Classical economists – there are still a few of us around

A quite instructive article by Peter Boettke on The Great Disruption in Economic Thought. Addressed in particular towards Janet Yellen but more generally to anyone capable of listening, you are encouraged to read it all but let me provide the first para so that you can decide if you would like to continue after that:

Roughly speaking classical political economy, or economic orthodoxy, taught the following: private property, freedom of contract and trade, sound money, and fiscal responsibility. For our purposes we refer to this set of policies as the laissez-faire principle. Of course throughout the history of economic ideas there were always subtle differences of opinion within orthodoxy, and fine points of disagreement in method and methodology. But these paled in comparison with the broad consensus on matters concerning the nature and signficance of economics and political economy. Yes, John Stuart Mill had exceptions to the laissez-faire principle that one could drive an intellectual truck through, but re-read how he sents up that discussion and the importance he places on the laissez-faire presumption.

I will only add that anyone who thinks they can drive an intellectual truck through the ideas of John Stuart Mill has their work cut out for them. But since for most people, someone’s views on John Stuart Mill are not apt to be an obstacle, let me encourage you to read the rest.

And if you do, let me mention that I specifically classify myself as a classical economist a label which Peter is also willing to use. Indeed, I go further. I think of my own book on economic theory as a twenty-first century version of Mill’s 1848 Principles. We have learned a lot since then it is true, but we have forgotten even more.