Category Archives: Austrian Economics

Julian L. Simon Memorial Award: Steve Horwitz

I wish to congratulate Steve Horwitz for receiving the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award. From the Competitive Enterprise Institute announcement:

“This year, CEI is pleased to honor Dr. Steven Horwitz, Director of the Institute for the Study of Political Economy and Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise at Ball State University, as the 2020 Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Winner.

“Professor Steven Horwitz extends Simon’s legacy with an exemplary teaching career and thorough empirical investigation of labor saving innovations in the modern economy. He is a testament to the power of open dialogue, the importance of liberal institutions, and the belief that tomorrow can be better than yesterday.”

I am proud to call Steve my colleague—and my dear friend! Way to go, Steve! I have been honored to know you, Steve, and inspired by the depth of your knowledge and the resilience of your spirit!

7-Day Course Challenge: “Methodology of the Social Sciences” (Course #7)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #7 Course: Methodology of the Social Sciences
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. Investigations into the Methods of the Social Sciences – Carl Menger
  2. The Poverty of Historicism – Karl Popper
  3. The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory – Richard J. Bernstein
  4. Dialectical Investigations – Bertell Ollman
  5. The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom – Edited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins [oh c’mon, gimme a break—it’s the very last book recommendation on the very last day of this challenge 🙂 ]
Methodology of the Social Sciences – Selected Readings

7-Day Course Challenge: “Austrian Economics: A Primer” (Course #6)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #6 Course: Austrian Economics: A Primer
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. The Elgar Companion to Austrian Economics – Edited by Peter J. Boettke
  2. The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics – Edited by Edwin G. Dolan
  3. New Directions in Austrian Economics – Edited by Louis M. Spadaro
  4. Austrian Economics, 3 vols. – Edited by Stephen Littlechild

These volumes include selections from writers across the Austrian tradition, from its founders to its contemporary exponents: Bruce Benson, Peter Boettke, Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, Sam Bostaph, Donald Boudreaux, William Butos, Richard Ebeling, Roger Garrison, Steve Horwitz, Sanford Ikeda, Emil Kauder, Israel Kirzner, Roger Koppl, Ludwig Lachmann, Don Lavoie, Peter Lewin, Stephen Littlechild, G. B. Madison, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Gerald O’Driscoll, Dave Prychitko, Mario Rizzo, Murray Rothbard, Joseph Salerno, Joseph Schumpeter, George Selgin, Sudha Shenoy, Mark Skousen, Barry Smith, Friedrich Weiser, and Lawrence White, among others.

Compilations in Austrian Economics

7-Day Course Challenge: “The Progressive Era: Revisionist Perspectives” (Course #3)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #3 Course: The Progressive Era: Revisionist Perspectives
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

  1. A New History of Leviathan – Edited by Ronald Radosh and Murray Rothbard
  2. The Progressive Era – Murray Rothbard
  3. The Decline of American Liberalism – Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.
  4. The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 – Gabriel Kolko
  5. The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State: 1900-1918 – James Weinstein

(And before Rob Bradley says one word, his essay with Roger Donway is worth a look: “Gabriel Kolko’s ‘Political Capitalism’: Bad Theory, Bad History,” as is Joseph Stromberg’s response in “The Molinari Review” [Autumn 2019]: “The War on Kolko.”)

Revisionist Perspectives on The Progressive Era

Postscript (29 August 2020): I added this point to my post on Facebook:

I think that there are important questions that should be raised about some aspects of Kolko’s work, but even Bradley and Donway admit that his approach essentially changed the whole trajectory of thinking about the Progressive Era. They are concerned about some of the interpretations he offers of the data and also with his political slant, but they do credit him:

“Our reinterpretation of Kolko in light of libertarian thought should not take away from Kolko’s success in amending the simplistic Progressivist interpretation of American history.”

“Unquestionably, Kolko did valuable work in disproving the old stereotypes of Gilded Age businessmen as uncompromising pro-capitalists and Progressive reformers as do-gooders. He showed that industrialists had not been as laissez-faire or reformers as high-minded as Progressivism alleged.”

