The economic affairs of many countries and the dismal science itself are in a very sorry state. Shortsighted protectionist policies in Western countries aided by ideologically crazed dictators at home have destroyed the economies of the Third World resulting in famine and civil war. The collectivist utopia has yet to emerge from the ruin of human rights in the Marxist states. The Keynesian revolution has delivered the twin spectres of inflation and unemployment. People search for solutions where they want to find them instead of looking where they are, like drunks hunting for their keys under the street-light, not in the lane where they fell to ground.
We rightly suspect simple solutions for complex problems but many of our economic and related social ills do indeed have a single basic cause, manifest in a thousand guises ranging from the Egg Marketing Boards to the Australian wage fixing Commission and the tariffs which raise the price of our clothing and shoes by half. The root of economic evil is the disruption of open markets by constraints on trade, state-protected monopolies, cartels, and counter-productive regulations and charges. The keys which 'fell in the lane' are the ideas of the Austrian school of liberal economists, founded by Carl Menger (1840-1921), Friedrich von Wieser (1851-1926) and Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk (1851-1914). Other major figures are Ludwig von Mises (1880-1973), Friedrich A. Hayek (the 1974 Nobel Laureate), Ludwig Lachmann, Israel Kirzner and Murray Rothbard.
Their ideas support the policies of open markets and free trade, now labelled 'economic rationality' or 'dryness' and in the current political climate this may be their main interest. But their impact ranges far beyond economic policy to embrace all aspects of methodology in the human sciences. The Austrians addressed the dilemma of human knowledge and action under conditions of uncertainty, long before the official collapse of positivism precipitated the modern crisis of confidence in science and reason. Their framework for analysis of human action has turned up in the work of later theorists including Max Weber, Talcott Parsons and Karl Popper, without recognition of Menger's prior achievement.
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