There is a core of the economic way of thinking that can be traced from Adam Smith to Vernon Smith and that deals with basic ideas about human rationality, human sociability, and the coordination of activity through time. Incentives, information, and innovation are part of this core as they derive from the even more primordial ideas of property, prices, and profit-and-loss accounting.
History of Economic Thought
Every activist political movement eventually becomes a caricature of itself. This is certainly true of the so-called alt-right that blasted onto the cultural stage with its “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
Fascism often is discussed as though it were the opposite of communism, but such is not precisely the case. Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were different in many respects; but the principles of their economic ideologies were the principles of socialism; their initial appeal was to the underprivileged; and the final result, a new despotism, was the same in all three instances.
Fifty years ago, in 1968, Austrian (and Austrian school) economist Friedrich A. Hayek published a monograph called The Confusion of Language in Political Thought. Hayek argued that the words we use and the meanings we give to them greatly influence how we think about the political system and the wider social order in which we live. This is no less so, I would suggest, in the language and the meanings of words used in economics.
There has been a great paradox in the modern world. On the one hand, freedom and prosperity have replaced tyranny and poverty for tens, indeed for hundreds of millions of people around the world over the last two centuries. Yet the political and economic system that historically has made this possible has been criticized and condemned. That political and economic system is liberalism.
The equation of exchange provides building blocks for understanding the dynamics of the market for money.
The fact that Anderson’s theory of money seems to fail the Bitcoin test forces us to question our long tradition of issuing new coins that contain precious metals, or banknotes redeemable for some other, already valuable instrument.
The inability of Hayek and other scholars to join forces against Keynes’s supposed innovations arguably contributed to Keynes’s victory among academics in the immediate post-war period.
Liberalism believes that society manages itself better than any top-down authority can. That includes the commercial life of a nation. But it also pertains to civil liberties, international relations, migrations, family and cultural life, and religion. And what does classical liberalism oppose? Managed economies, imperialism, ethnic cleansing, war, arbitrary rule, dictatorship, authoritarianism, and every action of government that goes beyond what is absolutely necessary, if any government is necessary at all. That the meaning of the term changed in the US in the first half of the 20th century is one of the most tragic language distortions on record.
A phenomenon known as the Replication Crisis is challenging the seemingly unquestionable authority and accuracy that a published study in the natural sciences is expected to have, inviting the question as to whether economists should aspire to the standards of natural scientists or to something better.