See here and here. I feature some discussion of Kolko’s work and of the broader revisionist historical perspective in an essay forthcoming in the twentieth anniversary finale issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (December 2020): “Free Market Revolution: Partial or Complete?” — a review of the Yaron Brook/Don Watkins book.

7-Day Course Challenge: “The Roads to Serfdom: Readings” (Course #2)

My friend Daniel Bastiat tagged me on Facebook for a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course.

Day #2 Course: The Roads to Serfdom: Readings
(For undergraduate- and graduate-level students)

After two weeks of political conventions, whatever your political persuasion, I think a course offering different perspectives on “The Roads to Serfdom” is in order. Your readings:

  1. The Origins of Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt
  2. The Mass Psychology of Fascism – Wilhelm Reich
  3. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World – Barrington Moore, Jr.
  4. Nationalism and Culture – Rudolf Rocker
  5. The Road to Serfdom – F. A. Hayek
Perspectives on the Roads to Serfdom

Postscript (29 August 2020): This Facebook post led to quite a few comments and I’ll just take a few excerpts of some of the additional comments I made.

The case of Hayek is … complex; I think he certainly raised important issues about the dynamics of market processes, and the nature of both the dispersion knowledge and the importance of its tacit component (not captured by articulated “data”). Without opening up a Pandora’s box of discussion on this thread, I think it can’t be denied that at the very least Hayek’s work continues to challenge the left, and in its wake, there has been some fine scholarly work from folks as diverse as Hilary Wainwright (Arguments for a New Left) and Ted Burczak (Socialism After Hayek). Heck, even my mentor, Bertell Ollman, was a Volker fellow under Hayek at the University of Chicago–and learned much from him. It was Bertell’s encouragement that led me to author a dissertation on Marx, Hayek, and Murray Rothbard, the first two parts of which resulted in my own Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (SUNY Press, 1995) and the Rothbard portion of which appeared in expanded form as the second part of my Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism (Penn State Press, 2000). And while we’re at it, check out the recently published Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom.

I think that Road to Serfdom was Hayek’s most “popular” and therefore most polemical work. The more dialectical themes in that work are his insistence on an organic relationship between political and economic freedom. But his chief dialectical sensibility shows up in his critique of utopianism, which shares much with Marx’s own critique of utopian socialism, and of course, his understanding not only of the role of knowledge (which … is as applicable to large corporations as it is to the state; even Rothbard said something similar with regard to the “One Big Firm” and its calculational problems)… but also his fine take-down of conservatism (“Why I Am Not a Conservative”).

I also think the Hayekian impact on contemporary left-libertarian anarchists can’t be emphasized enough.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to veer away from the -isms… I long ago rejected using the term “capitalism” (given its “known reality“): … and I’m pretty sure that at this stage too many folks are talking past each other because the -isms are so historically loaded. The “communism” of the USSR, in my view, had little or nothing to do with Marx’s vision of communism, and the “capitalism” of the US had almost nothing in common with Ayn Rand’s “unknown ideal.” I have thought more in terms of how relations of power manifest themselves across several dimensions (as I’ve argued in my “Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy”: the personal, the cultural, and the structural), and though, as a social theorist I focus much on the statist aspects of those relations of power, I have long argued that those extra-political aspects of oppression are both preconditions and effects of the broader statist system that I oppose.

7-Day Course Challenge – “The Socialist Calculation Debate” (Course #1)

On Facebook, my friend Daniel Bastiat has started a new 7-day challenge: Pick between 2 to 5 books that you would assign for any course of your choosing (each day) and name the course. You can use the same book on multiple days if it pertains to the topic.

I was going to tag folks the way Daniel tagged me… but too many of the folks I was going to tag are preparing for the beginning of the new semester.

So, without tagging, I will create my own Course titles and provide the texts for the course.

