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Austrian economists and Keynesian economics

July 12, 2016

I’m here at Freedomfest which is the annual meeting place in the United States for all of the political groups on the right. I am part of that strand of conservatives which is well represented but is hardly even a plurality. My paper, however, is about an issue that I think of as extremely important, have raised it often but never really received an answer that satisfies. And the issue is why do Austrians virtually never take on Keynesian economics. This was as much as admitted by Israel Kirzner in his brilliant biography, Ludwig von Mises (ISI Books, 2001: 160).

Ludwig von Mises adopted a vigorously dissenting stance towards this Keynesian economics. Although he rarely offered frontal rebuttal to Keynesian theory, his contributions to the topic dealt with in this chapter constituted a well-developed (if implicit) basis for his rejection of Keynesianism.

My argument is that it is only classical economists who had crafted their theories to deal with Keynes since it was they who had fought off Malthus and demand deficiency during the general glut debates of the 1820s, whereas Austrian theory had been designed to refute Marxist theory but also was itself constructed on a demand-side focus based on marginal utility. And while Marxism has not gone away, the crucial battles in our time deal with the Keynesian theory of deficient aggregate demand.

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