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Pete makes several important points about how critical Ed was to the efforts to re-estabish a vibrant research and educational program in Austrian economics at GMU. In the early 1980s the Center for the Study of Market Processes had established a research and graduate education program at GMU that at one time had roughly 8 faculty members (Rich Fink, Don Lavoie, Jack High, Karen Vaughn, Tom DiLorenzo, John Egger, and Viktor Vanberg). Several of these individuals would move on, and others would replace them --- notably George Selgin and Don Boudreaux. At the same time, CSMP also provided funding to close to 20 PhD students at the time.

In addition to basic funding, courses and seminars, CSMP also sponsored reading groups, conference attendance, and research support in the summers and for journal submissions. The results of this educational program in the early 1980s was quite successful --- dissertations that were written were transformed into books almost instantaneously: Roy Cordato, David Prychitko, Steve Horwitz and Emily Chamlee Wright to name a few. Appointments as Austrian economists (explicitly) were secured at top liberal arts colleges --- Beloit and St. Lawrence --- at state universities --- SUNY --- and even at top 10 PhD programs --- NYU. Moreover, post graduate fellowships were earned for appointments at Cornell (Prychitko), Stanford (Boettke) and Boston University (Prychitko, Boettke and Chamlee-Wright). Fulbright Fellowships were won (Prychitko) and Dissertation Awards were given by ODE (the economics honor society --- Boettke).

But by 1990, CSMP started to disperse its talents --- Selgin moved on in the late 1980s, Boudreaux went to Law School, DiLorenzo had moved, Vanberg moved to CSPC, Fink was no longer at GMU, and eventually even Lavoie and High would move out of economics to start a new university program PSOL. So during the 1990s CSMP was "gutted" of its Austrian mission and while Austrian courses continued to be taught at GMU, the day to day Austrian presence in the department waned considerably. Karen Vaughn did publish her Austrian Economics in America during this period (a landmark book in many respects), but again within the GMU economics department the Austrian school influence was minimized despite the best efforts of Dick Wagner and Karen Vaughn.

In 1996 to rectify this, Walter Williams asked me if I would consider commuting from NY to teach a course in Austrian economics and attend the Austrian seminar. My teaching schedule at NYU was such that I could do so, and the GMU was financially and intellectually attractive, so for two years I did the commute during the spring term to teach at GMU. During this second stint, GMU offered me a faculty position and after discussing my professional options in NYC versus Fairfax with my family we decided to take the leap and move back to Fairfax (a decision that was a lot harder than most people realize and one that often regret for personal [not professional] reasons).

However, I was shocked by the culture toward Austrian economics that was GMU in 1998. The hostility was much harsher than I had ever realized even during my visiting stints in 1996 and 1997. Fellow students looked down at students interested in Austrian economics; and faculty made dismissive comments about Austrians.

I set out to change this. First, this meant that students and faculty working in Austrian economics had to publish in journals (not necessarily books) and in as mainstream of outlets as they could while being explicitly Austrian. Second, students interested in Austrian economics had to outperform their classmates in the course work, exams, publications, and placement. Third, Austrian students had to unashamedly embrace their Austrianism while not being personally obnoxious.

I was able to secure funds to start to reinstitute fellowships specifically for Austrian students, including a dissertation fellowship, summer research support, and conference and journal submission support. Also a weekly seminar was established, and graduate student paper workshop was established as well as reading groups, etc.

It wasn't easy turning the culture around and in fact several students who started out influenced by the Austrians moved quickly away and in fact told others that you couldn't get a job if you did Austrian economics. And we didn't yet have the track record to counter.

Most of these students gave up on Austrian economics and moved to empirical public choice and then when they met with professional frustrations they often blamed it on Austrian economics. How do you resist this and build a research community? I am still not sure what was going on in those students heads, nor the logic of their rationalizations that somehow blamed Austrianism for their failures when they had in fact abandoned Austrianism. I also never understood the resentment toward me personally and the claim that (a) I suck and have no professional status, and (b) that somehow I had personally blocked their brilliant career before it got started using my professional connections. The reality is that neither (a) or (b) is true, but the perception was in fact some sort of inconsistent mix of (a) and (b). I should say that some of these students have had great success themselves, but I think they rejected (a) and (b) and instead just decided to do the best work they can do in empirical public choice.

