04 Dec 2009

Mario Rizzo Calls for Ceasefire

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And he leaves the safety of his own blog to do so. As goofy as it might sound for me to say that, I am serious. It makes a difference that he posted it at Mises as opposed to just at ThinkMarkets or TheAustrianEconomists.

Here it is:

I am not talking about peace in the world of foreign affairs, Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever else people are senselessly killing each other. That goes without saying.

I am talking about the war of words among people who subscribe to various strains of Austrian economics. I am not going to be very specific here because I do not want to stoke the fires. If you don’t know what I am talking about, that is great. Please do something more productive than reading this.

If you do know what I am talking about, then you know that much energy has been expended recently and over the past few years by Austrians who attack each other for various flaws in their Austrianism.

I am writing here a plea for peace. There is an opportunity cost to every decision. The main opportunity foregone in this case is improving our theories, our evidence and criticizing more effectively Keynesians and other interventionists.

The various participants in the intra-Austrian squabbles are not likely to convince each other. These arguments have gone on too long without measurable progress.

I assume most of the argument is being engaged in for the “benefit” of the young and impressionable. But this is a delusion.

The best way to convince the uncommitted is by the positive strength of one’s argument using both theory and evidence. Here the spillover effect is to make intellectual progress. If, on the other hand, we seek to convince people by “stealing” from other camps of Austrians, the spillovers are negative for all of us. It becomes a race to the bottom or a kind of “mutually assured destruction.”

We do not have to agree on everything. For example, Joe Salerno and I do not agree on all aspects of Austrian economics. Yet Joe and I have seen each other weekly for nearly twenty years at the NYU Colloquium. We never engage in ad hominem attacks. We treat each other with decency and respect.

I do not expect to be buddies with all with whom I disagree strongly on issues. I don’t expect to be spending time with anyone who labels him or herself an “Austrian.” But I want much more to convince the rest of the world to appreciate the insights of F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises than I want to make sure my fellow Austrians agree with The Economics of Time and Ignorance.

In the meanwhile the statists and Keynesians laugh. They make fools of us because we first make fools of ourselves.

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