Day #1 Course: The Socialist Calculation Debate
(For graduate-level students)

The only “textbook” for the course is the magisterial multi-volume series edited by Peter J. Boettke: Socialism and the Market: The Socialist Calculation Debate Revisited:

Volume 1: The Natural Economy (selections by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Bukharin, Neurath, and others)

Volume 2: Collectivist Economic Planning (Hayek’s edited work)

Volume 3: Economic Planning in Soviet Russia (Brutzkus)

Volume 4: Marginalist Economics and the Socialist Economy (selections by Taylor, Knight, Dobb, Lerner, Durbin, Lange, and others)

Volume 5: Socialist Calculation and the Market Economy (selections by Hayek, Robbins, Mises, Bergson, Roberts, Vaughn, and others)

Volume 6: Rivalry and Central Planning (by Don Lavoie)

Volume 7: The Political Economy of Soviet Socialism (by Peter J. Boettke)

Volume 8: Mechanism Design Theory and the Allocation of Resources (selections by Lange, Lavoie, Stiglitz, and others)

Volume 9: The Current Status of the Debate (selections by Prychitko, Shapiro, Arnold, Schweickart, Cottrell & Cockshott, Horwitz, Caldwell, and others)

The 9 volumes of Socialism and the Market: The Socialist Calculation Debate Revisited

Postscript (31 August 2020): I added this comment on one of the Facebook threads pertaining to the course and text selections, given some of the criticisms of my choices along the way. Since it’s a general statement, I include my comment here for the sake of readers looking at the entire seven-day course challenge:

“I would truly like to include 10 or 20 books in each course, but with this 2-5 book maximum, I’m going with texts that I think are either foundational to the course, or I’m cheating, by including compilations that cover more ground than the outlines of the challenge. I know that I’m leaving out so much, with regrets. After all, my bibliography for Total Freedom alone runs nearly 50 pages. But the lack of inclusion of any important work is not a sign of negative judgment and the inclusion of a work is not a sign of positive endorsement. My selections are just being guided by works I think essential to the topic of the course… and I’ve slapped my head several times along the way and said: “You shoulda, coulda, woulda included X!” Perhaps when this is little challenge is over, I’ll return to it—when my deadlines and circumstances allow for it—with all new course topics and all-new selections. Until then, I’m prepared to be scolded! 🙂 ”

Facebook Fiasco

On August 19, 2020, I was advertising a “Blow Out Sale” for The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom—a trailblazing anthology I coedited with Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins. I was corresponding with a few of the contributors to the anthology with regard to steep discount sales of the book. I was literally in the middle of a chat on FB Messenger with one of our contributors, Nathan Goodman, to discuss the discounts. Suddenly, I got a note saying that I couldn’t send the message. After uttering a few expletives, I tried again. This time, all of Nathan’s half of the dialogue was gone. Poof! The display: “This message has been temporarily removed because the sender’s account requires verification.” Huh?

So I clicked into Nathan’s profile, and got one of those “Sorry” messages that the content could not be displayed. Now the expletives were becoming a bit more Brooklyn edgy.

Onto email. Conscientious friend that he is, Nathan apologized profusely for not continuing our dialogue on FB Messenger and said he was having some account difficulties. Funny. I got the same message from another of our contributors, Jason Lee Byas, who informed me that he too was having difficulty with his account.

I joked to myself: “This is obviously a conspiracy against the dialectical libertarian project!”

The joke apparently was on me. In fact, on all of us.

It took a while to sort out, but here’s the gist of it all. On the very day that my announcement went up, Facebook apparently enacted a new policy, which stated in part:

“Today we are taking action against Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts tied to offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests, US-based militia organizations and QAnon. We already remove content calling for or advocating violence and we ban organizations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission. However, we have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior. So today we are expanding our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address organizations and movements that have demonstrated significant risks to public safety but do not meet the rigorous criteria to be designated as a dangerous organization and banned from having any presence on our platform. While we will allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, so long as they do not otherwise violate our content policies, we will restrict their ability to organize on our platform. … As a result of some of the actions we’ve already taken, we’ve removed over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and additionally imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.”

Well, I have to say, unbeknownst to me, my good friends Nathan and Jason are among those who are now being characterized as “Dangerous Individuals.” And Jason himself has actually been in my apartment! If only I’d known!

