Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Coordination Problem

Fredric Sautet writes at Coordination Problem:
Today was the last day of FEE’s Introduction to AE seminar in Atlanta. After dinner, Ivan, Paul, and I decided to head for the bar on the 72d floor of the Westin Hotel (where we are staying). Steve went to bed early. Some students were already there and they told the waitress that they wanted to treat us to a round of drinks. When they explained her the situation (that they were students and we were economics professors), she asked: what school of economics? They replied: Austrian school. The waitress (who was a student in her 20s) then said that was great because she was herself a fan of Austrian economics even though she had never studied it formally. She had read The Road to Serfdom. She even asked advice to read Mises. The students were stunned and when the waitress came to take our order and told us the story, we were also stunned. I suspect she was probably more interested in "Austro-Libertarianism" than in Austrian economics per se, but it is still a reason to celebrate.

Now what was the probability in say, 1980, that we could have met a young waitress interested in Austrian economics by chance in a bar in Atlanta? I’d say zero. I don’t know if the probability today is much higher, but it is obviously not zero anymore. Perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into this event, but I think it is very comforting to meet total strangers outside the academic world who know something about AE. Perhaps the current economic malaise has a good impact on the diffusion of Austrian ideas. I don’t know if anyone has evidence of this, but I would not be surprised if the current economic situation was driving people more into Austrian economics than ever before.
I see a few problems here for those, at Coordination Problem, who have rejected the term "Austrian Economics" for "Coordination Problem". First, why are the students of Coordination Problemists referring to Austrian Economics rather than the "Coordination Problem Economics," when they identify themselves in the general public? Why has Sautet fallen into using the rejected term, "Austrian School" at the Coordination Problem blog? Duh!

If a Coordination Problem professor doesn't use the term "Coordination Problem" when out in the general public and he doesn't even use the term  at the Coordination Problem blog, when does he use it? Remember, Peter Boettke sees substantive problems with the use of the term, "Austrian Economics."
The term "Austrian economics" has become as much a hindrance to the advancement of thought as a convenient shorthand to signal certain methodological and analytical presumptions.
Yet, Sautet in his post seems to hail the use of the term "Austrian Economics".

Remember, Tyler Cowen called the move away from the term "Austrian Economics" "courageous"

One has to ask, therefore, is the Coordination Problem school suffering a coordination problem? If they aren't using this "corageous" term now, then when? If they aren't using it at the Coordination Problem blog, then where?


  1. Coordination Problem is the gayest name ever.

    "I am a Keynesnian"
    "Well we will be in disagreement, for I am a Coordination Problemist"

    Stick with Austrian Economics. It has a nice ring, and a reputation to back it.

  2. Great catch.

    When they did the change it was just lame. I recall at the time saying something like boetcke should get a job in maerketing and in his first job he should change the name of Coke to "brown sugar water".

    boetcke has a strange fetish for top-ten school approval. He should stick with Austrian Economics and win straight-away on Mises, Hayek,etc. ideas.