Tuesday, December 06, 2011

An Austrian Lost to the History of Thought...

for a time.

Daniel Kuehn is right and wrong: Hayek has not been a key figure in the history of macroeconomic thought. But Kuehn goes astray in thinking that "has not been" means "is not."

Let us recall another Austrian scientist who was absolutely nobody in the history of his science. Well, until his work was revisited, and he is now seen as a giant in the field.

I'm not claiming this will happen with Hayek. Rather, my point is to note something about history: all real historical work is "revisionist history": if you aren't revising something we previously thought about the past, you haven't done anything original, have you? Historians of economic thought are no different: look at Sowell's great work in rehabilitating Sismondi. So, it could very well be the case that Hayek has not been important in the history of macroeconomic thought, but from now on he will be.


  1. Oh no doubt - I think I mentioned in at least one of my two posts (and certainly my comments elsewhere) that I think Hayek has something to say to modern macro and still can say that. I'm not exactly shy about making this point.

  2. There you go again. Krugman says there wasn't a great debate between Hayek and Keynes in the 1930s, that Hayek made a fool of himself, that his work has been forgotten, and that only vested interests have kept his views alive because they oppose the welfare state.

    And you boil that down to, "Hayek wasn't a key figure in the history of macroeconomic thought."

    In fairness, you Gene aren't explicitly saying "I agree with Krugman's take," but you are agreeing with Daniel (in this respect) who in turn explicitly agreed with Krugman's take.

  3. Well, Bob, I had a very specific point to make here: That someone not being a major figure in the history of thought *now* does not mean they won't be one. This was a *pro-Hayek* point, btw.

    I, frankly, have never looked at the source material from the 30s to see how major Hayek loomed in people's eyes at that time, so I wouldn't attempt to weigh in on that. (I don't believe that how much *I* like Hayek is a good way to decide historical questions: I would have to spend a few months reading material from the 30s before I agreed with Krugman or not on the situation at that time.)

    But, in any case, that was totally beside my point. Isn't it OK for me to make a blog post about the nature of historical thinking without addressing every single thing that might be addressed related to the topic?

  4. I don't understand where you're getting this Bob. Krugman said he "vanished" from the discussion. He can't vanish from something he was never a part of. When he says "nothing like this ever happened" clearly he's referring to "this debate has continued through the generations", not "there was a great debate in the 1930s between Keynes and Hayek".

    You're conveniently dropping that second clause, Bob, and then accusing me of moving the goal posts.

    Krugman thought he "vanished" from the discussion, so clearly he thought he was in the discussion at some point. When was that? During the debate in the 1930s, which he lost or forfeited, depending on your take.

    Stop saying I'm changing Krugman's claims. I'm not.

  5. To suggest that a person is or is not an important figure is to undertake a planning mentality.


    Because we are not capable of knowing who will be or will not be important 100 years from now. Ideas keep getting resurrected in new different lights and then killed for new reasons. Ideas are a permanent process, not a conclusion.

  6. OK one last time, Daniel, and then I'm dropping it. (I already said I was dropping it at your blog.)

    To say "nothing like this ever happened" is stronger than saying "this isn't true." In context, I definitely think Krugman is denying both clauses in the sentence.

    How can that be? Because you are overlooking the adjective "great." Krugman is saying sure, Hayek was in the discussion, he was a fool, and nobody remembers him except pharmaceutical CEOs.

    So Krugman is indeed denying that there was a "great debate" in the 1930s. It wasn't a great debate; Hayek made a fool of himself.

    Hence, "nothing like this ever happened."

    And yet this is what you claim was Austrian orthodoxy as of yesterday?

    (Gene, as for you, your post explicitly says Daniel Kuehn is right, meaning in Kuehn's take regarding Hayek thus far. So if you go to Daniel's blog to see what his take on Hayek is, you find him saying "I agree with Paul Krugman about Hayek" (not an exact quote).)

  7. Bob, my post says he is right and wrong. Then it says in *exactly* what way I think he is right: "Hayek has not been a key figure in the history of macroeconomic thought."

    Could I really, possibly have been more clear about exactly which part of Daniel's post I agreed with?

    I wanted to point out something about the history of thought. I was not interested in discussing every point Daniel or Krugman made.

  8. Just so, Prateek. Can you please explain this to Bob?

  9. And Bob, nota bene: "Rather, my point is to note something about history: all real historical work is 'revisionist history'..."

    You see, *my point* was not to enter into the debate about how important Hayek was in the 30s, which I am not qualified to comment upon. My point is to say something about the history of thought, and this little flap-doodle was merely the trigger for that point.

  10. Gene, I grant that if I hadn't already been throwing down with Daniel about this, then I wouldn't have snapped at you too. So in that sense, "it's not you, it's me."

  11. Bob, in my new avatar (see photo), I am now the voice of world peace. All is forgiven.


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