Monday, April 03, 2006

Greg Mankiw on the Austrian School

A student of Greg Mankiw asked him if he has read Human Action by Ludwig Von Mises. Here is his response:

"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.That judgment might well be unfair. Another prominent Austrian economist is Frederic Hayek, who won the Nobel prize in economics. Cognizant of my ignorance of his work, a few years ago I read (and assigned in a Harvard freshman seminar) his classic book The Road to Serfdom. I thought it was terrific." Read the rest of his post here.

In case you are curious, read Human Action for free here.

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