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Very interesting! I'd only like to add that one reason even mediocre schools try to imitate what is going on at the top places has to do with the structure of universities.

Departments must get their funding and approval of faculty members from deans and provosts who are not likely to be economists. Every department is in the same position. So deans cannot simply rely on the judgment of the departments that "this guy or this approach is good." They are self-interested.

So the "objective" evidence is the the candidate is either from a top school or does what they do at top schools. Hence the lock of the "top brass" on the profession.

I think, however, that this affects the second-tier schools more than others because the former are driven more by research considerations.

You wrote: "There might be alternative paths in terms of departmental location -- business school, law school, political science, and even sociology; but the tenure & promotion game must be played."

While more obvious in law, sociology, and political science, to what extent can business school professors in fields like management (Kirzner has shown us that entrepreneurship would a big one) or marketing engage and publish in fields like Austrian economics, public choice, economic regulation, or in mainstream economics journals in general while advancing in their respective fields and remaining involved in the fight for liberty and the advancement of mainstream economic theory? Also, how can such teachers do so while successfully playing the "tenure and promotion game"? Any specific research topics of particular merit?

I ask because I am rereading "The Road to Serfdom" this week, and today more than ever understand why education and ideas are so important to maintaining freedom. Three important trends lead me to believe that many advances in Austrian theory and the teaching of such ideas can, (some necessarily must), come from outside of economics departments.

1. From what I have read about the shortage of business school professors (due to the opportunity costs of studying while holding an MBA), there are lots of lucrative advantages (in terms of opportunities, salary, and alternatives outside of government or academia) of pursuing a phd in business rather than a social science.

2. Due to the increasingly mathematical treatment of economics, both Tyler Cowen and Gregory Mankiw's blogs explain how those who should pursue graduate study in economics must be math superstars. A phd in business might be a viable alternative for students who don't don't fancy themselves as mathmaticians, but are incredibly intelligent and interested in economics.

3. Many students graduate college without actually taking a traditional economics course, forming their opinions based soley on what the mainstream media tells them, their parents tell them, and their liberal arts teachers are in the mood to rant about. It wasn't until I took my first economics class (in high school thankfully) that I began to think critically, read widely, and form my own opinions.

Being less theoretical in nature than economics, would business school professors and researchers be able to, (as Peter Leeson wrote a while ago), help provide some of the detailed empirical work that the Austrian school will desperately need to advance and compete with more traditional economic theories?

Professor Boettke,

Your posts and lectures on the future prospects for Austrian economists are truly inspirational (you're right the Wooden approach is better than the Knight one). As a beginning PhD economics student, it is reassuring to here there are opportunities for AS (After Samuelson) studies. Thanks



An aspect of this matter of the pressures on departments that is in your remarks but perhaps not fully brought out involves the pressures on deans and other higher administrators who may influence the direction of departments, particular this rat race to imitate MIT, etc. The obvious case here is the history of the closing of the former heterodox-oriented econ department at Notre Dame and its replacement by a self-labeled "neoclassical" department. What drove this by most accounts was a dean who was looking at official rankings of departments and saw Notre Dame's being low on those lists. This was a department that had a number of interesting people, but many of whom had their most important work published in books rather than articles, which do not count for these rankings.

In particular, I have said in more than on forum that 30 years from now more people will be citing the books by that department's Phil Mirowski than will be citing the entire output of the current members of the new "neoclassical" department. Robert Solow publicly opposed the creation of this department, declaring that "what we do not need is another third-rate MIT department." And that is what they have. Even though many current department members have pubbed in the AER and Econometrica, they are basically nobodies, and RePEc ranks the department a non-whopping 76th.


Ouch, that's actually where I'm going next year. The impression I got is that they are trying to be purely Neoclassical, but the upside is there is plenty of room for independent research cross disciplinary stuff. I plan on taking some courses in the political science department.


Well, it is probably too strong to say that "they are basically nobodies," although I will stick with my forecast about who will be getting cited more than whom in the future. One who is probably a bit more than a nobody is Evans (forget first name), who is the current editor of the Journal of Human Resources, and doing a good job of it by all accounts.


I think we have potential, but future year rankings will depend on what happens to the coming job market candidates. Anyways, as long as you're not a Marxist it seems like there are opportunities for self directed study, which I plan on doing. Before any of that can be accomplished however, I need to absorb myself in doctrinaire general equilibrium theory, but if that's what it takes to get my union card, then so be it.

