Contemporary work in Austrian economics.

Author:Evans, Anthony J.
  1. Introduction

    At the time of the first Austrian "revival," prompted by Hayek winning the Nobel Prize and the death of Mises, you could probably fit all Austrian-school economists into one room. The intellectual climate of the time saw a dominance of Keynesian economics and the perceived triumph of state planning, with little scope for the methodology, subject matter, or policy conclusions of the Austrian School. The revival started with a series of conferences held in the mid-1970s that defined and mobilized the Austrian School (see, for instance, Dolan 1976), and it matured in the 1980s with the publication of several works that pushed the school further (White 1984; Lavoie 1985; O'Driscoll and Rizzo 1985). The creation of the Center for the Study of Market Processes (now the Mercatus Center) at George Mason University (GMU) and the Ludwig von Mises Institute also aided the first revival.

    The second "revival" can be traced to the early 1990s and the fall of communism, which brought the Austrian School to the attention of mainstream economists to a far larger extent. Prior to this event, many mainstream economists were severely overestimating the efficiency of the Soviet economy (Levy and Peart 2011). When the actual situation became obvious to everyone, the Austrian arguments about the impossibility of economic calculation in the absence of market prices received renewed attention. Similarly, and more recently, the Austrian business cycle theory has started to receive significant attention outside of Austrian circles due to the recent economic crisis (Gaffney 2011). Thus, while the first revival energized a small pool of Austrian authors and students, improved the academic institutional infrastructure, and generated new original research, the second, ongoing revival has attracted the attention of many more people, both economists and the general public, to the Austrian arguments.

    Nonetheless, in the early 2000s, the Austrian School still seemed historical and enigmatic. Karen Vaughn's introductory book, Austrian Economics in America (1994), provided stunning biographies of Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Wieser, Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, Lachmann, Kirzner, but ended with a revealing chapter called "Which way forward?" Indeed, many accounts of the history of the Austrian school use the first "revival" as a convenient place to stop. But what became of that revival? What was the way forward?

    More recent introductions to the Austrian school fail to answer this question. Butler (2010) provides an excellent overview of the key principles and contributions of the school, but it is not intended to be an up-to-date literature review. Schulak and Unterkofler (2011) take a more academic approach, but ignore the work of an entire generation of Austrian economists (i.e., those who have come through the GMU program since 2000, some of whom contributed to Boettke 2010). For example, Schulak and Unterkofler include Don Lavoie, who passed away in 2001, in their list of "economists adhering to the Austrian creed currently working" (p. 174). This paper intends to serve as a complement, rather than a substitute, for their otherwise excellent book.

    Part of the problem may lie in the tendency for histories of epistemic communities to take a chronological approach, and thus once published, they become out of date. Indeed, this approach reaffirms the notion that becoming an Austrian economist is about becoming acquainted with past "masters." To be sure, the history of the school is fascinating, but it should be viewed as a pathway for future contributions. To this end, we follow Rizzo (2009) and provide an overview of recent work. (1) Section 1 focuses on signs that the Austrian school is a fertile, growing, respectable part of the academic community by looking at its impact in terms of PhD programs, conferences, publishing, and rankings. Section 2 surveys specific work that has been published since 1994 that deepens our understanding of the science of economics. Section 3 provides a critical assessment. Section 4 concludes.

  2. The State of the Austrian School within the Economics Profession

    Our focus is on the state of Austrian economics within the economics profession, and therefore there will be a bias toward the United States because that is where the top schools are. Evans (2010) documents the rise of Austrian economics in Eastern Europe, and Schulak and Unterkofler (2011) do so for Europe more generally.

    1. PhD programs

      Auburn University, New York University (NYU), and GMU offered the original PhD programs where students could take Austrian courses and write a specialized thesis under the supervision of an Austrian professor. (2) Austrians have been visiting professors at prestigious schools such as London School of Economics (Peter Boettke, Bruce Caldwell, Roger Garrison), Chicago (Peter Leeson), NYU (Adam Martin, Claudia Williamson) and Duke (David Skarbek). Despite the Auburn and NYU programs abating, the options open to potential Austrians have increased and continue to grow. (3)

