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What are the non-Austrian economics texts of importance?

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Prashanth Perumal Posted: Tue, Dec 29 2009 4:04 AM

I hope to read some non-Austrian economics texts the coming year. So can you all give me your suggestions?

I have read only three non-Austrian economics texts namely: 'Principles of Economics'; 'Macroeconomics' by Gregory Mankiw and 'Principles of Macroeconomics' by Joseph Nellis & David Parker.

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Conza88 replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 4:28 AM

Prashanth Perumal:
I hope to read some non-Austrian economics texts the coming year.

Can I ask... why? lol

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Conza88:

Prashanth Perumal:
I hope to read some non-Austrian economics texts the coming year.

Can I ask... why? lol

I think Conza is being tongue-in-cheek, if not then I'll point out it's worth having a rounded view, and considering alternatives, even if one eventually ends up at the Austrian "position"

Obviously we consider Bastiat and Say as "proto-Austrians", but of course they wrote before the Austrian School existed, so anything by them is good classical stuff. I have heard people recommend Thomas Sowell as a non-Austrian, although I haven't read anything by him as of yet.

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Conza88:

Can I ask... why? lol

Simply because other schools of economic thought are 'incorrect' does not mean we should shy away from them. If anything, we should and must read up on non-Austrian economic schools, if only to improve our ability to counter their assertions. We may not agree with Lord Keynes' General Theory, but we can't deny its influence (however regrettable). We may not be fans of Adm Smith and his Wealth of Nations, but how seriously will we be taken if we haven't read him up at least once?

Hmm, or perhaps he just needs some reading material to fall asleep to.

Edit: As to avoid being a repeat of earlier posts; I really do recommend reading Wealth of Nations and General Theory. If you're really feeling fanciful, try Karlie's Kapital. This is assuming you simply wish to learn about other schools of economic thought for the sake of rebutting them later on.

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Conza88 replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 5:30 AM

Laughing Man:

The light must know the dark to establish itself.

Why re-enter the dark, when it has already been sufficiently exposed?

I dunno... I guess it's a personal preference. I know you love to read the Marxists... hehe. I guess someone has to do it right? I consider it torture, so I'd prefer to read already written apt criticisms from an Austrian perspective if they exist. Two birds with one stone. I learn from the dark, and are provided with the light at the same time.

Thedesolateone:
I think Conza is being tongue-in-cheek

Mostly Stick out tongue

Thedesolateone:
Obviously we consider Bastiat and Say as "proto-Austrians", but of course they wrote before the Austrian School existed, so anything by them is good classical stuff.

Good ole Bastiat. Has anyone got his Collections, from the Mises store? I am tempted.

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Conza88 replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 5:30 AM

Michelangelo:
Simply because other schools of economic thought are 'incorrect' does not mean we should shy away from them.

Who said or implied we should?

Michelangelo:
If anything, we should and must read up on non-Austrian economic schools, if only to improve our ability to counter their assertions. We may not agree with Lord Keynes' General Theory, but we can't deny its influence (however regrettable).

My now explicit point is, I believe it would be more worthwhile / efficient to read "The Failure of the New Economics", than Keynes "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money".

Michelangelo:
We may not be fans of Adm Smith and his Wealth of Nations, but how seriously will we be taken if we haven't read him up at least once?

"Nobody should believe that he will find in Smith’s Wealth of Nations information about present-day economics or about present-day problems of economic policy. Reading Smith is no more a substitute for studying economics than reading Euclid is a substitute for the study of mathematics."

~ Ludwig von Mises, Economic Freedom and Interventionism, p. 117

"The problem is that he originated nothing that was true, and that whatever he originated was wrong; that, even in an age that had fewer citations or footnotes than our own, Adam Smith was a shameless plagiarist, acknowledging little or nothing and stealing large chunks, for example, from Cantillon."

~ Murray N. Rothbard, Chapter 16 - An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought

... Anyone who takes Adam Smith seriously, I don't take seriously. lol

Michelangelo:
If you're really feeling fanciful, try Karlie's Kapital. This is assuming you simply wish to learn about other schools of economic thought for the sake of rebutting them later on.

How about Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk's "Karl Marx and the Close of His System" instead?

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Guys, I didn't ask for yet another debate.Stick out tongue

And the list now goes like this:

General Theory - J.M. Keynes

Wealth Of Nations - Adam Smith

Das Kapital - Karl Marx

Please add in more!

PS. Which work of Thomas Sowell do people recommend?

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Conza88 replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 5:51 AM

Not to sound rude, but I'm still wondering why. How versed in the Austrian Economics are you?

Do you merely want an alternate perspective... or do you want something to apply Austrian methodology (praxeology) to, and read the works to then come up with your own refutations of them?

Prashanth Perumal:
Please add in more!

Here's the mother load:

Principles of Economics, Brief Edition by Robert Frank, Ben Bernanke (Time's Man of the Year 2009)

Indifferent

Edit:

Prashanth Perumal:
Don't worry. I've read something like around 45 to 50 books from this webpage, including the two major treatises. I want to read mainstream books to get more perspecdtives. From the three mainstream texts I've read, I've been able to point out to many faults, and it's interesting to write critiques on them.

Haha ok. Have fun then. Yes

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Conza88:

Not to sound rude, but I'm still wondering why. How versed in the Austrian Economics are you?

Do you merely want an alternate perspective... or do you want something to apply Austrian methodology (praxeology) to, and read the works to then come up with your own refutations of them?

You don't sound rude. Don't worry. I've read something like around 45 to 50 books from this webpage, including the two major treatises. I want to read mainstream books to get more perspecdtives. From the three mainstream texts I've read, I've been able to point out to many faults, and it's interesting to write critiques on them.

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Conza88:
Haha ok. Have fun then.

Bernanke added to the listSmile

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I don't think Thomas Sowell is a complete non-Austrian: his 'Knowledge and Decisions' is a better Hayekian book than Hayek himself ever wrote. I keep advising it to everyone: read this book. It's a really, really good book.


Anyway: I'm one of those people who reads non-Austrian stuff, especially Marxists works. It helps to get a clearer view why Marxists don't immediatly change their view when you explain the subjective theory of value, capital theory, etc.

Any way: Rothbard's opinion on Adam Smith isn't the alpha and omega. Even if everything what Rothbard accuses Smith of is true, then it is stil worth reading parts of it - weren't it for the fact that he writes incredibly boring and difficult [for a non native Englishspeaker as myself, that is.]

Marshall's his principles of economics might be a book worth adding to the list.

 

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Would Milton Friedman's book, Monetary History of US, be a good one?

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kiba replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 11:14 AM

AdrianHealey:

bard accuses Smith of is true, then it is stil worth reading parts of it - weren't it for the fact that he writes incredibly boring and difficult [for a non native Englishspeaker as myself, that is.]

Even for native English speaker, it is boring and difficult.

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Conza88:
I know you love to read the Marxists... hehe. I guess someone has to do it right? I consider it torture, so I'd prefer to read already written apt criticisms from an Austrian perspective if they exist

That is how I feel about economics. I will probably never read Keynes General Theory. It just doesn't 'wow' me. The most in depth I will go into economics is probably MES [ in terms of theory, in terms of history I love the subject ]. Granted that is more in depth then most [ I think ]. I just like kooky people like socialists and utopian thinkers.

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Smiling Dave:

Would Milton Friedman's book, Monetary History of US, be a good one?

Yes, this is one of the most important books on the topics ever written.  Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom is important, as well.  There are plenty of non-Austrian free-market texts on globalization and such, which are all very important if you're interested in the topic.

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bloomj31 replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 1:03 PM

Some books I would personally recommend are (and they're not all exclusively about economics):

Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman

The Lucifer Effect by Phil Zimbardo

Freakonomics by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The Mind of the Market by Michael Shermer

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Filters Against Folly by Garrett Hardin

Pretty much anything by Thomas Sowell

Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Mackay

Against the Gods the Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter Bernstein

I know these aren't all strictly economic texts but I think they explore human behavior in a way that has been crucial for me in my studies of politics, economics and philosophy.

 

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Student replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 6:19 PM

Resist your urge to go after the great classics of non-Austrian economics too early. Avoid the Wealth of Nations and the General Theory for now. Instead, go after books that are simpler and will actually help you better appreciate those books when you're ready.

Which books should you read? Depends on your area of interest.

Macro:
The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman - I have not read the latest edition, but the first edition was a turning point in my sophmore year for understanding old-school Keynesian macro. I feel like it gave me a leg up in understanding the material in intermediate macro. Extra bonus, its incredibley short so its a super fast read.

International Econ:
Pop Internationalism by Paul Krugman - Great read. I did not learn much extra from this book that I didn't get from my international econ class (specifically Krugman's International Economics textbook). But it is still worth having around. Great defenses of free trade.

