Professor Glenn Fox speaks about Austrian Economics Course for 2014...
Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I spent the second weekend in January of 2014 in Toronto, teaching a course on Austrian economics. This course was organized by the Institute for Liberal Studies (www.liberalstudies.ca) and funded by a grant from the Hecht Family Foundation (www.hecht.org). Undergraduate students, 18 in all, from across Canada, participated. They came from programs in economics, finance, business, history, chemistry, development studies, agriculture, engineering, political science and information technology. The course included literature by Friedrich Hayek, Gene Callahan, Peter Boettke, Israel Kirzner, Roger Garrison, Don Lavoie, Roy Cordato, Murray Rothbard, Steven Horwitz and William Luther. The topics included methodology, history of thought, the market process perspective on microeconomics, the economic calculation debate, Austrian business cycle theory, environmental economics and the recent recession. The course followed a colloquium format. Students were asked to study a list of readings before arriving and to come prepared to discuss, critique and debate what they had read. It is an understatement that they didn’t disappoint. Insightful, energetic and rigorous interaction was the order of the day.
Austrian economics builds upon the intellectual foundation established by Carl Menger at the University of Vienna at the end of the 19th century. Menger was one of the co-founders of what is today called neoclassical economics. His ideas, however, were gradually crowed out modern economics in favour of the perspective of Leon Walras, one of the other co-founders of modern economics. The financial crisis of 2008 has delivered a substantial blow to the prestige of that modern Walrasian approach to economics. The Mengerian perspective in economics and policy has experience something of a renaissance in recent years. But this perspective is still unfamiliar to many social scientists.
At the beginning of the weekend, I told the students that I was very happy and very sad that they were at the event. I was happy because of their interest in and commitment to learning about the important and distinctive perspectives of the Austrian school of neoclassical economics. But I was sad because none of them could take a course on this topic at their home university (a singular exception to this generalization is FARE 4310, a resource economics course that I teach at the University of Guelph – Brady Deaton suggested that I mention this). They had to come to a hotel in downtown Toronto on a January weekend and study for a course for which they would receive no academic credit. At the end of the weekend, I told them that my happiness was now larger than my sadness as a result of this event. At least 18 Canadian university students were able to do something that is not available to thousands of their classmates.