Historic day in Austrian economics

The University of Missouri now offers a PhD-level seminar in Austrian economics.

Kim White/Reuters/File
American economist Oliver Williamson poses at his home in Berkeley, Calif., in Oct. 2009, shortly after learning that he and Elinor Ostrom won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics, for their work in economic governance. Prof. Klein, who teaches Austrian economics, studied under Dr. Williamson.

Today is a historic day in Austrian economics. Today a Ph.D.-level seminar in Austrian economics commences at the University of Missouri. What is so important about this event is that the course is not part of a niche Austrian program dependent on external funding, but is part of the regular curriculum of a mainstream program at a major research university. This is a clear signal that Austrian economics is beginning to be taken seriously by mainstream economists. The course is being taught by Professor Peter Klein, a former student of Nobel Prize winner Oliver Williamson. Klein has emerged as the leading “micro” theorist of the Austrian school since the retirement of Israel Kirzner from NYU. His work on entrepreneurship, price theory, and firm organization has appeared in a broad spectrum of mainstream and Austrian journals. His recently published book on The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizatioin and Markets sets a fresh agenda for future research on Austrian micro theory. It is clear from his work that Klein himself is the quintessence of the “mundane” Austrian economist. He does not give advice or preach about how to do good economics, he simply rolls up his sleeves and does it–and teaches it superbly.

The title of Klein’s course is “The Austrian School of Economics: Theory, Applications, Debate.” The course emphasizes the essence of Austrian economics: its uniquely integrated system of economic theory that derives from Carl Menger. It is not a course that talks about Austrian economics, what it is or what it was; it is a course that introduces the student to technical Austrian economic methods and analysis. The course will illustrate this theory by selective applications to real world issues and by featuring several intellectual controversies that accompanied and promoted the theory’s development. Of course, the course will acquaint the student with the thought and works of the early masters, Menger, Bohm-Bawerk and Wieser as well as those of the twentieth-century giants Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Lachmann and Kirzner. But it is not a history of thought course: it deals in depth with theoretical refinements and cutting edge contributions made by current Austrians like Huelsmann, Herbener, Garrison, Foss, Armentano, Lewin, Salerno, Rizzo, White and Selgin, and Klein himself.

For those who are as excited as I am about the course, you may be interested in browsing through the syllabus, which is here.

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