Blogs > Liberty and Power > Misrepresenting the Austrian "Revival"

Apr 23, 2015

Misrepresenting the Austrian "Revival"

tags: Wasserman,Austrian School,Hayek,Mises

Janek Wasserman has an article up at HNN, purporting to correct what he portrays as a “dogmatic” appropriation of the historical Austrian school of economic thought by American libertarians, free-marketeers, and business interests since the mid 20th century. Steve Horwitz has written a thorough retort of Wasserman’s argument, taking him to task for neglecting to do even a rudimentary survey of the literature from modern day academic practitioners of Austrian thought. Such slipshod research practices, to put it mildly, do not bode well for accuracy in Wasserman’s representation of the scholarly tradition he attempts to critique.

In reading the HNN piece though, something else struck me. In addition to his neglectful exposition of Austrian economics, past and present, he has a very weak grasp of the history of Austrian economics’ transmission to the United States in the 20th century. Having written on this subject myself, I was taken aback in particular by the following claim:

“When Austrian Economics was “revived” in the mid-1970s, only Hayek received an invitation to the conferences”

In this passage Wasserman is referring to a series of Austrian academic conferences that were organized by the Institute for Humane Studies (full disclosure – my current affiliation), beginning in 1974 and rapidly expanding following F.A. Hayek’s receipt of the Nobel Prize later that year. The argument he is trying to make here is that the Austrian “revival” from the 1970s to the present day represents something of a break from the older early 20th century Vienna-based Austrian school from which Hayek emerged. The implication is that Hayek, and particularly a  libertarian strain of Hayekian thought, rose to the forefront in this “revived” tradition at the expense of the older Austrian school’s academic focus and broader economic ecumenicism.

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