22 Oct 2009

Does Austrian Economics Just Need a Name Change?

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For a while I’ve thought Austrian economics just needs a new name. Arnold Kling got way more thoughtful reaction to his “recalculation argument” against stimulus spending, even though (as he himself acknowledged when he first unveiled it) his story and Austrian business cycle theory are almost identical once the bust ensues. So it seemed that the very name “Austrian business cycle theory” was an albatross around the neck of the particular set of ideas. (That, and the fact that some of the Austrians pushing it are fairly annoying.)

And then Stephan Kinsella relays this anecdote about Tom Woods’ debate with ING Chairman Tom McInerney (HT2 Bob Roddis):

McInerney had mentioned that Bernanke was a diligent and knowledgeable student of the Great Depression. So, when it came time for the Q&A, one audience member asked Woods to briefly explain the Austrian view of Great Depression and how it might differ from Bernanke’s view. After Woods did this, McIerney took the stage, and as if he were about to unload a devastating blow against Woods, said to him, “this might seem like a bit of an attack. Don’t take it too personally.” And then…. he began to rant about … the relatively small size of the country of Austria. I kid you not.

Some audience members began to laugh; others cringed, as McInerney dug his hole deeper while under the illusion that he was unleashing a deadly zinger. Woods kept trying to stage whisper that Austria had nothing to do with the school of Austrian economics, but McInerney, undeterred, plowed on. Thus, when Woods took the stage he said, “this might seem like an attack, but don’t take it too personally…” And then Woods commented that we may as well say we shouldn’t listen to Milton Friedman, since the GDP of Chicago is pretty low.

It’s even worse than the above suggests. Someone in the comments of Stephan’s post said:

I was there as well and unfortunately there was no video camera that i am aware of, so no video. But the above story is 100% true; one could feel the collective cringe when McInerney was spouting off about Austria. And it wasnt short. He spent a good 5-7minutes in his diatribe, trying to get audience participation by asking “Does anyone know the GDP of france…How about Italy….and austria….” It was very sad because people were snickering and he had no idea it was at him.

So that settles it, we need a new name. I suggest “reality-based economics.” Who could possibly oppose that?*

* Yes I am kidding.

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