Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Suggestive "Post Austrian" Quote

"Keynes sees in social facts manifestations of the human mind. While to Hayek it is the complexity of these facts, their multitude and diversity, that defies the attribution of numerical values to social concepts, to Keynes it is their mental character that does so. Rather to the surprise of some of us, Keynes emerges as being more deeply committed to subjectivism than is his Austrian opponent." --- Ludwig Lachmann "John Maynard Keynes: A view from an Austrian window" South African Journal of Economics, 1983.

Now while this quote gets me excited about the possible overlap between Keynes and Hayek with respect to subjectivism, it seems to get other Austrians worried and suspicious of Ludwig Lachmann. Let me share with you a story.

There was a time when I used to listen to audio lectures of Murray Rothbard in my car to and from school. I really enjoyed listening to Rothbard. He sounded like a quacking duck. Anyway, I can remember Rothbard in one of these lectures recounting a story frequently told by Ludwig Lachmann that went something like this:

"When I arrived in London in the early 1930's, it was safe to say that everyone at the London School of Economics was an Austrian. After the war, however, Hayek and I were the only Austrians left."

And after recounting this story of Lachmann's, Rothbard, in his characteristic way, quacked "I am not even so sure about Lachmann!" I can remember laughing out loud almost uncontrollably when I heard this because, in many respects, it is true. Lachmann always was interested in what the Cambridge school (Keynes, Robinson, Kaldor, Kalecki and Harrod) was up to, and a lot of his writings can be seen as responses to this literature. Austrians of the Rothbard persuasion have every reason to be suspicious of Ludwig Lachmann. But, being interested in the Cambridge economic tradition, I have every reason to look to Lachmann as the exemplar in creating an intellectual bridge between these two traditions.

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