There is no easy answer, but sometimes you get lucky. And the luck we received at GMU was Ed Stringham deciding to attend GMU for his PhD. Every opportunity I gave to Ed, he ran with it and exceeded my expectations. He tried to recruit others into reading groups, seminars, and more importantly writing projects. I told Ed that we needed to do ethnographic empirical research, and Ed went out and interviewed not only stock brokers in Eastern Europe, but also squatters and drug dealers. I told Ed to publish and to do write articles that were more rigorous than "Freeman articles with footnotes" and he did. I told Ed to work our free-market network, and he is now President of APEE and editor of J of Private Enterprise. Ed had over 20 interviews at the AEA meetings, 10 flybacks and 7 offers. Not only did he receive more offers than his classmates, he received the best finanical offer.

In short, Ed set the example for others to follow. Storr, Powell, Beaulier, Coyne and Leeson all had a significant number of publications as they went into the market, interviewed with more schools than their contemporaries, and received great offers for their jobs.

Ed made it possible for Austrian students to once again at GMU be proud that they did Austrian economics, and they now also had an example to easily point to of someone who stuck to his Austrian roots and in fact had great professional success rather than crushing failure. In fact, I do not know of any examples of students who really committed themselves to Austrian economics at GMU who haven't found a tenure track job, but I know several exmaples of students who once had an interest in Austrian economics who then abandoned that interest under the negative influence of fellow students and some professors who had met with nothing but professional frustration. Strighman was the first to point this out loudly and clearly to all to see.

So I do like Pete's term "instigator" --- Ed likes to tease, he likes to push buttons, and he likes to sarcastically joke with those who argue that Austrian economics only leads to professional ruin. Ed points to his journal articles, his professional honors, and his appointments and then looks at the frustrations of others and just says "how is that working for you?" Such brutal honesty shocks some, but I will tell you this it was sorely needed in 1998 when he showed up, and it is Ed's commitment to pursuing research and teaching in Austrian economics and helping create a welcoming and encouraging environment at GMU for others who came after him. Thanks Ed.


What a great post. I am a young Austrian economist (born in 1987), so I cannot appreciate the hardship the Austrian school experienced during the early 1990's. Students my age are permanently indebted to the efforts of Boettke, Horwitz, Prychitko, Rizzo, and their teachers and colleagues. Boettke's outline of this important time in the history of Austrian economics was vey instructive. Dr. Leeson's post about Ed Stringham also put the current state of Austrian economics in context for me. Austrian economics has always been an exciting research program for me. Only now do I see that this is because of the efforts of younger students like Leeson, Coyne, Storr, Chamlee-Wright, Powell and, of course, Ed Stringham.

Big congrats to Stringham on the move and on the visiting position. Arguing with Stringham was one of the highlights of grad school.

I have a slightly different view from Pete though on the general state of the grad program circa 99-02. I'm one of the ones who came to GMU (1998) for the Austrian, but stayed for the Public Choice. The impression I'd had while there wasn't "Austrians can't get jobs" but rather "One Austrian per year can get a decent job." The impression among the grad students I talked with at the time, right or wrong, was that one student would get a hard push on the market from Boettke and that student would do well, but being the second place Austrian on the market in any year wasn't at all fun. Reason being that places considering hiring Austrians usually have to have a fair bit of political capital spent by the Austrian proponents to get an Austrian hired. If there's a solid 1-2 rank ordering across a pair, then the top Austrian student gets the best job from a school in that market, but the pro-Austrian folks at the other schools have already expended all their capital getting offers out to the first guy so the second one would have a hard time beating the next choice from another field. That was the impression circa 2000. Maybe the general mood was much different in 1998, but I then would have been spending more time trying to work through bloody Romer macro problem sets than catching too much gossip.

I think it's a pretty big stretch to say that the Austrians always did better than their contemporaries. Ed and Pete did well. Jon Klick, an empirical Law & Econ guy, is now at the University of Pennsylvania though. I'd reckon he's the top Econ grad out of GMU since 1998, and I only truncate the series there 'cause I don't know the prior cohort as well. Ryan Oprea's also done very well: UC Santa Cruz. I'm very happy at Canterbury.

