Post-Doc Fellowship at Cornell to work with the world's leading expert in Workers' Self-Management -- Jaroslav Vanek. Those don't get handed out like candy! Dave and Vanek later edited a definitive reference collection in the field of producer cooperatives and labor managed systems. Prychitko then was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and went to the former Yugoslavia, where he worked with the praxis group of social thinkers right at the beginning of the civil war. Again, Fulbright's are not handed out like candy. He returned to a tenure track job at SUNY-Oswego, where he taught for several years before returning to his alma mater Northern Michigan University as the department head. He has through the years had chances to move, but Northern is his home -- it is where family and friends are, and he has always been more comfortable being out of sight rather than as the center of attention. But young scholars should spend time reading Prychitko -- his critical essays on the methodology and method of Austrian economics, his applied work in workers' self-management, and his straightforward work in the "economic way of thinking" as reflected in our textbook and elsewhere. All of it. Dave has been more productive as a scholar than most will ever be and certainly more than a lot of the younger folks realize because he has never been a self-promoter. Check out Dave's ResearchGate page. And his author page at Amazon.
So I wish Dave Prychitko a very happy birthday and I send my sincere thanks for his efforts in trying to teach me how to think and more importantly for being my friend through the years. And my wish for others is that on this day, they come to spend a bit of time reading and thinking about what Dave Prychitko has offered to us with his critical beautiful mind and easy pen. It is a treasure trove of analytical acuity and economic wisdom. READ Prychitko, and THINK about what he has to say about the way forward for research in Austrian economics and in the study of comparative political and economic systems.