I agree, Bill Evans is a great researcher and an entertaining lecturer. He teaches second semester econometrics.


To be blunt, Solow's assessment of ND is and will be correct. There is no way that a school like ND can change its course unless it had an influx of billions of cash just for economics. The strategy followed was about as big a mistake as one can make in academics. This is not to say that good work or good students will not come out of ND, but it is to suggest that ND will never be what they said they wanted to be to justify pushing Mirowski out. And Barkley is right, for better or worse, Phil is a famous and interesting thinker and people talk about him long after anyone else at ND gets a mention.

As for Business School, I suggest that you look at Peter Klein and Nicolai Foss and their work in strategic management studies. Also the entire field of entrepreneurship has exploded.

ND gives reasons for pessimism; the rise of strategic management and entrepreneurial studies gives reasons for optimism.

Well you guys are probably right. I followed the advice: "Go to the best school that pays your full way". As I said before, there is a lot of support from faculty, despite the MIT fixation. Anyways, entrepreneurship is something I'm interested in and some students have done work with B-school professors. Whatever ND's shortcomings, I'll overcome them.


I wish you all the best and I am sure you will make the most out of the educational opportunities you will be provided there. In fact, I am a big believer that the best person from the 76th ranked department (as Barkley points out) can be a much better hire than the 15th ranked person from the #1 ranked department. Most hiring committee fail to make that assessment year after year. But there are some who do recognize this fact and have worked hard to get their colleagues to see it as well.

So work hard, read EVERYTHING on the core syllabi, and love learning economics. If you love the subject, you will want to contribute to its advancement and to its teaching to the next generation. Where you do this from is a lot less important than that you do that, and don't let people beat that enthusiasm for the discipline out of you.

In short, always remember the reasons why you decided to study economics in-depth and tap into that youthful enthusiasm --- especially in the moments that are most trying intellectually, etc. It will serve you well.


Professor Boettke,

Your advice, as usual, is valuable. Thanks for the encouragement. If I can arrange a self directed study in my second year, maybe I'll be reading everything recommended on your syllabi.


I concur with Pete's recent remarks here (of course, since he is agreeing with me, that is not too hard, :-)).

It will be a dangerous sign if Mirowski's books are getting favourable citations 30 years hence, sure he is fashionable and interesting, but so was T S Kuhn. So was logical positivism. So was The General Theory...


Presumably you think people should not read or cite Mirowski in the future because of his ideology, and presumably this is your unhappiness about Keynes's General Theory as well. But what do you have against Kuhn? And logical positivism? The latter is/was a movement, not a person, and even if one does not like it, it was an important movement and one must read some of it to critique it. There are even debates over who should count in it. Was Karl Popper a logical positivist, and whether he was or not, is it bad to be reading him now also?

Thanks Barkley, but you presume wrongly. Still, you have given me the opportunity to say what I really think about Kuhn and logical positivism:)

My concerns with Mirowski and the General Theory are not with the ideology, but with the standard of Mirowski’s scholarship and with the damage that Keynesian macro did to economics.

First Mirowski. His work on the Mont Pelerin Society is a travesty. That is not just an ideological view, his take is lazy and lacks understanding.

Similarly he is lazy and possibly even disingenuous in his comments on Popper. He gave a generous tribute to Stanley Wong’s critique of Samuelson but put in a sideswipe at Popper, as though Wong could have done the job without drawing on Popper via Larry Boland.

Regarding Popper again, he pulled a quote out of Ian Jarvie’s book on Popper’s “social turn” along the lines that Popper left the project unfinished. M put on the spin that Popper’s approach failed, which was the opposite of the Jarvie’s point. This is not a hanging offence but it suggests both lazy reading and an excessive desire to belittle Popper.

Moving on to T S Kuhn. I know that some people claim to have learned something from Kuhn (even Popper said he didn’t realise there was so much normal science) but I am not sure what it was. What do you think Kuhn contributed that was original (not taken from Polanyi), robust and helpful?

My take on Kuhn is that he formed a symbiotic relationship with inductivism. Inductivism produces normal scientists and Kuhn wrote that up as though it was OK, so everyone could keep on doing whatever they were doing. Totally conservative and lacking in critical bite, but with a sugar coating of verbal radicalism to attract the people who grooved to the lyrics of the Talking Heads!

Anyway, this is my take on the Kuhnian diversion.

And logical positivism. Do you think Popper was a logical positivist? Let me know and I will get back to you with some more comments.

