Steve Horwitz at The Daily Bell

8 10 2010

Update: I’m an idiot.  Steve Horwitz teaches at St. Lawrence University, not George Mason.  Seems reading comprehension is important.

The Daily Bell is a perennially interesting e-journal based in Gais, Switzerland.  Their range of regular contributors is as diverse as the subject matter covered, and I’m sure to check in and read a few articles whenever I have the time.

The Daily Bell does, at times, get a bit conspiratorial.  Fortunately, theirs is the charming, Bilderberg/power elite type of conspiracy theorizing–the kind that is at least grounded in the laws of physics (no Lizard People! stuff there, and they tend to debunk any claims of alien contact).

I particularly respect the Daily Bell’s consistent message that the Internet is an invaluable tool for overcoming ignorance–a constant thorn in the side of those that seek power and control.

This past Sunday, the Daily Bell featured an exclusive interview with Dr. Steve Horwitz.  I hadn’t heard of Horwitz, but I had unknowingly stumbled across his blog, The Coordination Problem, a few times in the past.

 

Economics is sexy!

 

Turns out he’s an Oak Park, Michigan native and a graduate of my most beloved of academic institutions, the University of Michigan.  He received his PhD in economics from George Mason University and is now teaching at St. Lawrence University, though he maintains a working relationship with George Mason faculty members.

Since I identify strongly with the Austrian School, it was interesting to read about a successful, influential U of M graduate who seems to have come across the concepts Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and others in the same way that I did.  Horwitz says:

“A lot of economists get interested in economics and then they learn about Austrian economics. For me, it was the other way around. I actually was interested in libertarianism before Austrian economics per se and that was in high school.”

I can relate to that.  It was from my interest in the concept of individual liberty, and the political conditions necessary to foster it, that I eventually moved towards economics in general and specifically, the Austrian School.

Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the interview: the Hayek/Mises debate, fractional reserve banking (I tend to agree that there is nothing “immoral” about fractional reserve banking, should it arise in a free-market scenario; whether it is ultimately practical, I haven’t figured out).  But Horwitz did have a few interesting comments about the state of academia and government which I’ll leave you on.  Asked why Austrian Economics has not yet caught on in the academic world, he replied:

It’s because we have different views of what constitutes a good argument and good evidence. Those who control the levels of power in the discipline don’t think we are completely scientific in many cases. They are better than they were 25 years ago in graduate school, though.

Why hasn’t it caught on in the policy world? It’s hard to convince people who have power to give it up. Most Austrian economists are libertarians and think that the state should be smaller than it is and it’s hard to convince people who depend upon government for their living or their power to say that’s no good. As far as the public goes, economics is tough. It’s counterintuitive and it’s often easier to believe Keynesian type arguments.

Education may be a slow and tedious process, but I think Horwitz would agree that it is the only way we’ll ever see our ideas implemented. 

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2 responses

8 10 2010
Steve Horwitz

Graham,

Thanks for the kind words, but I do need to correct one thing. I’m NOT on the GMU faculty, though I do work closely with them. I teach at St. Lawrence University in NY, where I actually teach a course titled Austrian Economics, despite contesting the name. 🙂

8 10 2010
Graham Kozak

I appreciate the feedback! That was an embarrassing mistake…I read the interview the day it was published, and apparently did not remember some of the key details (though hopefully any commentary on the content was accurate, or at least free of further factual errors).

And thanks for your writing and insight. I’m fortunate enough to be studying with an Austrian School professor this semester (though obviously not at the University of Michigan), but outside of that program, the books I read and the web content I come across are the only real exposure I get to alternative viewpoints on the subject of economics.

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