Economic Georgraphy:
The Self Organizing Economy by Paul Krugman - this is a good introduction of economic geography, but it also has interesting discussions on economic intellectual history, chaos theory, and bunches of other stuff.

lol I hope you notice a pattern here. ;) For popular reading in economics, its hard to beat Paul Krugman. And because Mises.org has a front-page article today blasting PK, I thought I would really sell my love for the guy.

If you refuse to read Krugman but want a good mainstream econ book, check out Micromotives and Macrobehaviors by Nobel prize winning economist Thomas Schelling. This book will satisfy you on most every level. In terms of breadth, Schelling covers just about everything--game theory, economic geography, micro, macro, and beyond. But it isn't just a survey book. You should really give it a shot.

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thelion replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 11:11 PM

If you want to get a good idea of what Institutionalists throw about, then read Amartya Sen who is their leader today; but you must really be a tolerant person to sit through his rants about the injustice of the market (the old 'grinding the poor' nonsense).

 

Honestly, however, there's not enough time in the world to read all the rubbish that has been written. Read good books:

 

George Selgin's: Good Money. Buy it.

David Landes': Revolution in Time. Rare.

David Landes': Bankers and Pashas. Rare.

Karl Wittfogel's: Oriental Despotism. (Actually the title is misleading, as he goes from China to other societies; it's a joke on Marx's misuse of the term.) Very rare book, however. Very powerful. No marxist except Wittfogel has ever did a double turn and concluded, as Wittfogel does, that liberty must not only be defended with a sword, but with an axe [his words].

Ettiene Balaz': Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy is a winner.

David Landes': What do Bosses Really Do? This is article, Landes's response to an incredibly idiotic essay by an economic historian in his department (Economic history at Harvard). Quickly break all historical myths advanced since 1970's by pro-socialist American historians.

Yves Guyot's essays.

Rosenstien-Rodan's: The Role of Time in Economic Theory. Article.

John Craig's: Remarks on Political Economy. Rare.

Hermann Gossen's: Laws of Human Relations. 1983 translation. Great translation, but skip the long intro, because the buddy of the translator dislikes Menger enough to twist interpretations. Very rare.

[These are histories written by people living under communism:

Jung Chang's: Wild Swans.

Nien Chang's: Life and Death in Shanghai.

Anatoly Kuznetov's Babi Yar. Very rare. Soviet Union border 1917-1960. Definite companion for ready any economic comparison of Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.]

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Esuric replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 11:18 PM

Mainstream:

  • Friedman - A Monetary History of the United States
  • Stiglitz - Making Globalization Work
  • Mankiew - Principles of Economics
  • Solow - Linear Programming and Economic Analysis
  • Lucas - Rational Expectations and Econometric Practice
  • Samuelson - The Foundations of Economic Analysis

Heterodox (excluding Austrian economists, of course):

  • Davidson - The Keynes Solution: The Path to Global Economic Prosperity 
  • Robinson - Introduction to the Theory of Employment
  • Sraffa - Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities
  • Kaldor - The Scourge of Monetarism
  • Passineti - Don't know
  • Kalecki -  Don't know

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Esuric:

 

  • Stiglitz - Making Globalization Work

I didn't read anything of value in this book.  I read it for a political science class I took last semester (I had to write a book review for the class; How Not to Make Globalization Work).  I think there are better mainstream books in existance on globalization (even Stiglitz' earlier Globalization and its Discontents).

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Bert replied on Tue, Dec 29 2009 11:57 PM

For Christmas (besides all the Austrian stuff I ordered) I got Superfreakonomics from my mom and Where Keynes Went Wrong from my brother.  I was actually tempted to buy Where Keynes Went Wrong one day at a bookstore, but I don't know anything about Superfreakonomics.  Has anyone read that? (I read that the first Freakonomics was better.)

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Student replied on Wed, Dec 30 2009 10:32 AM

Oh another thing you might want to try are some books by David Friedman:

Law's Order is a really good discussion on the economic analysis of the law. I took a grad-level law and economics course a year or so ago and I used this book to back up my understanding of the material presented in Posner's economics of the law textbook (i usually remember things better if I read the same thing from several different authors).

Hidden Order is supposed to be good, but I have never read it. I have skimmed it at the local library and its very similar Friedman's Price Theory textbook (which is available for free online). But, that being said, Fiedman's Price Theory textbook is very good. So it would probably be worth your time.

