Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Dislike the Brand Austrian Economics

I really dislike how people try to stuff all free market thinking into the category of Austrian-economics. Personally, I think the freedom movement is better off ditching this label and sticking to the discussion of ideas.

Austrian Economics is simply one of thousands of "ideologies" that appeared in the 1800s. The term "ideology" moved into our lexicon with the works of DeStutt de Tracy (1754-1836). He published Eléments d'idéologie 1817. The first politician to use hatred of ideology to rally people was none other than Napoleon Bonapart (1869-1821).

In the 1800s, everyone and their dog came up with new ideologies. The partisan ideologies of Modern Liberalism and Modern Conservatism trace to this corrupt age.

Wikipedia and others trace the Austrian school of economics to Carl Menger who was tutor to Archduke Rudolf von Habsburg (the Crown Prince of Austria). The view of this school was at odds with Historicists following Hegel. The school itself offers a contemptuous top down view of economics and has a tendency to favor big finance to the actual economics needs of the people.

That said, Austrian economics is a bit more conducive to free market concerns than other ideologies of the 1800s. There were several notable disputes between thinkers in the Austrian camp and the Hegelian camp. The arguments made by the Austrian School played an important historical role in unmasking many of the fallacies of the Hegelian school of thought.

Friedrich Hayek (8 May 1899 – 23 March 1992) was born in Austria-Hungary and was influenced by people in his native country (as if that is some sort of great surprise). Hayek leaned heavily on Austrian thought in his writings against the Hegelians of his day.

Hegel's historicism and Austrian Economics are but two of the thousands of ideologies that popped up in the 1800s.

Quite frankly, I find the 1800s to be a time of deep intellectual dishonesty and I question all of the ideologies that popped up in that period (including Modern Liberalism, Modern Conservatism, Progressivism, Communism and the list goes on).

Many of the best ideas associated with liberty came about well before Carl Menger took on the job of tutoring the Archduke. One finds elements of the classical liberal arguments for liberty stretching back to the Ancient Greeks, Ancient Israel and Ancient Rome.

I admit, I have spent more time studying the US Founders (who predated Menger), The scientific revolution (which predated Menger), and classical history (which predates Menger) than I've spent studying Menger.

Undoubtedly, the Archduke of Austria-Hungary had a great tutor. But I hate having what I say about free market economics being lumped in with the Austrian school. The 1800s was a time of great intellectual corruption. Just as people are drawn into inane conversations today, people of the 1800s were drawn into inane conversations of their day.

I fervently believe the freedom movement needs to develop a better name for free market economics than "The Austrian School."

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