Including a Symposium on Austrian Economics in the Postwar Era: Volume 34A

Cover of Including a Symposium on Austrian Economics in the Postwar Era

Table of contents

(21 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages xiii-xiv
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Part I: The Postwar Austrian Diaspora – A Symposium on Austrian Economics in the Wake of World War II

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Abstract

The Nationalökonomische Gesellschaft (Austrian Economic Association, NOeG) provides a prominent example of the Viennese economic circles and associations that more than academic economics dominated scientific discourse in the interwar years. For the first time this chapter gives a thorough account of its history, from its foundation in 1918 until the demise of its long-time president, Hans Mayer, 1955, based on official documents and archival material. The topics treated include its predecessor and rival, the Gesellschaft österreichischer Volkswirte, its foundation in 1918 soon to be followed by years of inactivity, the relaunch by Mayer and Mises, the survival under the NS-regime and the expulsion of its Jewish members and the slow restoration after 1945. In particular, an attempt is made to provide a list of the papers presented to the NOeG, as complete as possible, for the period 1918–1938.

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In this chapter it is argued that when the Austrian revival takes place in the 1970s and 1980s the image of economics as an analytical science which can be methodologically kept clean from value judgments, and the economist as a pure truth-seeker shapes modern Austrian economics at the expense of an idea of a socially involved, embedded scholar with a responsibility toward society which was characteristic of the pre-WWII Austrian school. The neglect of that part of the Austrian heritage is important not only for how we understand the role and responsibility of the social scientist but also because it alters what we consider to be relevant and valid economic knowledge. The chapter demonstrates that insight into economic processes was excluded from what was considered valid economic knowledge and how social relevance of knowledge was no longer a goal in the postwar Austrian School. The chapter identifies alternative currents in the modern Austrian school to this general trend and suggests ways forward to think about the appropriate institutions to promote relevance and the moral conduct of (Austrian) economics.

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Max Weber and the Austrian School of Economics share many of the same intellectual influences as well as a similar commitment to a social science characterized by methodological individualism, methodological subjectivism, and value-freedom. Although many of the links between Weber and the Austrian school have been explored, one area of agreement between Weber and Mises that is yet to be explored is their shared understanding of the nature of the market. This chapter attempts to close this gap by examining the pictures of the market in Weber’s Economy and Society and Mises’ Human Action. We find that both portrayals share important features. These include similarities regarding (i) the nature of the market; (ii) the market’s autonomous logic; (iii) the impersonality of the market; and (iv) the market in society.

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Historians of economic thought have begun to reintegrate “un-Austrian” Austrians back into discussions of Austrian Economics, yet many scholars have argued that the Austrian School dissolved after emigration, with only Mises and his followers left to carry on the legacy. This chapter argues that a renewed focus on the networks established by the Austrians themselves, before and after emigration, reveals a distinctly different picture of Austrian Economics. Focusing on their shared interest in international trade theory and business cycle theory and their continued contributions to economic methodology, we see the émigré Austrians advancing Austrian ideas while also reconstituting and elaborating new Austrian affiliations. Ultimately, we find ourselves in agreement with Herbert Furth that Austrian Economics is far broader than Hayek, Mises, and their acolytes would have it, and that it is vital to understand and preserve this more diverse tradition by investigating more closely the works of Haberler, Machlup, Morgenstern, and others.

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The purpose of this chapter is to examine the influence exerted on the thought of F.A. Hayek by the work of the biologist and founder of system theory, Ludwig von Bertalanffy. The author’s methodology includes textual analysis and archival work. It is argued first of all that Bertalanffy provided Hayek with a conceptual framework in terms of which he could articulate the philosophical significance of his theoretical psychology. In particular, Bertalanffy’s work afforded Hayek a set of concepts that helped him to articulate the relationship between mental and physical events – that is, between mind and body – implied by his theory. The second part of the chapter builds on the first by exploring how Hayek subsequently applied the abstract conceptual framework or ontology set out by Bertalanffy to the economy. In this way, Bertalanffy’s ideas helped Hayek to articulate and shape his emerging view of the economy as a complex adaptive system, which consists of different ‘levels of organisation’, which displays ‘structural’ or ‘emergent properties’, and which evolves over time on the basis of those group-level properties.

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This chapter explores the ways in which cybernetics influenced the works of F. A. Hayek from the late 1940s onward. It shows that the concept of negative feedback, borrowed from cybernetics, was central to Hayek’s attempt to explain the principle of the emergence of human purposive behavior. Next, the chapter discusses Hayek’s later uses of cybernetic ideas in his works on the spontaneous formation of social orders. Finally, Hayek’s view on the appropriate scope of the use of cybernetics is considered.

