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Austrian Economics: A Primer

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Economics is not about fitting different statistics into equations it is about our values, and how they shape our choices, and what we buy and sell.
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Butler has written a very competent overview of Mises’s works and thoughts, with a focus on his understanding of the workings of markets (so, for example, there is less focus on theory than we find in The Essential von Mises).

As we know from his 1988 work, Butler is not himself (or at least was not in those days) a fully convinced Misesian. But this monograph contains none of the criticisms of Mises’s methodological views that were in his older work. It is a straight and convincing presentation of what Mises said and believed. Given the times, there is a strong emphasis in this work on Mises’s theory of the business cycle (there was a time when Hayek was habitually credited as the originator of the model)

Writing a monograph like this is harder than it looks. The main problem is to establish clear topical boundaries and achievable goals. We are, after all, speaking of a research paradigm is all-encompassing for the whole of social sciences and history. Here is where the project really works: Butler sticks to the task in every way. He cites none of the secondary literature that has emerged over the last few decades, and here it would be easy to criticize him. However, this is not what the book set out to do. As an introduction and overview, it really does succeed.

Economists shape our everyday lives, yet many people find their thinking unsettling. Their talk of perfect competition and aggregate demand seems to describe something that has no relation to the real world in which people find themselves. That same idea occurred to the Austrian economist Carl Menger back in 1871. Writing on markets for a newspaper, he realised that mainstream economic theory ignored the essential thing that made markets work. Economics is not about fitting different statistics into equations it is about our values, and how they shape our choices, and what we buy and sell. From this insight, Menger and the Austrian School economists who followed him built up a powerful critique of mainstream economics that continues to gain traction today.

Austrian School economists gave us the ideas of marginal utility, opportunity cost, and the importance of time and ignorance in shaping human choices and the markets, prices and production systems that stem from them. Austrian economics has revolutionised our understanding of what money is, why economic booms invariably turn to busts, why government intervention in the economy is a mistake, the importance of time and information in economic decision-making, and the crucial role of entrepreneurship. Eamonn Butler explains these ideas in straightforward, non- technical language, making this Primer the ideal introduction for anyone who wants to understand the key insights of the Austrian School and their relevance and importance to our economic situation today.


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ISBN 1902737695
Binding PB
Page Length 112
Publication Date 08/19/2010
Publisher Adam Smith Institute
Dimensions 6 x 9