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« The Contemporary Relevance of The Sensory Order | Main | Relevant and Insightful: Mario Rizzo on the Oikonomia »


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"In fact, for a society of truly free and responsible persons, nothing is impossible."

In fact?


Here, of course, the message falls short. I mean, it's typical rhetoric that cannot be taken seriously.

Really Dave? The counter-factual of a free society doesn't hold unlimited possibilities?

I guess I take people's claims too seriously. Here is the most obvious impossibility that even you can understand:

A voluntary, communal arrangement of the property of tens of thousands of truly free and responsible persons, one geared toward achieving a democratically-emergent comprehensive economic plan, is impossible and must fail miserably.

Consider, for example, Murray Bookchin's anarchic mutualism.

That's one. I'll let others provide more.

Are Prychitko and Boettke falling out?

Was it my "even you can understand" wording? I should've used a smiley face.

Economics puts parameters around our Utopias -- even our own libertarian utopias. But not only economics. Medicine, psychology and other sciences should also constrain our utopias.

Why, for example, should we really believe a libertarian society would eradicate disease?

Why, for example, should we really believe that everyone will truly love one another as their own brother?

Why, for example, should we really believe that conflicts of interest will dissolve in a libertarian society such that a permanent peace will emerge?

Who really believes these things? I don't know. But I didn't make the claim, endorsed by Pete, that the counter-factual of a free society holds unlimited possibilities. One might try to argue that some of these prospects will be improved, but to speak of "unlimited possibilities" is, simply, similar to the kind of claims we've seen in Utopian Socialists, Marxists, Postmillenialist Christians, and who knows who else.


I see your point --- should be more careful with language.

However, I do think that there is an optimistic message of libertarianism that is often undersold and I think Munger is actually putting that back into his message.

To Todd --- no falling out, Prychitko has always been my harshest critic and my best friend. I love him like a brother, and he picks on me like brothers often do. I am not smart enough to criticize him with the same force that he goes after me.


Brother Pete: I don't expect a single politician to be more careful with their language, but "truth-seekers," "scholars," or whatever we might call ourselves should be more careful or keep quieter -- or both -- otherwise we come across as cheerleaders for political and ideological movements.

Quick question for Dr Prychitko: How much of contemporary Austrianism (& past Austrianism) do you think is pretty much little more than such cheerleading?

Obviously, Dr P is the Austrian who by far is emphatically not a member of the cheerleading squad.

As Toni Basil may have put it: "Oh Rothbard your so fine, your so fine you blow my mind of Rothbard, Oh Rothbard"

That's cool. I thought contemporary Austrianism was about to rip itself apart before it properly has an impact.

Hey, kids! Here's something you can do at home, and your parents will LOVE you for it.

Make a list of the ridiculously absurd statements in the entire Munger keynote speech at the Libertarian National Convention.

There are, I think, three or four.

Then, give the SAME SCRUTINY to the keynote speeches at the Democrat, and the Republican, National Conventions.

My prediction: When you tote 'em up, Munger had fewer!

And who says Austrian Economics is not an empirical science......

(To be fair to the good Dr. Pr., Peter B did say, "Find something wrong with it!" Who could resist THAT?)

I absolutely LOVED IT! It sort of reminds me of the optimistic humility seen in the words of Booker T. Washington and Thomas Sowell.


I only hope that he is not heard flirting with the possibility of, for example, erecting fences to stop illegal immigration! Btw, what's wrong with cheering for a candidate or an ideology? Isn't being opinionated, yet open-minded one of the chief professorial or scholarly virtues?


Cheerleading might not be acceptable as a scholarly enterprise, but neither is jeering or heckling from the sidelines. You may or may not agree with Rothbard, but (a) he was an amazingly productive scholar in a wide range of fields, (b) he was a provocative thinker, and (c) he wrote with clarity and often with wit.

