Sunday, February 1, 2015

Becoming Professionally Estranged: From Samuelson to Friedman to Mises and Rothbard

Robert Higgs writes:
When I was an undergraduate economics student at San Francisco State College
from 1963 to 1965, several of my professors were people who had earned their
Ph.D. degrees at UC Berkeley. During their lectures, they would sometimes make
passing references to Milton Friedman. Although I did not understand why they
broke into laughter after making such references, I surmised that this Friedman fellow
must be some kind of economic quack or charlatan and that any reference to
him or his ideas was intended to provide comic relief during a serious classroom
presentation. None of my professors ever assigned any of Friedman’s writings for
students to read, and it never occurred to me to seek out such writings. 
Later, when I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins from 1966 to 1968, I
found that Friedman’s writings were treated with respect. Friedman’s price theory
text was one of the assigned books in the first micro course, along with James
Henderson and Richard Quandt’s text and other readings, and Friedman’s articles
on the demand for money and other topics were assigned in the macro courses. As
I read these sources, I thought back to my undergraduate experience and wondered
why my teachers at San Francisco State had treated Friedman as such a joke.
Later still, after I joined the economics faculty at the University of Washington
in 1968, I encountered this professional split from the other side. At that
time the dominant faction in the department at Washington consisted of Chicago
Ph.D.s and others sympathetic to the Chicago School. These people viewed the
superstars of the MIT–Harvard–Berkeley group at least as contemptuously as my
undergraduate professors had viewed Friedman and his associates and disciples.
 By this time, I was beginning to gain an understanding of the social structure of
the U.S. economics profession. For a while I gravitated toward membership in the
Chicago–UCLA crowd, although I never became quite as dismissive as they were
of the professionally dominant group led in those days by Paul Samuelson, Robert
Solow, and other likeminded luminaries.
Having discovered F. A. Hayek’s writings in the late 1960s, which led me in
due course to the writings of Ludwig von Mises, Israel Kirzner, Murray Rothbard,
and other members of the Austrian School, I gradually parted company with my
Chicago-oriented views, at least in regard to the fundamental epistemological and
methodological underpinnings of economics. From my new, more professionally
estranged vantage point, I could see even more clearly what was going on in
connection with the various frictions and disagreements between the two main
competing factions in the mainstream economics profession.

- Econ Journal Watch: Volume 12, Issue 1,

1 comment:

  1. Busted link: file:///C:/Users/Satellite/Downloads/HiggsJan2015.pdf