In a post full of his trademark pugnacity, George Selgin explains why he doesn’t consider himself an Austrian economist:
I don’t want to belong to any economic school of thought, or to “do” any sort of economics. I just want to “do” my own sort of economics.
And what sort of economics is that? I can’t tell you–I’ve never thought much about it. But perhaps that’s just it: I don’t “think” about writing any “sort” of economics. I don’t want to have to think about whether what I’m up to qualifies as “praxeology” or not, or whether Mises would mind my using terms like “money” and “inflation” the way most contemporary economists use them, instead of the way Mises himself used them a century ago. Nor am I any more inclined to trouble myself over whether my work fits neatly into any other economic school’s pigeonhole.
OK, but then I wonder: Does Selgin consider himself an economist? I mean, what if his scholarly interests take him into areas that fall outside the traditional boundary lines of this field? I wouldn’t want Selgin to get tripped up in the midst of a great flurry of writing, worrying about whether it qualifies as “economics” as opposed to “the great American novel.”
Then Selgin drives home his position with this flourish:
But if there’s one thing I truly believe concerning the “methodology” of economics, it’s that thinking about it is as helpful to actually doing economics as contemplating one’s steps is to dancing the rumba. In short, having to look over my shoulder while I think or write, at any methodological strictures at all, cramps my style.
Huh? That sounds hilarious, unless you actually think about it. (But maybe that’s the point? Selgin’s post is an ode to not having to consciously reflect on what it is we’re writing…)
If somebody is a newcomer to dancing, he sure as heck has to contemplate his steps in order to dance the rumba. And if even a professional dancer starts doing the foxtrot, and someone says, “Umm, I thought you were going to do the rumba?”, what recourse do we have except to contemplate the steps and see if the dreaded “label” fits?
But don’t worry kids: Even if you can’t dance, Bryan Caplan has the game theoretic tools by which you can avoid the deadly Friend Zone.
P.S. This post itself is pugnacious, but that’s because George and Bryan are big boys. I comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. Wherever there is a smug economist, I’ll be there! (And you can reverse it too: Wherever I’ll be, there will be a smug economist.)