Via How Liberals Distort Austrian Economics – Reason Magazine:

The earliest Austrian economists did not make their mark by advocating free markets and other classical-liberal ideas. They did so by proffering a revolutionary positive (not normative) theoretical approach to understanding how markets work, focusing on value, price, and capital, theory. …

Yglesias thus conflates Austrian economic theory with libertarian political theory. In fairness, he is not alone in committing this error. Many libertarians do the same, which is unfortunate. Austrian economic theory describes how purposive action by fallible human beings unintentionally generates a grand, complex, and orderly market process. An additional ethical step is required to pronounce the market process good. Economic theory per se cannot recommend but only explain markets. This is what Ludwig von Mises meant when he insisted that Austrian economics is value-free. Anyone of any persuasion ought to be able to acknowledge that economic logic indicates that imposing a price ceiling on milk will, other things equal, create a shortage of milk. But that in itself is not an argument against the policy. Mises assumed the policymaker would have thought that result bad, but the economist qua economist cannot declare it such. As Israel Kirzner likes to say, the economist’s job in the policy realm is merely to point out that you cannot catch a northbound train from the southbound platform.

The whole article is thoroughly readable and recommended.

One Comment

  1. Im sure you’ve seen this, but just incase you haven’t: