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Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist by Bryan Caplan

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Albeaver89 Posted: Wed, Jan 11 2012 6:52 PM

http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/whyaust.htm

 
I have been debating people over the economy and one of my professors told me to read this, I did and i just wanted to see if any of you have come across this and your responces. 

Thank you for your time,
             Allyn

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Thanks for saving me the trouble, Wayreth.

 

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Wayreth replied on Wed, Jan 11 2012 7:11 PM

Lol yup, happens enough so thought I could at least use my lurking to help out

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I also refute a bit of Caplan in my blog; just do a search there for bryan caplan

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Mens Rea replied on Wed, Jan 11 2012 11:34 PM

Caplan writes,

"My own view is the econometrics is not useless, but must become a subordinate tool of the economic historian rather than vice versa."

Isn't this basically the Austrian position?

Caplan also writes,

"M&E have had fifty years of ever-increasing hegemony in economics. The empirical evidence on their contribution is decidedly negative. This does not mean, however, that working economists ought to immediately cease to employ M&E in their work. This has been the Austrians' main response, and it has led to their extreme isolation from the rest of the economics profession. The simple fact is that M&E are the language of modern economics, much as Latin was the language of medieval philosophy. These professional languages waste a lot of time and make it difficult for laymen and academics to communicate. But once mastered, even dissident scholars can use these tools to speak their minds."

Maybe I'm not reading this correctly but is Caplan saying here that Austrians should ignore experience and work with M&E anyway so that they can "speak their minds" to other scholars?

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Caplan writes,

"My own view is the econometrics is not useless, but must become a subordinate tool of the economic historian rather than vice versa."

Isn't this basically the Austrian position?

It is if you erase the word "not", as well as everything after the comma.

Caplan also writes,

"M&E have had fifty years of ever-increasing hegemony in economics. The empirical evidence on their contribution is decidedly negative. This does not mean, however, that working economists ought to immediately cease to employ M&E in their work. This has been the Austrians' main response, and it has led to their extreme isolation from the rest of the economics profession. The simple fact is that M&E are the language of modern economics, much as Latin was the language of medieval philosophy. These professional languages waste a lot of time and make it difficult for laymen and academics to communicate. But once mastered, even dissident scholars can use these tools to speak their minds."

Maybe I'm not reading this correctly but is Caplan saying here that Austrians should ignore experience and work with M&E anyway so that they can "speak their minds" to other scholars?

Does it matter what he means? Who cares? If someone thinks that in order to get a driver's license, you have to learn eight years of Latin so you can communicate with the dead spirits of the past, is he to be taken seriously?

If the medical schools taught witch doctory, should a competent physician learn their chants and incantantations, go to caves and catch bats for their blood, and so forth, so he could "communicate" with the witch doctors?

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Autolykos replied on Thu, Jan 12 2012 6:59 AM

Mens Rea:
Caplan writes,

"My own view is the econometrics is not useless, but must become a subordinate tool of the economic historian rather than vice versa."

Isn't this basically the Austrian position?

Here I'm going to disagree with Dave and say that I think this is the Austrian position. I remember reading something that Mises wrote where he put forth essentially the same notion. Paraphrasing, and IIRC, Mises wrote that econometrics is just economic history, and can only explain what has occurred in the past - it can't be used to predict the future.

Mens Rea:
Caplan also writes,

"M&E have had fifty years of ever-increasing hegemony in economics. The empirical evidence on their contribution is decidedly negative. This does not mean, however, that working economists ought to immediately cease to employ M&E in their work. This has been the Austrians' main response, and it has led to their extreme isolation from the rest of the economics profession. The simple fact is that M&E are the language of modern economics, much as Latin was the language of medieval philosophy. These professional languages waste a lot of time and make it difficult for laymen and academics to communicate. But once mastered, even dissident scholars can use these tools to speak their minds."

Maybe I'm not reading this correctly but is Caplan saying here that Austrians should ignore experience and work with M&E anyway so that they can "speak their minds" to other scholars?

My interpretation of Caplan's argument here is that he's appealing to the notion of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". For an academic careerist, getting published in well-known academic journals and receiving lots of academic funding are apparently the hallmarks of prestige. Caplan here seems to be criticizing Austrian-school economists based on their lack of prestige, which he presumes is a bad thing. I don't see how this is an argument against the Austrian school of economics per se.

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jan 12 2012 8:39 AM

Caplan here seems to be criticizing Austrian-school economists based on their lack of prestige, which he presumes is a bad thing. I don't see how this is an argument against the Austrian school of economics per se.

He can't use the "pragmatics" argument because he's an AnCap himself :P

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Mens Rea replied on Thu, Jan 12 2012 12:34 PM

Autolykos,

Thanks for the reply, I think I remember reading something similar by Mises. So since Caplan basically agrees with the Austrians when it comes to doing economic history, it leaves only one reason fo why he believes Austrians should work with M&E and that is so they can get published in academic journals. He is basically saying "yeah I know M&E isn't really useful in economics (and has actually had a negative impact) but Austrians should use it anyway so others who do wrong economics can take them seriously." SMH

 

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