In the late 1960’s, the late economist and philosopher, Murray N. Rothbard, was asked what the total number of people in the world who were dedicated adherents of the Austrian School of economics was. Rothbard replied and gave a number in the neighborhood of 25. Even though the 1960’s was a low in the history of the Austrian school, and many dismissed this non-mathematical school (thought a large number of those who made major contributions to it, including Rothbard, either had applied mathematics or engineering degrees) as one whose time had past and was relegated only the history of ideas, the small remnants pushed on against all odds and continued to produce hard hitting critiques of mainstream economics with very little resources and virtual blacklisting by the academic establishment. They understood that even though ideas might not have currency in an era, they could eventually have currency in eras down the road and be rediscovered.
On Tuesday March 28, which was my last day at my place of work before moving Orlando. I encountered my boss as I was coming in. Knowing that I am an adherent of the Austrian school of economics, he asked me if I listen to the Tom Woods Show and I know that Tom Woods lives in Central Florida. I replied, and said that I know about Tom Woods living in Central Florida and I listen to Tom Woods basically everyday. He further asked me if I knew that a certain work colleague follows Tom Woods and the Austrian School to which I said I never had a clue. We all took a picture and had a quick chat about Austrian economics and I informed everyone that I am actually in the middle of reading Ludwig Von Mises magnum opus, Human Action (via Rothabrds Man, Economy, and State). Obviously all of us have our levels of understand of Austrian school economics. But at its core, we know that mainstream economics has gone off its rails and has little to show for itself almost 10 years after the 2008 financial crisis with basically almost every tool in the box being used up at this point.
Personally, I am an engineer by training who is now a tech entrepreneur. But ever since I have been a kid, as I have said many times, I have been someone to always ask questions and want to know more about how the world around me works. Its through my wide readings that I began hearing about an Austrian school in the late 2010’s even though I never did any deep investigations. But around 2014, I linked up with a childhood friend on Facebook after discovering me who is the Director of African Programs at the libertarian Students for Liberty (SFL). I looked more into what the SFL does I began reading a lot of libertarian socio-economic literature even thought at that point I was already coming from a conservative starting point in which I was already heavily into Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams (I guess the transition and leap was not that hard!). Along the way I began reading text by Austrian economist and theorist beginning with Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and then The Constitution of Liberty and the Law, Legislation, and Liberty trilogy. It was The Constitution of Liberty which turned me libertarian as it clarified many issues which The Road to Serfdom never covered. After that I began reading more technical economic issues and began reading Rothbard and Mises. The point at which I am right now where I am currently reading Human Action has been years in the making of slowly reading Austrian text.
What this episode has reveled to me in practical terms is the power of ideas and how ideas can change and how ideas which might not have large following in one era can begin having a large following in another. None of us control any leavers of influence or power in society but we do engage in civic life up to one level or another and we interact with other people. In our civic life, an understanding of Austrian economics gives us a very good understanding and better interpretation of current economic and political events and trends and thus better informs our decision making. Furthermore it shows the power of the internet and its unhampered ability to spread ideas everywhere. In many ways, even though the modern revival of the Austrian School already began long before the internet in the 1970’s, in the past 20 years the internet has accelerated the pace massively. In interacting with others, even if we are not able to convince everyone about Austrian economics, bringing a few people over more than does the job. After all, its widely know, that a majority is not needed to change the trajectory of society and the mind of ideas it adheres to!
At a time when it seems like ideas like this are increasingly scorned by the elite mainstream of this country, its comforting to know that among everyday common people these ideas are gaining a following. In many ways, politicians would not change course in economic policy unless its demanded from the bottom. Key in this process is education and spreading the word out. Furthermore its also comforting to known that these ideas are gaining steam internationally. As we have seen with the anti government corruption protest in Brazil of the past two years one of the chants of Brazilian protesters who lead the action against the ouster of the corrupt Brazilian government has been “Less Marx, More Mises“ (Mises, being Ludwig Von Mises, the teacher and mentor of Murray N. Rothbard and arguably the most prolific member of the Austrian school ever). Even in China word has it that some members of the Chinese Communist Party know who Murray Rothbard is and give his works thumbs ups. Today’s protesters in Brazil chanting Mises name and members of the Chinese Communist Party giving Rothabrd’s works a thumbs up would not have be possible if a dedicated Austrian remnant did not against all odds withstand giving in to the Keynesian and interventionist revolution which swept the world after the Great Depression.