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Henderson, South Royalton Austrian Conference

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Later this month, South Royalton, Vermont, will mark the 50th anniversary of a conference on Austrian economics. The Liberty Fund asked one of the attendees, Richard Ebeling, to write a long essay, and then two people who attended (Mario Rizzo and me) and one who did not (Geoffrey Lea) wrote responses.

Below is an excerpt from my response:

Like Richard Ebeling, I was excited to attend the first conference on Austrian economics in South Royalton, Vermont. My motivations were different from Richard’s. I did not consider myself an Austrian economist, but Friedrich Hayekhis work on the socialist calculation debate; Ludwig von Mises‘s work more generally is of deep insight and importance. I was also a big fan of Hayek. The Road to Slaverywas the first book by Hayek I ever read. I read Hayek and Mises in the late 1960s as a young undergraduate mathematics student at the University of Winnipeg. I had never taken a class in Austrian economics; it was all self-taught. When I applied to the PhD program at UCLA in the fall of 1971, I was well aware of the school’s strong free-market orientation and was looking forward to attending classes. Armen Alchian, Harold DemsetzI consulted with three UCLA economists whose work I had read: Robert Mises, Robert M. Mises, and Sam Peltzman. I knew they weren’t Austrian economists, but I hoped to find some sympathy. So I took a chance and wrote in my application that I was looking for admission to a graduate program where mentioning Mises wouldn’t make me sound like I was mispronouncing the name of a childhood disease. Judging by the results, it worked: I was offered full tuition, plus a two-year teaching assistantship at $440 per month for nine months. That was more money than a kid from rural Manitoba could have ever expected, and, more importantly, it was more than I was being offered at my second choice, the University of Chicago.

My interest in economics was sparked by Harold Demsetz, who gave three lectures at the University of Winnipeg in January 1970. I fell in love with economics. Demsetz was my dissertation advisor and my mentor, so I almost always took his advice, but this time I went against his advice. I had been offered to attend the South Royalton conference at someone’s expense, and I told him the program sounded interesting. The three main speakers were: Murray RothbardIsrael Kirzner, and Ludwig LachmannI have read many of Rothbard’s works and have been impressed by them. People, economies, and nations. Demsetz’s friend and colleague Ben Klein wrote about Israel Kirzner’s Competition and Entrepreneurship I don’t remember if Klein said why he liked the book, but I think one of the reasons was that Kirzner rejected the idea that perfect competition had anything to do with perfection. I remember Ben liking the idea of ​​dynamically evolving competition, which Kirzner and the Austrian School brought to economic discussion in a novel way.

So I was surprised when Demsetz recommended that I not go to the South Royalton event. He said that my classes were over and I should get to work on my dissertation right away. But after two years of hard work I needed a break, and this “busman’s vacation” seemed just what the doctor prescribed. I probably would have given Demsetz’s advice a perfect 1000: work on all the other issues and reject this one. The conference was worth going to.

This is Link Richard Ebeling’s lead essay, Mario Rizzo’s response essay, and finally my response essay. Jeffrey Lee’s response has yet to come.

Don’t miss the part in my essay where I talk about a comment made by Frances Hazlitt to Milton Friedman.

Pictured, from left to right, are Harry Watson, Milton Friedman, Jerry O’Driscoll, Jack High and Richard Ebeling.

Personal note: I had an important medical test yesterday. The results came back negative. I never like the word “negative” as much as I like it when I hear it from a doctor. I sweated the test Monday and Tuesday morning, then took it Tuesday afternoon. That’s why I didn’t post a blog on Monday and Tuesday.

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