Monday, April 03, 2006

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Greg says: I teach introductory economics at Harvard University. I use this blog as a way of communicating with my students. Students and teachers at other schools, as well as others interested in economic issues, are welcome to use this resource.

I started reading it yesterday, and this entry today caught my eye. If you wonder why the economics most of those who read this is not understood by the elite................

Austrian Economics
A student in ec 10 emails me to ask:

I just started reading "Human Action" by Ludwig Von Mises and I was wondering what you think of either the book or of the author. Have his theories been proven or disproven since the publication of the book? Has he been very influential in economics circles?

The truthful, if slightly embarrassing, answer is that I have not read the book. Explaining why may be somewhat edifying, however, so let me reflect on the reasons (not excuses) for my ignorance.

First, most economists at research universities focus their attention on recent work. Things written more than twenty or thirty years ago are usually assumed to be irrelevant, out-dated, or incorporated into more recent work. We rarely focus on something like the Mises book (written in 1949) for the same reason that physicists don't read Newton in the original.

Second, at the mainstream schools where I have spent my education and career (Princeton, MIT, and Harvard), the economists of the Austrian school like Mises are often viewed as fringe figures. Rightly or wrongly, they rarely show up on reading lists. I am confident that while I was a student at Princeton and MIT, I was assigned not a single article by an economist in the Austrian tradition.
Read it all


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