The irony of all this is that Facebook has no clue just how “dangerous” dialectical thinking actually is. These two fine young scholars are as dialectical as they come; they are among the vanguard of a growing brigade of freedom-loving thinkers who are unwilling to accept the status quo and who understand that a dialectical method is the apotheosis of radical theorizing. Dialectics demands that we grasp social problems by understanding their interrelationships within the larger context of the system in which they are manifested—and which they perpetuate. It requires that we address these social problems across time, understanding the past, present, and many possible future directions that they might take. And in the end, it aims not merely to go to the root of such problems, which is the essence of what it means to be radical, but to uproot their preconditions and effects and to transform fundamentally the social system in which they are embedded.

If this be treason, make the most of it.

As Kelly Wright (another banned FB friend) and Nathan explain in their essay, “When Facebook Bans Peaceful Anarchists But Not the Violent State” (published on the site of the Center for a Stateless Society), they and two of their colleagues had their “Facebook accounts indefinitely disabled” with no explanation. But it is pretty clear that this blacklisting was a direct result of their having been administrators of an FB page that articulated a ‘leftist’ case for gun rights. In a valiant dialectical spirit, their group—“Leftists for Self-Defense and Firearm Freedom”—whether you agree with its political perspective or not, sought to challenge the false dichotomies in contemporary politics: “On one side, we see center left commentators who profess concerns about marginalized people but support gun control. On the other side, we see right-wing commentators who claim to support gun rights, but favor forms of state violence that undermine gun rights and rights to self-defense, such as the war on drugs. For instance, every no-knock raid is a home invasion that risks turning a gun owner defending their home into either a murder victim or an accused murderer.”

Again, whether or not you agree with the positions taken by the individuals in the group in question, their whole reason for being was to challenge conventional thinking on both the left and the right. And for this, they have now been branded as “dangerous individuals.”

This is unacceptable. In fact, it is downright infuriating and disgusting. We hear more and more about the dangers of “cancel culture”, and yet, right on Facebook, we are now witnessing what it means when a media giant starts to bracket out and cancel any “dangerous” perspective that challenges people to think outside the conventional political box within which too many are intellectually imprisoned.

I can speak directly to the integrity and brilliance of my two young colleagues and friends whose work is a highlight of The Dialectics of Liberty. As our contributor biography page states: “Jason Lee Byas is a Ph.D. student in Philosophy at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). His research focuses on rights theory, alternatives to punishment, and justice beyond the state. In addition to his academic work, he has been a Fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society since 2011. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Georgia State University and a B.A. in Philosophy and Sociology from the University of Oklahoma.” And Nathan Goodman is also a “Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics at George Mason University. He earned his Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Utah. He has worked as a research fellow for the Center for a Stateless Society, a program intern for the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University, and a summer fellow at the Fully Informed Jury Association. His research interests include defense and peace economics, Austrian economics, public choice economics, and self-governance.”

Jason contributed an essay to the anthology that focuses important attention on the nature of social change and Nathan penned an essay dealing with the invaluable contribution of Don Lavoie to the project of a “dialectical liberalism.”

Think about the effects of all this. These are not merely brilliant doctoral students. They are our future. They deserve to be heard. In the interests of “public safety,” actions such as those taken by Facebook are now being applied through some bloodless algorithm that will have the effect of deadening rigorous debate and marginalizing those voices we need to hear from most: those that challenge our most precious assumptions and that compel us to think in nontraditional ways.

I have benefitted immensely from my presence here on Facebook; I’ve met people through this social media platform whose friendships I have come to cherish deeply. I have also had an opportunity to use the functions of Facebook to moderate a study group that brought together over 100 members in a structured chapter-by-chapter four-month long discussion of The Dialectics of Liberty, in which seventeen of the nineteen contributors to the volume engaged with readers in a lively and thought-provoking discussion of the contents of their essays. It is not my plan to, as the old adage goes—“cut off my nose to spite my face”—and to leave Facebook in an act of revolt. I plan to stay on this platform until or unless they throw me off. But as long as I am here, I plan to speak up when I see such injustices.

Fix. This. Now.

Postscript (23 August 2020): Check out my friend Irfan Khawaja’s “Fatwa: Death to Facebook” post on his Policy of Truth blog. 🙂