      Aside from GMU, there are Austrian economists on the faculty of about seven PhD-granting institutions in the United States: NYU (Israel Kirzner, Mario Rizzo, David Harper), the University of Missouri (Peter Klein), West Virginia University (Josh Hall, Jeff Lee, Roger Congleton, Andy Young), the University of Illinois (Isaac DiIanni), Mississippi State University (Claudia Williamson), the University of California, Santa Barbara (Ryan Oprea), and Texas Tech University (Adam Martin, Ben Powell, and Edward Stringham). Master's programs with Austrian faculty include those at San Jose State University (Colleen Haight, Matt Holian) and Western Carolina University (Ed Lopez, Steve Miller). Also, in 2010, Peter Klein launched a dedicated course on Austrian economics at The University of Missouri, Columbia. Other programs on this list have Austrian faculty teaching in the graduate school, but not necessarily teaching courses that focus exclusively on the Austrian School. It is important to also consider Austrians teaching in business schools, such as Nicolai Foss (Copenhagen Business School) and Anthony Evans (ESCP Europe).

      We have also seen the rise of non-U.S. institutions, for example Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid (Jesus Huerta de Soto, Philip Bagus) and Francisco Marroqum University (UFM) in Guatemala (arguably the European and Central American equivalents of GMU), creating stimulating intellectual environments for the study of Austrian ideas. There are also Austrian faculty that can supervise PhDs at Kings College, University of London (Paul Lewis, John Meadowcroft, Mark Pennington, Emily Skarbek, and David Skarbek). Encouragingly, there is a plethora of undergraduate programs that expose students to Austrian ideas, not to mention the Mises Institute's "Mises University" and various programs run by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), the Institute for Economic Studies (IES) Europe, the Liberalm institut in Prague, and others.

    2. Conferences

      In terms of professional conferences, the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics (SDAE) was founded in 1996 and has around 150 members. It now hosts at the Southern Economic Association (SEA) annual conference eleven meetings that are some of the best-attended at the conference. There have also been Austrian panels at the Academy of Management and at the Eastern Economic Association (EEA), plus a heavy presence each year at the Association of Private Enterprise Education. Many Austrian economists also participate in specialized Austrian conferences, colloquia, and reading groups, including the Austrian Scholars Conference; the NYU Colloquium on Market Institutions and Economics Processes; the GMU Workshop in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; the Prague Conference on Political Economy; and the London Austrian Economics Reading Group.

    3. Publishing

      Austrian economics is also becoming increasingly recognized in peer-reviewed journals. The subject has its own code in the Journal of Economic Literature classification system (B53), under "current heterodox approaches," and prominent journals that have recently published Austrian economists include the following:

      * Journal of Political Economy (Leeson 2007a)

      * Organisation Studies (Klein, Foss, and Foss 2007)

      * American Journal of Economics and Sociology (Block, Hansen, and Klein 2007; Boettke, Coyne, and Leeson 2008; Callahan and Leeson 2012)

      * Journal of Economic Perspectives (Leeson 2008)

      * Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal (Klein 2008)

      * Journal of Money, Credit and Banking (White 2008)

      * Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation (Boettke and Coyne 2005; Powell and Wilson 2008; Klein and Orsborn 2009; Leeson 2010; Leeson and Nowrasteh 2011; Coyne 2011; Coyne and Mathers 2011; Levy and Peart 2011)

      * Economic Journal (Boettke et al. 2006)

      * American Political Science Review (Aligica and Tarko 2013)

      * American Journal of Political Science (Leeson and Dean 2009)

      * Journal of Business Ethics (Barnett and Block 2009; Bagus and Howden 2009; Cachanosky 2011; Evans 2013)

      There are also several high-quality, peer-reviewed Austrian journals, including The Review of Austrian Economics (Springer) and Advances in Austrian Economics (Emerald), and the open-access journals The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics (Springer) and Studies in Emergent Order.

      Within the last five years, Austrian books have been published by major university presses:

      * Stanford (Coyne 2008; 2013)

      * Princeton (Cowen 2002, 2006; Leeson 2009)

      * Oxford (Klein 2012; Skarbek 2014; Stringham, forthcoming)

      * Cambridge (White 2012; Leeson 2014; Powell 2014)

      Also, there are Austrian series with the University of Cambridge (Mind, Cognition and Society), Edward Elgar (New Thinking in Political Economy), and Routledge (Foundations of the Market Economy). Moreover, there are wider publishing houses that publish Austrian material, such as the...

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