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I am noting down all the books. Thank you everybody!Smile

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On Keynes, I would recommend buying General Theory, Failure of the "New" Economics, and Where Keynes Went Wrong. Read the latter two with the first as a reference to read it. General Theory is an incredibly muddled and confusing book. I tried to read it and found myself lost and confused. Hazlitt and Lewis do a great job of breaking through the mess and revealing the truth behind Keynes' ideas. 

I think its a good idea to read texts outside of Austrianism or at minimum learn about these other schools. One of the things that drew me to the Austrian school was that is seemed that the average Austrian knew more about Marxism and Keynesianism then the average Marxist or Keynesian.

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Here's what I would do:

Go get a copy of The Worldly Philosophers by J.K. Galbraith.  You should be able to get it very cheap, because there are a gazillion copies out there.  Read it.  It's very easy and an interesting read, and it should give you a basic idea of what some of the most influential economists have had to say.

Whichever economists strike you as maybe having something particularly interesting to say, go look 'em up and have a read. Try google books first -- you can usually find most of these guys for free there, since they are long dead and their copyrights expired.  Also, econlib may have some of them.

I have read some Malthus (Principles of Population) and some Veblen (several books).  Both were very interesting.  If you like Austrian business cycle theory, check out Theory of Business Enterprise by Thorstein Veblen.  Some of its content should surprise you (i.e., it will sound a bit familiar...)!

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Neodoxy reccommened this book to me:

 

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cab21 replied on Sat, Sep 15 2012 10:44 PM

http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/sidefrm2.htm some economics books here

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Sorry, Robert Heilbroner wrote The Worldly Philosophers, not Galbraith.   And I even read the book....

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John James replied on Sat, Sep 15 2012 11:16 PM

Wow.  Create an account to bump an almost three year old thread.  That is something.

I must admit, I actually got through a good number of posts before I realized just how old this whole discussion was.  Although I did find it odd Thedesolateone would come out of nowhere to respond.

That being said, I offered my take, similar to this one:

Michelangelo:
Conza88:
Can I ask... why? lol
Simply because other schools of economic thought are 'incorrect' does not mean we should shy away from them. If anything, we should and must read up on non-Austrian economic schools, if only to improve our ability to counter their assertions. We may not agree with Lord Keynes' General Theory, but we can't deny its influence (however regrettable). We may not be fans of Adm Smith and his Wealth of Nations, but how seriously will we be taken if we haven't read him up at least once?

 

I tend to agree with Conza on this.  As I said here,

I think libertarians don't have a lot of interest in analyzing Marxist theory for the same reason few people find it useful to read science books from the 1840s.  Sure it can be interesting to see what uninformed assumptions people are operating under, and it can give you a greater appreciation for your own understanding, but outside of a purely historical or anthropological interest, I see little value in it.  Again I think time would be better spent testing your theory against reality, and spreading the ideas of liberty.

And here:

...as I said elsewhere, I liken the suggestion of learning the kind of modern macro taught in most classrooms to studying how to cut and splice physical celluloid film, or reading science books from the 1920s...so that you can "fully appreciate" how far we've come and "understand the foundations" or some other nonsense like that.

Yes, it is helpful to understand a lot of mainstream macro, if for no other reason than that's what so much of the world's policy is rationalized by (despite the nonsense that it is), and of course most micro is essential...but those are generally concepts that will be included in any Austrian analysis (e.g. law of supply and demand, law of unintended consequences, etc.)  But to try to claim that someone should waste a considerable amount of time learning that the universe revolves around the Earth, just because that's what a lot of other people believe...or that you should dedicate scores of hours schlepping through The General Theory and other incomprehensible tomes so that you might better learn the foundations behind the mathematization of government regulation and useless concepts like GDP and CPI, just because that's the way economics is currently done by the mainstream, is rediculous.

There is something to be said with being at least somewhat familiar with the opposing side's view...but I'm not about to dedicate any time reading The Flat Earth Society handbook.

 

 

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Gene Callahan linked to this thread on his blog.  I thought I had a good answer for him so I went to the trouble to go through the rigamarole to post it.  Didn't realize the thread was three years old.  Oh well.

BTW -- economics isn't science.  Also BTW, I am a scientist, and I have read at least one 100+ year old 'science book' and found it interesting.   I learned a lot from it.  It isn't always about learning the newest fashion in the field or whatever is 'state of the art.'  It can just be about personal growth or even just idle curiosity.  Sometimes the old ways of seeing things can help in understanding the new -- and sometimes, even, the old arguments were never properly refuted or even addressed, they just became unfashionable.

