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austrian economics

Culture

Ludwig Von Mises Understood “Meme Magic”

One of the most consistent themes through the works of Ludwig von Mises is the role ideas play in shaping society. As he wrote in Theory and History: “Thoughts and ideas are not phantoms. They are real things. Although intangible and immaterial, they are factors in bringing about changes in the realm of tangible and material things.” How those ideas are transmitted has changed dramatically over time: from reliance on the spoken word, to the spread of print, to the rise of television, and to today’s digital word. Even within each era, new forms of communication have arisen. For example, print transformed from a privilege of noble elites to a medium created for the masses. Today’s age of digital communication is one that is constantly changing, but there is one phenomenon that may be particularly useful in the battle of ideas: online memes. Keep Reading

economics, hands, politics
Economics

‘Economics Is Hard’: Groupthink Is Why We’re In Such Bad Shape

In Principles of Economics, Carl Menger corrected the theoretical mistakes made by the old classical school. At the time, the founder of the Austrian School of economics seemed to want to make economics accessible to everyday people, which may explain why he exemplified the nature of economic value in his book, making sure readers understood that economics revolve around the actions of individuals. Described by many as “the best introduction to economic logic ever written,” Menger’s Principles inspired young economists like Ludwig von Mises to explore the populist nature of economics in an attempt to make the case that economics was for everyone, and that practical knowledge of economics can help even the most uneducated among us to prosper. Despite the honorable efforts and the exponential growth of influence the Austrian School of economics has exerted over the years, the reality is that, for most individuals around the globe, economics is hard. Keep Reading

Economics/Philosophy/Politics

Economics & History: Why This Connection Matters

In a recent article of mine, I debunked the red herring of  the “roads” argument that many modern socialists throw around. It turns out that lately this article has gotten some pretty lively responses from its critical readers. One such commenter was someone I might have expected to be on my side (politically speaking) as he was presumably a libertarian himself, but the road forked for us at economics. It seemed as if this gentleman was an adherent of the Austrian school (a.k.a. the fantasy football of economics), and he had a thing or two to say about my reasoning behind my aforementioned debunking. But before we get to that, it might be prudent to first scan briefly the shoal of my original argument: the modern socialist mantra is to call their capitalist fellows “hypocrites” for accepting such “socialist” elements of society as roads and a postal service. My rebuttal to that claim is simple enough in that these very elements of public convenience (as well as many others) predate socialism’s inception; therefore… Keep Reading

Economics

Murray N. Rothbard: The Tupac Shakur Of Economists

Although he passed away over two decades ago, death hasn’t stopped the iconic libertarian economist Murray N. Rothbard from releasing new material. According to Rothbard’s long-time confidant and biographer Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com, a group of “lost columns” are going to be released to the public that Rothbard supposedly penned in the 1960’s alongside a new book about how libertarians should approach the crucial question of strategy. They will be edited by Raimondo himself and released through the Mises Institute. This isn’t the first time that Rothbard has conquered death to deliver the message of hardcore liberty to the masses. In 2010, Strictly Confidential: The Private Volker Fund Memos of Murray N. Rothbard was published by David Gordon, editor of the Mises Review. That was a rather substantial 431 page text, and now a mere six years later, we are privileged to even more Rothbard. Take that, Grim Reaper! Rothbard’s prolific nature extending beyond the grave draws an obvious comparison to Tupac Shakur, the legendary rap artist who was… Keep Reading

Economics

James J. Hill And The Liquidation Of Malinvestment

James J. Hill is unquestionably one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history.  This past weekend marked the 100th anniversary of his passing.  He is best remembered for the successful construction of the only transcontinental railroad to not go bankrupt.  He didn’t accept government subsidies, and argued eloquently against his competitors who did: “The government should not furnish capital to these companies, in addition to their enormous land subsidies, to enable them to conduct their business in competition with enterprises that have received no aid from the public treasury.” His endeavors can claim to be largely responsible for the settling and economic development of the upper midwest United States, and for making Seattle into the commercial metropolis that it is today.  For the best histories of the man and his legacy, these two articles (here and here) are unmatched. Countless business, entrepreneurial, and economic lessons can be learned from a detailed study of Mr. Hill.  One particular economic lesson stems from his entrance into the business of railroad ownership… Keep Reading

Philosophy

Freedom Is Everything

Although there is very little on which we agree, Marxists and socialists have provided me with some excellent philosophical discussions.  One such person recently wrote this article in which he attempted to take to task the libertarian concept of freedom.  The piece starts out well enough as he does a decent job describing how libertarians view the concept: “What the libertarians mean by freedom is that the government does not interfere in the lives of private citizens.  If we were freed from government coercion, people would have a good life, because the free market would regulate our lives, and we would need no bureaucrat to tell us how to live wisely.” Nothing there that I take issue with.  The rest of the piece, though; is littered with logical fallacies and false conclusions.  His primary thesis is that if an individual must work in order to survive, then he is not free; true freedom is to choose leisure over labor.  Throughout, he draws on his personal experiences in education and… Keep Reading

Economics

Hayek, Statistics, And Trade-Cycle Theory

Austrian economics is often caricatured and criticized because of its approach, or deliberate lack of an approach, to mathematical models, multivariable calculus, and econometrics. Attacks are leveled against Austrians such as Mises, Rothbard, and Kirzner for their failure or refusal to avail themselves of applied empirical research in their scholarship. The Austrian methodology most frequently targeted is praxeology. It is not the purpose of this short article to refute these attacks or to explore their errors and merits. That has been done ably by others (see, for example, the series of debate-essays available here, here, here, and here). Nor does this article attempt to stand up for the deductive reasoning of praxeology or to defend its claims about a priori truths, a task better suited for a lengthy work of scholarship, not a short article. This piece instead asks one simple question: does Hayek’s early work on trade-cycle theory complicate stereotypes about the methods of Austrian economics or clarify the manner in which Austrians can and do approach economic… Keep Reading

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