I for one was inspired by Rothbard (and Dr. Hans Sennholz) to become an economics teacher and researcher/writer. So I would not dismiss Rothbard (or Sennholz, or Hazlitt, or Percy Greaves) so easily, nor view as silly anyone who finds inspiration in his writings. That doesn't mean that you have to believe the man to be infallible, but just because he is fallible it doesn't give you a license to suggest he was an intellectual lightweight. He was, in fact, a heavyweight who wrote economics in an engaging style rather than the more sober style of traditional scholarship in the field. He wrote like the political economists of the 18th and 19th century at a time when the standard stylistic practice was to write more as an ideological eunuch (though act as an ideological/scientistic savior of society). Rothbard gave no quarter nor did he ask for it as a thinker either. In my book that was refreshing.

BTW, while Prychikto may implode certain pretensions in Rothbard's own welfare economics, he does leave intact Rothbard's own demolition of Samuelsonian welfare economics. All Dave tried to do in his welfare economics essay is apply the same logical analysis that Rothbard used to implode Samuelson to Rothbard's own reconstruction of utility and welfare economics and also to Roy Cordato's attempted reconstruction.

Creativity to me is done through an act of constructive synthesis of thinkers nobody before would have thought to put together; creativity to Dave is blowing up the ambitions of others using arguments they haven't thought about.


P.S.: The difference between Dave and myself is very simple to understand --- Dave has a critical mind, I am more of a synthesis constructor. Dave sees holes in thinkers and subtle differences and scratches them until they are open sores, I see common themes in thinkers and try to patch together a synthesis by putting band-aides and antiseptic cream on the sores. To use another analogy, Prychitko looks at what might appear to be a sprained ankle on a player and looks at the 3rd X-ray he takes and discovers the fracture and says no more playing for you. I look at the discoloration, grab a toe to see how bad the player hurts, tape the thing up, smack it and say, ok get back out there, we need you and we have work to do to get this win.

What I meant by "find something wrong with it" was more straightforward than the conversation has gone. It is really just this. To me Mike Munger speaks sense, while other politicians speak nonsense. Why is it that others don't see it the same way I do? I honestly have a hard time understanding.

It seems so obvious to me that Munger is right in what he says --- yet my entire adult life from family to friends to colleagues and students I know that vast majority of people I meet would think what I believe about politics and the economy to be not just wrong but border on insane.


Why does traffic stop to hear Obama talk near my house yesterday, but if I had Munger in to speak we might not fill the gym. I know the obvious answer, but I want to know the real cultural answer to this and I want to know what people think that means for our theory of social chance?

"nothing is impossible."

Hayek suggested that one of the functions of economics and catallactics is to specify what is impossible, like central planning.

PIt has also been suggested that for technological purposes natural laws can be cast in the form of exclusions - what cannot be done.

I liked Munger's speech. I thought he was looking down too much though (reading the notes). Experienced politicians are able to gaze into the future etc...

Also the tone of the speech seemed to have an American Revolution flavor, going back to basic principles. It would have been very well received in the late seventeen hundreds. Today, you are better off faking a hip-hop cadence or filling the speech with reassurances.

I didn't find much to disagree with, but although it had more content than an Obama speech, that is a low bar. Many people would find things in there that they already disagree with (legalizing drugs or no regulations on business, or no government provision of insurance or economic security) and be disturbed not to hear evidence supporting why we should expect it to be as well provided privately.

Then he ends by saying we can't know what the libertarian Utopia will look like - so it seems like he's going on faith. It would be more persuasive if he provided some reasoning or evidence for the optimism. (Obama doesn't have to because he's promising he will provide the goodies, which is easy for people to believe, it isn't as easy when the message is that you won't be providing it.)

I think the message is most persuasive to those who already believe it; this is usually the case, but fewer people today already believe this message. I think the references to the constitution are helpful, and luckily work for some people still today - especially out west - certainly one needn't go back to the 1700s for this message to work. But since the 1930s and especially since the 1960s, it doesn't work as well as it used to.


You say, "Obama doesn't have to because he's promising he will provide the goodies, which is easy for people to believe, it isn't as easy when the message is that you won't be providing it."

What is the P-value that Obama will deliver on the 'goodies'?
1) will the bill get passed, Obama does not have sole authority here
2) will the act get enforced -- there are other priorities
3) will what comes to be look anything like what is promised (central planning is full of distortions)

Bill Clinton promised universal health care. One way to achieve the same level of care for everyone is to reduce the quality to the LCD. I feel the only feasible plan will look more like this than the utopia which is promised. So what is the likelihood of actually achieving Obama's utopia? I prefer the unknown to the known failure.

