Friday, June 13, 2014

WOW: Leland Yeager Says Thomas Piketty Argues Like Murray Rothbard

By Robert Wenzel

Leland Yeager is out with a review of Thomas Piketty's new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

It is an odd review, since Yeager tells us he did not check the data that Piketty uses to justify his argument:
I have neither the time and energy nor the competence to verify his voluminous statistics. 
But, nevertheless, he does take an odd swipe at Piketty's data, while managing to tangentially swipe at Murray Rothbard:
Piketty’s economic language and massive quantities of ingeniously gathered statistics amount to what I call a Murray Rothbard or Alan Reynolds style of argument: deploy such an array of facts and figures, dates, places, mini-biographies, and even personality sketches that, even if they scarcely add up to a coherent argument, you come across to your reader or audience as a consummate expert whose judgments command respect.
It would be nice if Yeager would show us one of these Rothbard type aggregations that loses coherency. I know of none. Indeed, the only place I know of where Rothbard wrote mini-biographies and personality sketches was in his history books, where  mini-biographies are certainly justified and not necessarily meant to support an argument.

The only incoherent argument in Yeager's review that I spotted was made by Yeager, himself. After telling us he did not check Piketty's data and after charging Rothbard with being incoherent, he writes of Piketty's book:
I warn libertarians: don’t risk a boomerang effect by unfairly dismissing his work as a mere ideological tract. It is indeed a work of genuine scholarship.
How does Yeager know this, given that he charges the book is full of massive statistics and, yet, readily admits he hasn't checked the data? Especially given that some of the most important criticisms of Piketty's work is that his statistical gathering is faulty. (SEE: Thomas Piketty’s Improbable Data)

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.


  1. If deploying "an array of facts and figures, dates, places, mini-biographies, and even personality sketches" doesn't make one an expert on said topic, then what does? (assuming the data is correct)

    lol...funny 'argument' by Yeager.

    You're right RW, if he doesn't bother to fact check said deployment, what use is he?

  2. Translation:
    I don't know what I'm talking about but I'd like you to pretend that I do.

  3. "I warn libertarians: don’t risk a boomerang effect by unfairly dismissing his work as a mere ideological tract. It is indeed a work of genuine scholarship."

    LOL! Try a work of horseshit masquerading as scholarship. Sorry moron, it IS an ideological tract.

  4. It is nice to see the old Liberty Magazine, once again, as an outlet for Yeager's book reviews, after who knows how long. Looks like they are publishing about one article per year.

    As to several points in the last part of his review concerning intuition and inequality, Yeager should be advised to go back and re-read Helmut Schoeck's "ENVY: A theory of Social Behaviour." Liberty Press has brought it back into print I see from the Amazon site. (Leland: It's some sort of tribal thing, these irrational feelings passing as mere guessing or as intuition.)

  5. I really can't think of what Yeager could be talking about. I think he's a free banking guy (Rothbard thought of free banking as a second best alternative to making fractional reserve banking illegal). Maybe he didn't like Rothbard's history of "free banking" in Scotland, or his explanation for the evolution of FRB (since Rothbard considers it fraud).

    I've seen Gene Callahan criticize Rothbard's work on the history of economic thought (although, Callahan used Sowell's book as an authority, rather than doing his own research. And Sowell's book on Marx was way off, so I would be careful with his other stuff).

    But really, Yeager should know, as a fellow Austrian, Rothbard's work is based on sound socio-economic theory. Austrian economics and the question "who benefits", were at the core of all his writings. Pikettys r>g theory is bunk as bunk can get.

    To paint him as some sort of manipulator, and a dishonest intellectual, is so far off base, it boggles the mind. He must have a chip on his shoulder.

    That's alright though. Gary North, Joe Solerno, David Gordon, and Robert Higgs (and many other actual scholars) will probably smack this garbage down, soon enough.

  6. I am right now in the middle of reading Leland Yeager's 'Is the market a test of truth or beauty' compilation.

    He describes himself as halfway between Monetarist and Austrian. He is also halfway between apriori deductive economic theory and empirical facts.

    Even though he has lots of criticism of various aspects of Austrian economics, I have never seen him be so unfair on Rothbard. This new comment seems way offbase and quite unlike his previous work. Maybe I'm wrong about Leland and he really is a dick, which is how this comment on Rothbard makes him seem.