Sunday, February 16, 2014

Richard Ebeling on Austrian Economics, Economic Freedom and the Trends of the Future

Introduction: Dr. Richard Ebeling is a senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and professor of economics at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. He has been a visiting professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (2008-2009), served as the president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) from 2003 to 2008 and was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College, in Michigan (1988-2003). Dr. Ebeling is the author of Political Economy, Public Policy, and Monetary Economics: Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian Tradition (Routledge, 2010), Austrian Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom (Elgar, 2003) and is also the editor of the Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises (Liberty Fund), based on the "lost papers" of Ludwig von Mises, which he recovered from a formerly secret KGB archive in Moscow, Russia. The last of this three-volume set was published in April 2012. Dr. Ebeling is also the co-author and co-editor of the multi-volume work, In Defense of Capitalism (Northwood University, 2010-2013). In the early 1990s, Ebeling consulted on market reform and privatization with the emerging new democratic government in Lithuania when it was still part of the Soviet Union and witnessed the violent, attempted Soviet crackdown on the Lithuanian freedom movement in January 1991. He also was with Russian defenders of freedom in Moscow during the failed hardline coup in August 1991. Dr. Ebeling earned his Ph.D. in economics from Middlesex University in London, England.

Daily Bell: Tell us about the fourth volume of In Defense of Capitalism and the upcoming fifth volume. Your articles are a large part of the collection. Give us some background on what they address. 

Richard Ebeling: I am a professor of economics at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. The university is an institution of higher learning devoted to offering a higher quality education in the various areas of business. But underpinning Northwood is a dedication to an explicit philosophy of individual freedom, free markets and constitutionally limited government. As part of sharing with a wider audience these ideas of liberty, for the last four years I have collaborated with the president of the university, Dr. Keith Pretty, and vice-president, Timothy Nash, in preparing and editing an annual collection of essays with the general title, In Defense of Capitalism. I have written about 25-30 percent of the essays in each volume. In the last, volume 4, which was published in August 2013, my contributions focused on the principles and history of liberty, and the dangers from modern collectivist trends. I also challenged the assumption that America needs a central bank for a sound monetary system and warned of the consequences from price inflation in undermining the social and economic order. Volume 5 of In Defense of Capitalism should be published in August 2014, and some of my contributions will be on ObamaCare, monetary mismanagement by the Federal Reserve and the means and methods for restoring a freer society in America. All four volumes offer what I consider to be highly useful "intellectual ammunition" in our battle for free-market capitalism against the interventionist-welfare state and its political paternalistic premises. 

Daily Bell: Recently, Routledge publishers issued a less expensive paperback edition of your last book, Political Economy, Public Policy, and Monetary Economics: Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian Tradition. How has that been received? It seems as timely as ever. 

Richard Ebeling: Yes, this volume of mine offers a clearly written and detailed discussion and defense of the "Austrian School of Economics" approach to freedom and the free market. I do this in the context of explaining the life, ideas and insightful contributions of Ludwig von Mises, the most original and significant member of the Austrian School in the 20th century. I explain Mises's theoretical and policy arguments as to why there is no workable alternative to a laissez-faire free market order and why neither socialism nor government interventionism can ever be a substitute for capitalism. Mises was not only a "grand theorist," but a practical policy analyst and advocate, as well. In the Austria in which he lived in the years between the two World Wars, he made his living as a senior policy analyst for the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. He dealt with the daily issues of government taxing, spending and regulation of the Austrian economy at a time of hyperinflation, economic instability and disorder and then the Great Depression. If anyone has wondered, "Well, how exactly do you apply 'Austrian Economics' to the 'real world,'?" I try to explain how Mises did so every day in dealing with the practical policy problems of his native Austria. I also devote several chapters in the book to an exposition of the Austrian theory of money and business cycle. In a lengthy chapter, for example, I present a detailed exposition of Austrian monetary theory as developed by Mises and Friedrich A. Hayek in the context of their analysis of the causes and cures for the Great Depression; this is then contrasted with John Maynard Keynes's alternative analysis and pro-government interventionist approach. I dissect and critically evaluate the assumptions and logic of Keynesian theory. In two other chapters, I contrast the Austrian theory of money and the business cycle with that of Joseph Schumpeter and what was known as the Swedish School of Economics. I believe that one will finish the book with a good grasp of the Austrian approach and the valuable insights it has given to our economic understanding of the world. All the policy issues that Austrians like Mises and Hayek dealt with in earlier decades of the last one hundred years are very much still with us. This, I like to think, makes the ideas explained in my book as relevant for our own time as when they first formulated them in an earlier period. 

Daily Bell: You are just starting to prepare and edit what will be one of the volumes in the Collected Writings of F.A. Hayek, which are being published by University of Chicago Press. Any teasers? Why has Hayek lasted? What is pertinent about his writings for today?

Read the rest on the interview here.

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