I value and agree with most of what Mike Munger says. In other words, I, too, am a libertarian. I take the minimal state as a clear second-best ideal (first best being anarchism). But, as a side-point, I can't get excited about these statements in the political process, because I don't think they will have effect. I'm a pessimistic libertarian, for better or worse. That's just a fact about me that I don't want to argue or discuss on this blog.

Pete used a few analogies to compare our two approaches. Here's my favorite: "Prychitko looks at what might appear to be a sprained ankle on a player and looks at the 3rd X-ray he takes and discovers the fracture and says no more playing for you. I look at the discoloration, grab a toe to see how bad the player hurts, tape the thing up, smack it and say, ok get back out there, we need you and we have work to do to get this win."

I wish I could come up with a musical counterpart. But really it all boils down to this: I don't have the creative, conjecturing mind.

Conjectures and refutations, conjectures and refutations.

Pete conjectures, boldly, with enthusiasm. He gets excited about the conjectures of others. I often do, too. But I can't help myself. As I've read these conjectures I saw (or, I thought I saw) twists, inconsistencies, spins, unexamined assumptions and so on before I got to the end of the article or book. So I've raised what I thought are "refutations" to be considered.

Others -- so many others -- responded with a "That's all what you do, criticize. Why not construct your own theory, offer syntheses (etc.) of your own, *solve* the problem, instead of picking on others."

My sincere reply: (1) I am not smart enough nor creative enough to do so, although I'm willing to try building conjectures with our textbook project; (2) there are so many conjectures out there, including very bold ones by my Austrian colleagues, which beg (like Pete) "show me where I'm wrong" and yet there are relatively few attempts at refutation, being either ignored by the rest of the profession or internally accepted within our school, even sometimes accepted by authority; (3) I think refutation is an important function of a scientist -- the necessary flipside to conjecture -- and in principle ought to play a substantial role in a critical community of scholars, even at the risk of being interpreted as troublemaking efforts of pains-in-the-asses.

And this pain-in-the-ass so called Austro-punk has, as a result, gotten frustrated and tired of the effort. Pete has the winning attitude, to not only stay in the game but to overwhelming crush the opponent. Not that I see my Austrian colleagues as opponents -- I am so sympathetic with them, and wish they were ubambigously correct it ain't even funny -- but I didn't have Pete's type of sports-to-scholar personal development, so I'm willing to walk away from the game after too many losses, and go fishing or play my fiddle.

I feel I've even gotten too involved, yet again, by typing up comments on this blog, and so I'll quietly leave, at least for now, and encourage others to conjecture and refute. I will still be visiting on a daily basis, but I'll bite my lip and enjoy the match!

Dr. Prychitko,

I sure wish that you stayed in the game. (Your scholarship on Marx is nothing less than incredible.) While I pray that I may be half the scholar of Boettke, Storr, and Lavoie, for example, those who I consider to be constructive synthesizers, it is the kind of secondary critique that you do that eases synthesis.


Your are 110% correct, one needs both conjectures and refutations, and in fact, science ONLY advances through this give and take. In short, we need YOU and we need to develop a culture of criticism within our branch of contemporary economics (and we are a branch of contemporary professional economics). I know the effort is frustating at times and there are more important things in life than economic debate and economic theory.

To find the music analogy you were looking for try this one --- I am more like a garage band who just keeps playing over mistakes and tries to keep the party going and get additional gigs and hopefully do better next time, whereas you are like George Martin --- 'well John and George the guitars are a little flat there, perhaps we could fix that with some violins' ... ' I am trying to be the Beatles in Hamburg and Hard Days Night, you are trying to produce Sargent Pepper's. Does that analogy work for you? Not sure it does, but it was fun thinking about it.