It possibly also didn't help things for anybody in that cohort that Karen Vaughn was telling seminar speakers from schools she knew damned well were interviewing candidates from GMU that all of the Austrian students were crazy. I saw it once (PB, you were there, 2003) and I'd be pretty surprised if that were the only time. I didn't see Pub Choice profs trying to knife Austrian students.

I'm not sure which empirical pub choice students blamed either you, Pete, or Austrians in general for their lack of success. The cohort prior to mine was pretty derisory towards the Austrians, but that was pretty much gone by '99-00. And I don't particularly remember their blaming the Austrians for job market problems. Maybe they raised those complaints with other people though, or maybe it was more common prior to when I started hanging out at Carow.

Well, Erte Zhao is now teaching at Carneige Mellon, Ryan at UC Santa Cruz, and Jon Klick are all excellent appointments. They also are 3 people who never complained about Austrianism either. Ryan, in fact, could be termed an experimental Austrian for his work on market process theory -- similar to Abel Winn. Jon Klick is an empirical law and economics guy --- I just had him in to give a paper in my workshop on contracting and franchising. Erte Zhao is doing experiments and behavioral economics.

Until Jon's appointment at Penn, Eric, not to blow my own horn (but as Walter says a dog that doesn't wag its own tail is a pretty sad dog) I'd say my appointment at NYU was the top job any GMU grad ever got. I am also the only GMU grad to earn a Hoover National Fellowship at Stanford, however, now with Pete and Chris both getting the Hayek Fellowship at LSE I cannot claim sole status to that honor. But I can honestly say I am thrilled by Jon's appointment at Penn, but I'd like to see many others get similar appointments at top 20 and even top 50 graduate programs in economics.

But we can look at other awards given by the department -- Snavely Award winner (for best graduate student --- which is done by GPA, etc.). Scott Beaulier, for example, won the award from the SEA as the "best graduate student of the South" the year he was on the market. And of course placement of books and articles, as well as citation patterns really determine success or failure.

The Austrian group of students from Stringham to Coyne, I once calculated had published over 50 papers in journals or chapters in books, and 3 books and something 4 or 5 edited collections. Papers were published not only in the RAE, QJAE, Public Choice, CPE, Journal of Libertarian Studies, and Indpendent Review, but in journals such as JITE, J of Legal Stud, AJES, JEBO, JIE, and the EJ. That was an important track record to establish during that time, and as a research group between 1998-2005 it was very impressive for a set of graduate students and 1 professor.

I wasn't putting Klick up against you, Pete -- I said since '98. I was simply taking issue with the assertion that the Austrian students always did better than other folks in their cohorts, and also with that the empirical pub choice guys were always hostile to Austrian or to you personally.

I don't know Erte Zhao, but that's a great appointment. Good for him!

I think we all need to consider how really, really, really strong the job market has been for the past few years. The market of the 1990s was nowhere near as wide or deep, by all accounts I've heard. For our next hire, our big concern at Western is that for our next hire is whether we'll be able to score a good GMU/WVU/etc. grad. We'll face a lot of competition from other schools, perhaps with more research support, better locations, etc.

Great post and wonderful reads through the comments.

I had recently attended Acton University in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I had found myself discussing and around a group of students from Austria. The students were amazing who explained that Austrian economics is still not mainstream, but they held an Austrian seminar in Mises' old office at the Chamber of Commerce. Over breakfast when I had told them I had attended GMU for my undergrad, many lit up with excitement to exclaim that Ed Stringham visits them often.

It seems his influence spreads through many areas and in different fashions. Congratalations Professor Stringham!

To be fair, my tenure is in the law school at Penn (though I do have a secondary appointment in Wharton, which collectively is like a pretty good applied econ dept) so the comparison isn't perfect.

Pete's right that I never complained about the Austrian students. My only thought at the time on this general topic (I think I articulated this to Pete) was that some/many of them seemed dismissive of mainstream tools (formal price theory -> game theory; modern econometrics) and didn't spend the time to learn them before rejecting them. I thought this was short-sighted from both a job strategy and scholarly standpoint.

Ed was better on this front than the others I observed (& I recall discussing this with him from time to time) and Leeson (whom I don't know) appears to be even better in this regard from what I've seen of his work.



I will also be moving to Trinity college this winter. I am renting an off campus house with a few other students. Due to the hard economic times we thought it would be best to rent off campus. We all hired the same moving company and should be all settled in the new place by December.

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