Austrian Economics in Transition
| Nicolai Foss |
The Austrian School of Economics continues to provide grist for the doctrinal historian’s mill. New interpretations are developed. Forgotten manuscripts by prominent Austrians are still being discovered. The discovery of the Mises archive about a decade ago by Jörg Guido Hülsmann comes to mind. I recently had the pleasure of reading four hitherto unpublished Hayek papers (including his talk at Cambridge in 1931, immediately before the lectures at LSE that became Prices and Production, that Joan Robinson later described/dissed in this manner, referring to a question by Richard Kahn: “Is it your view that if I went out tomorrow and bought a new overcoat that would increase unemployment?” “Yes,” said Hayek, “but,” pointing to his triangles on the board, “it would take a very long mathematical argument to explain why”).
Many of those who have done important work on the history of the school includes committed contemporary Austrians (e.g., Joe Salerno, Roger Garrison, Richard Ebeling, etc.), but very substantial research has also been contributed by economists who may may not consider themselves Austrians (this includes many European scholars, such as Hansjoerg Klausinger, Meghnad Desai, Rudy van Zijp, Jacb Birner and many others). This evening I had the opportunity to browse Austrian Economics in Transition, which is an example of this kind of doctrinal history scholarship. The book is edited by Harald Hagemann, Tamotsu Nishizawa, and Yukihiro Ikeda, and was published a couple of months ago by Palgrave MacMillan. It is a collection of essays, 16 in total, by European and Japanese scholar, originating from a conference on Menger in Japan in 2004, and addressing the history of the Austrian School until approximately the end of World War II.
So far, the contributions seem relatively incremental , and I don’t think any are on the level of importance for our understanding of the School of, say, Salerno’s dehomogenizing of Mises and Hayek (my further reading may change this impression, though). Among the highlights: Yukihori Ikeda discusses Menger’s liberalism, and argues (based on the Rudolf lectures and Menger’s lectures on public finance) that Menger was less inclined towards what we would today call libertarianism than most later Austrians. There is an interesting piece by Keith Tribe on Weber and the Austrian School. In the most technically difficult of the papers, Arash Molavi Vassei strongly criticizes Mises’s interest theory and his business-cycle theory, faulting Mises for several logical errors. Hansjoerg Klausinger contributes a note on the Österreichisches Institut für Konjunkturforschung for which Hayek and Morgenstern served as the first two directors. Clearly something I can recommend for those who take an interest in the history of the Austrian School, but not a set of contributions that I think will decisively rock the boat.