Why the Austrians need a better understanding of Popper

Popper has a low profile among the Austrians, although Pete Boettke often uses the slogan “think like a Misean, write like a Popperian”.  The two Popperians with the best grip on economics are Larry Boland and Jack Birner but they do not get cited in the Austrian literature. Two of the younger Austrians wrote a long critique of scientism without a Popper cite. The attitude towards Popper among the strong Miseans like Gordon and Hoppe combines misrepresentation with something close to contempt.  On the other side, most of the Popperians tend to be social democrats and find little that is congenial among the “Austro libertarians”, though Hayek is a favorite it is not his economics that is admired.Popper and Mises had valuable lessons to learn from each other but did not do so. Mises could have learned from Popper that positivism and empiricism do not work in the natural sciences and so he did not need to reject the (valid) methods of the natural sciences in favour of strong a priorism.

Popper could have learned that his suspicion of “economic power” was unfounded. He asserted a role for the state to control monopolies and to counter unemployment. Mises could have explained that monopolies in an open market can only exploit their situation with the help of the state, and mass unemployment is a result of state intervention or failure to maintain an open market for labour.

It is likely that the Austrian elements of good economics will struggle to gain general consent in the academic community until something is done about the philosophical climate, in particular the climate perpetuated by academic philosophy courses and the introductory texts that are written for general consumption.

To follow some of the debates in the Austrian community, check out the blog Coordination Problem which until recently was called The Austrian Economists.

Not all of my contributi0ns are appreciated. This is a recent exchange in a long thread on the current relevance of The Road to Serfdom.

I suppose it would be a shame to undermine sales of Serfdom by telling people that the condensed version is on line. There is also a cartoon edition on line. 

In some ways Popper’s Open Society is a deeper and more important book, and it is a shame that Readers Digest did not condense that 800 page tome as well. As a community service I have rectified that situation. It is interesting to see that Chapter 23 is a critique of the sociology of knowledge and central planning as well.

The sociology of knowledge.http://www.the-rathouse.com/OpenSocietyOnLIne/Chapter-23-Sociology-of-Knowledge.html

Popper’s critique of the Platonic concept of justice can be read as a companion to Hayek’s critique of social justice which is another avenue of advancing on the road to serfdom under cover of justice. Again it is not a matter of concentration camps and midnight murders just the slow and steady shift from equalitarian justice to a program of (racist) affirmative action and redistribution.


Posted by: Rafe Champion | July 23, 2010 at 08:06 PM

With ‘deep thinkers’ like Rafe Champion on hand who has any need for hacks like Beck and Limbaugh.

I’m off to the Mises blog.

Posted by: Nasty | July 23, 2010 at 10:18 PM

Please give my best regards to Hans-Hermann Hoppe:)

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