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This chapter provides a comprehensive survey of the contributions of the Austrian school of economics, with specific emphasis on post-WWII developments. We provide a brief history and overview of the original theorists of the Austrian school in order to set the stage for the subsequent development of their ideas by Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek. In discussing the main ideas of Mises and Hayek, we focus on how their work provided the foundations for the modern Austrian school, which included Ludwig Lachmann, Murray Rothbard and Israel Kirzner. These scholars contributed to the Austrian revival in the 1960s and 1970s, which, in turn, set the stage for the emergence of the contemporary Austrian school in the 1980s. We review the contemporary development of the Austrian school and, in doing so, discuss the tensions, alternative paths, and the promising future of Austrian economics.

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Part II: Essays

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This chapter enquires into the contribution of two British writers, Herbert Somerton Foxwell and Henry Riverdale Grenfell, who elaborated upon the hints provided by Jevons towards a description of long waves in the oscillations of prices. Writing two decades after Jevons, they witnessed the era of high prices turning into the great depression of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the causes of which they saw in the end of bimetallism. Not only did they take up Jevons’s specific explanation of the long fluctuations, but they also based their discussion upon graphical representation of data and incorporated in their treatment a specific trait (the superposition principle) of the ‘waves’ metaphor emphasized by the Manchester statisticians in the 1850s and 1860s. Their contribution is also interesting for their understanding of crises versus depressions at the time of the emergence of the interpretation of oscillations as a cycle, which they have only partially grasped – as distinct from the approach of later long wave theorists.

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At the turn of the 20th-century railroad regulation was hotly debated in the United States. Railways were accused of abusing of their monopolistic position, in particular by discriminating rates. Public opinion’s pressure for tighter regulation led to the 1906 enactment of the Hepburn Act, which strengthened the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission. American economists actively participated in the debate. While most of them sided with the pro-regulation camp, the best economic analysis came from those who used the logic of modern law and economics to demonstrate how most railroads’ practices, including rate discrimination, were simply rational, pro-efficiency behavior. However, as relatively unknown Chicago University economist Hugo R. Meyer would discover, proposing that logic in public events could at that time cost you your academic career.

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The chapter examines the core framework of A. C. Pigou’s Theory of Unemployment (TU) with the aim of providing a rational reconstruction of his analysis of the determinants of unemployment in the short period. This is accomplished without any comparison with Keynes’s criticism of TU, as often found in the previous literature.

I reconstruct Pigou’s two-sector model, which only accounted for output in the wage good sector but not in the non-wage good sector, as a complete two-sector model to reveal his implicit assumptions about the passive behaviour of non-wage earners in the non-wage good sector. I also find classical elements, most notably the wage fund doctrine and the hypothesis on profits, in Pigou’s approach, which partly explains why the model is incomplete when viewed in terms of its neoclassical elements. In the “A Rational Reconstruction of the Two-Sector Model” section, I sketch a mathematical model to make Pigou’s analysis consistent.

The chapter shows how unemployment is determined and how economic policy to deal with it is conceived in the work of a major exponent of the pre-Keynesian approach.

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Can we model politics as exclusively based on self-interest, leaving virtue aside? How much romance is there in the study of politics? We show that James Buchanan, a founder of public choice and constitutional political economy, reintroduces a modicum of romance into politics, despite claiming that his work is the study of “politics without romance”: Buchanan’s model needs an ethical attitude to defend rules against rent-seeking.

We claim that Adam Smith, more than David Hume, should be considered one of the primary intellectual influences on Buchanan’s public choice and constitutional political economy. It is commonly believed that Hume assumes in politics every man ought to be considered a knave, making him an influence on Buchanan’s idea of politics without romance. Yet, it is Smith who, like Buchanan, describes rent-seeking and suggests that public virtues may be the remedy through which good rules maintaining liberty and prosperity can be generated and enforced. Smith, like Buchanan, rejects sole reliance on economic incentives: the study of politics needs some romance.

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Part III: From the Vault

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A hitherto unknown manuscript from the 1620s, whose only extant copies appear to be in Dublin, shows the balance of trade being forcefully developed, without the concern for the East India Trade that marks Thomas Mun. It goes on to consider economic and monetary policy, particularly the relative valuation of gold and silver, more closely.

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Part IV: Reviews

Abstract

This English translation of Heinrich von Stackelberg’s Marktform und Gleichgewicht will be welcomed by economists working in the field of industrial organisation and beyond. It has been overdue for more than 80 years. This translation will allow matters to be set straight concerning a number of fundamental theoretical issues connected to Stackelberg’s work as well as allow to clarify a number of misunderstandings that go back to the first reviews of Stackelberg’s 1934 classic on competition theory.

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Cover of Including a Symposium on Austrian Economics in the Postwar Era
DOI
10.1108/S0743-4154201634A
Publication date
2016-07-23
Book series
Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-960-2
Book series ISSN
0743-4154