It appears from the comment that there are strong incentives in the academia to flock toward the orthodox neoclassical position, although George Mason appears to adopt a strategy of looking at sinergies among smaller niches (i.e. public choice, austrian economics, agent based...).

The (perverse) incentives appear to be:

1. Competition for public funding
2. Problems of assessment of research quality in non-standard fields (is it a signaling/screening inefficiency?).

It appears to me that problem 2 is unavoidable in a discipline like economics where there is almost no objective feedback from the real world about the relevance and correctness of the opposing theories.

Prejudices and habits play a much more relevant role in economics than in engineering because in the latter case there is at least a litmus test: laboratory tests of new ideas. As this is not possible in economics, there is a huge risk of herding toward ideas whose success merely depends on the number of people who believes in that idea and not on its inherent value.

Besides, there is a far wider scope for ideological prejudices and distortions in economics than in engineering.

Arts and humanities may be even worse, of course...

Why does the GMU approach work, despite these adverse odds?


What Mirowski will be read 30 years from now will be More Heat than Light and Machine Dreams, not this latest Mont Pelerin book, which looks to be a not-well done hatchet job, although I have not read it (and may not bother).

I see from your linked posting that you think Popper was a logical positivist and basically right about everything. Fine, although you may have some disagreement from Hayek on some of that (see JEL piece by Bruce Caldwell on the matter). I do not have a bottom line on "what is logical positivism?" although Ayer is more core than Popper, and in a sense the boundaries are partly defined by whether or not Popper is in or out, although I tend to view his falsificationist perspective as at least a species of logical positivism.

I am old enough to have actually known Kuhn personally in the heyday of his famous book. It is true that he was more "conservative" than most readers think, but I do not find your putdown of him particularly convincing, and people are definitely still reading and citing Structure of Scientific Revolutions, even if they are not always getting all that right. After all, is not Austrian economics a paradigm?

Thanks Barkley, this is probably not on topic so I will not go on beyond a couple of comments on your rejoinder. I don't know how you got the idea that I think of Popper as a logical positivist because his ideas represented a fundamental challenge to positivism in several ways, far beyond putting testing in place of verification. But you would never know that from the literature which almost ;uhiversally misrepresents Popper's ideas (Bruce Caldwell excepted). Where is the sociology of knowledge when we need it? He should be described as a fallible or conjectural apriorist, not a falsificatiohist.

Yes, people are still reading and citing Kuhn. They are still doing Keynesian demand management as well.


I think you are over-estimating the disputes in economics and under-estimating the disputes in the hard sciences. I realize you are in the field. But if you look at disputes in the hard sciences when it comes to policy application, then that would be more relevant comparison to the disputes you are picking up on in economics. And if you look instead at core microeconomic theory, then you would see a similar consensus that you do when you talk about the hard sciences and engineering.

Economics has the same ontological status as physics, we just have different epistemological procedures. It is the epistemological issues that get people messed up. And the effort to ape the epistemological procedures of the hard sciences in the sciences of man cause many problems. This is one of the reasons you will note I did not mention macroeconomics. As I say to the new PhD students as they are starting their studies, remember microeconomics has 1 truth and many applications; macroeconomics has no truth and many theories. The only economics there is, is the economics of relative price adjustments. That economics can apply to understand the price of milk, the impact of policy on the price of milk, and the distortions in the production of milk that can be caused by inflation, etc.

As for GMU --- our success has been a function of 3 things: (a) timing, (b) attitude, and (c) location. Buchanan and his research team joined the faculty at GMU in 1984, he won the Nobel in 1986; Smith and his research team joined the faculty at GMU in 2001, he won the Nobel in 2002. In both instances, the university did not hire just a lone wolf scholar, but there research center and thus the Nobel while focused on 1 individual shined a light on a research field, which GMU was able to claim expertise in. The attitude of the department and its leading faculty members has always been a combination of intense professional engagement and a courage to strike out in a different direction WHILE being fully professionally engaged. Think of the top people who have taught here as characteristic of this: Buchanan, Smith, Tullock and Boulding. This attitude was communicated to their colleagues and especially to their students, many of whom now have returned to GMU (such as Dick Wager (from UVA) or Roger Congleton (from VPI) or Tyler and myself (from GMU)) and tried to push this twin line of full engagement and yet accept the challenge of "dare to be different". Finally, GMU's location is ideal for political economists. Our backyard is DC, and as such our topics are usually within reach.

