Anarcho-capitalism - Anarcho-capitalism and Austrian Economics

Anarcho-capitalism and Austrian Economics

The Austrian School of economics was founded with the publication of Carl Menger's 1871 book Principles of Economics. Members of this school approach economics as an a priori system like logic or mathematics, rather than as an empirical science like geology. It attempts to discover axioms of human action (called "praxeology" in the Austrian tradition) and make deductions therefrom. Some of these praxeological axioms are:

  • humans act purposefully;
  • humans prefer more of a good to less;
  • humans prefer to receive a good sooner rather than later; and
  • each party to a trade benefits ex ante.

Even in its early days, Austrian economics was used as a theoretical weapon against socialism and statist socialist policy. Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, a colleague of Menger, wrote one of the first critiques of socialism ever written in his treatise The Exploitation Theory of Socialism-Communism. Later, Friedrich Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom, argues that a command economy destroys the information function of prices, and that authority over the economy leads to totalitarianism. Another very influential Austrian economist was Ludwig von Mises, author of the praxeological work Human Action.

Murray Rothbard, a student of Mises, is the man who attempted to meld Austrian economics with classical liberalism and individualist anarchism. He wrote his first paper advocating "private property anarchism" in 1949, and later came up with the alternative name "anarcho-capitalism." He was probably the first to use "libertarian" in its current (U.S.) pro-capitalist sense. He was a trained economist, but also knowledgeable in history and political philosophy. When young, he considered himself part of the Old Right, an anti-statist and anti-interventionist branch of the Republican party. In the late 1950s, he was briefly involved with Ayn Rand, but later had a falling out. When interventionist cold warriors of the National Review, such as William F. Buckley, Jr., gained influence in the Republican party in the 1950s, Rothbard quit that group and formed an alliance with left-wing antiwar groups, noting an antiwar tradition among a number of self-styled left-wingers and to a degree closer to the Old Right conservatives. He believed that the cold warriors were more indebted in theory to the left and imperialist progressives, especially in regards to Trotskyist theory. Later, Rothbard initially opposed the founding of the Libertarian Party but joined in 1973 and became one of its leading activists. Rothbard's books, such as Man, Economy, and State, Power and Market, The Ethics of Liberty, and For a New Liberty, are considered by some to be classics of natural law libertarian thought.

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