We should probably ask the good Dr. Horwitz for his thoughts if this is worth continuing because he is the one closest yet distant enough --- only Don Lavoie could really answer this question, and I think Don recognized the special qualities of Dave's mind, whereas while Don and I have close relationship he often thought there was a neoclassical "bad Pete" and a heterodox "good Pete". I think what Don called neoclassical, Dave called "meat and potatoes" or the "just do it" Pete. I think I often surprised Don, Dave and Mario with my enthusiasms for thinkers and approaches and how quickly I decide to run with them and also how quickly I decide to move away from them. As I always say to my wife Rosemary -- "I am what I am" to which she replies sarcastically "Ok Popeye."


Meatball, Pete. Meatball economics... perhaps with some spinach on the side!

I actually think Pete's original analogy is not a bad one - and Dave's response is right on. I'll try several metaphors:

Pete is indeed a "big think" or "conjectures" kind of guy. He is also a synthesizer (as, I think, am I). But the two things about Pete that strike me most are this:

1. Like some of the great athletes (Gretzsky and Bird come to mind), he sees "the floor/ice" in ways that no one else does. He makes connections that I would never see. That's his great strength.

2. Pete also is like Gregory Hines' character at the end of "Running Scared" - he's hanging from the ceiling of the building with a semi-automatic, spinning around shooting everything in sight. :) The problem with that approach is that while you might get the bad guys, you're gonna take out a lot of innocent people. Not too many Type I errors, but lots of Type IIs. ;)

And so we find Pete frequently backtracking off of his more outrageous statements, even when they have a large grain of truth to them.

Dave, however, is a rifleman. He's the anti-Kirzner. :) DP and IK have razor sharp analytical minds that can focus in and get at the details of arguments like no one else. Kirzner uses that skill as a way to construct arguments; Dave uses it to deconstruct them.

Pete's firing his semi at every target in the area, while Dave is taking out one animal, limb by limb.

I think both of these approaches are important. (It's an interesting question where I stand in this continuum - probably closer to Pete I'd say. It's safer there.) I also think it's why you two get along so well - you're complementary pieces of human capital. You're all part of the larger Lachmannian/entrepreneural "plan."

So knock it off the two of ya.

Pete, shut up and keep writing and giving us new possibilities.

Dave, when you're done fiddling, get your ass back here and keep us honest by shooting all of Pete's stuff down.

End of discussion.

You know guys, with some bad beer and decent cigars, this would be grad school all over again. ;)

Think offence and defence, offence is the conjectures (making yardage) , defence is the refutations (blocks and tackles). Some do both well but most are better (or like to do) one more than the other. The thing is to have balance in the team and to work on your game so you get better at both.

PS If I ever play gridiron I want to be the guy that just throws the ball away so I don't have to run or tackle:)

If I understand Pete's challenge, it is to explain why Joe Sixpack could listen to Munger's speech and not say, "Heck yeah!"

I think the main reason is that, "Libertarians won't win. It will be either the Republican or Democrat. I'm not wasting my vote."

In the past I have spent many hours writing articles arguing with this logic, but I think that's the single biggest obstacle to Libertarians winning elections.

Also, if you push it, I think people would view Munger's speech as too idealistic. "Sure the Drug War has gone too far, but you can't have kids buying heroin at CVS! There's more to life than property rights!"

Basically most people don't know how a free market works the way we do (or think we do?!), and so what is obvious to you is not obvious to them. I am finding this with regard to oil companies, windfall profits, etc. People have no idea where profits come from, and so it sounds plausible that if you jack up taxes on oil companies, prices will come down.

BTW Mr. Governor, if you are still checking, I am not criticizing your speech. I loved the line about a government small enough to fit in the Constitution.

Bob, who thinks that jacking up taxes on goods will lower the price? It is surely more plausible (even for Joe) to think that the tax adds to the price (like the very heavy excise on beer, tobacco and petrol in Australia). Perhaps you meant to suggest that Joe Sixpack just looks to regulation of some kind to lower the price. Or are you are speaking from experience and the folk really do think that taxing the "exploiters" will make them mend their ways?


Haven't you listened to Obama on oil companies? He says he's against gimmicks like offshore drilling that won't reduce prices anytime soon. Instead he's for a windfall profits tax. I don't know that he literally says, "...and this will lower prices" but in context that's what he is saying.

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