Now you put those 3 things together (a) timing, (b) attitude and (c) location, and it seems to work.

I should point out 1 other major factor -- the big time thinkers that have walked the halls of GMU --- Buchanan, Smith, Tullock and Boulding --- all have a deep affinity for Austrian economics. So Austrian economics was NEVER treated as an illegitimate endeavor at GMU by the superstars. It was viewed as part of a grand tradition of economic research and education, and in fact a source for a lot of what was missing in conventional training. In short, Mises, Hayek and Kirzner are part of the living body of economic thought here at GMU. Even in our Agent Based modeling, Rob Axtell has a long time association with Austrian ideas going back to his undergraduate student days, and these ideas surface in his work (see his contribution to the Lavoie memorial volume, or his contribution to the RAE symposium on exchange, or his EJ paper on exchange processes and welfare economics).

And this is also true of the various scholars who have been visitors and worked as colleagues on shorter term -- Doug North, Elinor Ostrom, Deirdre McCloskey, etc. Subjectivism and dynamics; spontaneous order and evolution of rules; entrepreneurship and market processes; institutions and organizations; the legal-political nexus; etc. have all been part of the discourse and focus of research at GMU since the founding of its PhD program. And these subjects have been approached using standard model and measure techniques; lab experiments; historical narratives; computer simulations; and discursive reasoning.

This makes GMU a very unique and exciting place to study and do economics. Only a small sense of this excitement can be gleaned from reading the blogs, such as Marginal Revolution, Cafe Hayek, Overcoming Bias, Division of Labor, EconLog, etc. Yes, we are actively engaged in public intellectual activity. And through the Mercatus Center many of us are engaged in public policy activity. But most important to the economic excitement of the place is the profession engagement we are involved in as research economists, and can be seen in the work at the Center for Study of Public Choice, and Interdisciplinary Center for Experimental Economics, and the Workshop in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and Center for Neuroeconomics and Law and Economics Center, etc.

Prof. Boettke:

thanks for the answer.

Yes, there are natural science debates regarding policy, such as those on global warming, which appear to be like those in Economics. However, the very two causes of perpetual debating are present in climatology, too: ideological commitment and dearth of conclusive evidence.

There are also debates, as far as I know, in cognitive sciences (i.e., Fodor vs computational theories of cognition): in these cases the problem is just lack of evidence. However, when there is a policy discussion about building a bridge, engineers don't discuss the physical properties of concrete and steel, while economists discuss also fundamental issues such as whether general equilibrium is a correct way to understand markets.

I didn't mean to say that natural sciences are all hard and social ones are all soft, but ideological commitment and lack of evidence may pose also sociological problems such as "herding", as I said.

Both things may also explain why macroeconomics is in worse shape than microeconomics. However, is there really so much agreement in micro issues? If I talk about entrepreneurship and market processes, does a Mas-Colell/Whinston/Green guy understand what I say?

Arts and Humanities is worse -- and I say that as someone with a Ph.D. in the Arts and Humanities. They have no use for heterodoxy -- though they of course consider everything they do to be heterodox (while it is in fact the most orthodox within their fields/departments as one could imagine). If you are not a multiculturalist, feminist, postmodernist, there is no room for you in the arts and literature departments. Only analytical philosophers need apply. I have been trying to get a job for 6 years now, and I haven't even gotten a phone interview -- despite literally hundreds of applications. Apparently nobody is interested in hiring someone with a Ph.D. in the humanities who studies literature and writes plays and poems from a Darwinian-complex adaptive systems/spontaneous order-Austrian economics-interdisciplinary perspective. The literary Darwinists can't get jobs -- Gottshcall, one of the biggest scholars in the movement, can only get adjunct work -- and Paul Cantor has to help his students hide the fact that they use Austrian economics to understand literature (rather than Marx, who is as useless in literary studies as he is in economics).

Unfortunately, I seem to be caught in a real catch-22 -- I keep getting published by those who study Austrian economics, but it seems unlikely that any of these publications will get me a job. Unfortunately, I can't keep that kind of thing going for long -- I'm hardly wealthy, and I have a family to support. I'm on the verge of having to give up doing any scholarly work -- but without doing the right kind of scholarly work, I can't get a job. And, it appears, I'm not even doing the right kind of scholarly work anyway.

This discussion has been quite helpful, though. For example, I had no idea that articles counted, but books did not. that seems strange. It also seems like I wasted time finishing my book when I should have been writing a ton of papers.

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