The Forgotten: “Alternative Views of Mengerian Entrepreneurship”
| Peter Klein |
A film blog I follow, the Mubi Daily Notebook (formerly called The Auteurs Notebook) runs a regular feature called “The Forgotten,” showcasing obscure but important older titles. I propose doing the same thing here. Our first entry is a 1979 article by Dolores Tremewan Martin, “Alternative Views of Mengerian Entrepreneurship” (History of Political Economy 11, no. 2). Martin provides an excellent summary and critique of Menger’s subtle approach to the entrepreneur, one largely ignored in the current entrepreneurship literature, even among Austrian economists. Contrasting Schumpeterian and Knightian views on entrepreneurship, Martin argues that Menger’s position is close to Knight’s (and, hence, that Knight is much closer to the Austrian school than is generally recognized).
As Martin points out, Menger’s entrepreneur (Unternehmer) is a resource-owning, information-acquiring coordinator seeking to acquire and combine undervalued assets (using an “input-computing capacity”). Entrepreneurial activity is scarce, in that it is associated with ownership of scarce capital, but also “unique in that, unlike other goods of higher order, it is not intended for exchange and therefore does not command a price.” There are important differences bewteen Menger and Knight concerning types of uncertainty and the effect of uncertainty on profit. Still:
Menger does not treat the entrepreneur as being the “innovator,” “mover,” or “force of change.” Menger places stress on the entrepreneurial function and the role of uncertainty, not innovation, as giving rise to the possibility for rewards. As Schumpeter [the historian of economic thought] suggests, the economic process viewed by Carl Menger is essentially similar to that of Frank Knight. . . . For Menger (as for Knight) the entrepreneurial activity consists of a more correct — “more rational” — evaluation of goods of higher order. This view contrasts with Schumpeter’s personification of the entrepreneur as the hero of the capitalist drama.