I should think a frequenter of Mises.org would understand something like that.

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Scott Angell:
BTW -- economics isn't science.

 

Do tell us what economics actually is, oh wise scientist.

 

Also BTW, I am a scientist, and I have read at least one 100+ year old 'science book' and found it interesting.

Good for you?

 

John James: "Sure it can be interesting to see what uninformed assumptions people are operating under, and it can give you a greater appreciation for your own understanding, but outside of a purely historical or anthropological interest, I see little value in it."

Scott Angell: It isn't always about learning the newest fashion in the field or whatever is 'state of the art.'  It can just be about personal growth or even just idle curiosity.  Sometimes the old ways of seeing things can help in understanding the new -- and sometimes, even, the old arguments were never properly refuted or even addressed, they just became unfashionable.

 

I should think a frequenter of Mises.org would understand something like that.

Luckily for you, in this case you'd be right.

 

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Science is a word pregnant with meanings. 

What is "science?" It seems like a stupid and mudane question but it is really necessary to define it. 

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Sep 16 2012 8:10 PM

Eventually it becomes pointless. As soon as we realize economics is the search for truth in how human beings economize scarce resources, the rest is bunk. It doesn't matter whether it's science or not - it's the search for truth.

I would still argue that it's science ;)

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Well I can see problems with that definition because it is so ambiguous. I mean is anyone out there specifically looking for non-truth? 

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Sep 16 2012 8:24 PM

The Time Cube

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This is pure gibberish but I guess it would be something that seeks non-truth. I do not know though. It seems so flippant that it is not meant to be taken seriously in which case, why should it be used as a serious example.  

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Here is my current reading list. My goal is to do about four books from each school (titles already read in bold):

Austrian

  • Hazlitt: Economics in One Lesson
  • Mises: Human Action
  • Bohm-Bawerk: Karl Marx and the Close of His System
  • Hayek: Prices and Production (or maybe something by Lachmann instead)

Classical

  • Smith: The Wealth of Nations
  • Ricardo: Principles of Political Economy
  • ? (Malthus? Say?)

Keynesian

  • Keynes: The General Theory
  • Keen: Debunking Economics
  • Kalecki: Essays in the Theory of Economic Fluctuations
  • Robinson: The Accumulation of Capital

Marxian

  • Marx: Capital (currently reading Vol. 3)
  • Marx: Grundrisse
  • Bukharin: Economic Theory of the Leisure Class
  • Mattick: Marx and Keynes

Neoclassical

  • Walras: Elements of Pure Economics
  • Marshall: Principles of Economics
  • Samuelson: Foundations of Economic Analysis
  • Friedman: A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960

Other

  • Schumpeter: ?
  • Veblen: Theory of the Leisure Class
  • Sraffa: Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities
  • Proudhon: The Philosophy of Poverty
  • George: Progress and Poverty
  • Something from behavioral economics?
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Bukharin was not a Marxian. 

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Yes, economics is surely 'a science.'  So is sociology, history, and many other subjects which people do not usually refer to as science simply using the word in its common usage.  Generally, when people refer to 'science,' they mean the physical sciences. 

The neat thing about subjects like economics, philosophy, math and other such 'sciences' is that pretty much all the tools needed to investigate them in a thorough manner have always been around -- which is not true for the physical sciences like physics, chemistry, and biology.  There is simply nothing in the investigation of economics to compare to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy or the Hubble space telescope.

So, the ideas of these other sciences are quite mature and have been relatively well developed, in some cases for a very long time.  You can read a two-hundred year old book on economics or a two thousand year old book on philosophy, and the ideas you will find there are still relevant. It is therefore really kind of stupid to compare them with a silly analogy saying 'ergo, old economics books are irrelevant.'  Even older writings in the physical sciences are useful to modern scientists, though not nearly to the same degree.  There is no cause or reason to be disdainful of old thoughts, just because they are old.  There is still much to learn from them, and only very modern people have decided that nobody before their own generation knew anything worth investigating.  This is a very childish attitude.

If you ever decide to read some 'old books,' you will find that different ages show different 'attitudes.'  Austrian economics is very much a 19th century 'science' in that aspect -- and rightly so, in my opinion.  There was more sense about such things in those times.

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