Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Israel Kirzner Gets Votes at the AEA Annual Conference as an Economist Who Could Win the 2016 Nobel Prize

 At the annual meeting of the American Economic Association here in San Francisco, Israel Kirzner (85), who studied directly under the great Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises,  and who has done what I believe to be very important work in the field of entrepreneurship, was on the short list of only 21 economists who received votes as a possible winner of the  2016 Noble Prize in Economics.

To be sure, Kirzner received only 2% of the vote, but the AEA is a very mainstream organization and very heavily influenced by econometric methods rejected by the Austrian school.

In 2014, I wrote:
 I have been on record since at least 2008, calling for Kirzner to be awarded the Nobel Prize. (I am also on record advocating the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to Walter Block and Lew Rockwell)

Kirzner studied under the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises and I believe his work on entrepreneurship is path breaking and has significant policy implications.

Kirzner's important insight is in drawing out the essence of what entrepreneurship is. He argues that entrepreneurship is the ability to recognize a potential opportunity and act on it. Notably, and this is where, in particular, many other Austrian economists differ with him, he does not see the risking of capital as a characteristic specifically tied to the entrepreneur.

He sees the awareness of where capital can be found to be part of what an entrepreneur must be aware of to successfully complete an entrepreneurial project, rather than that the entrepreneur himself must have capital at risk.

Thus, though, the role of the entrepreneur and that of the person who risks capital are generally tied close together, they are two separate functions.

If Kirzner is correct about this, and I believe he is, then it has profound policy implications, since those who argue that a person in poverty does not get an even break, are set back significantly by Kirzner's observation. Since if personal capital that is owned by the entrepreneur is not necessary to launch an entrepreneurial project, then the poor person is not at a disadvantage in pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities simply because he is poor, Thus, the poor do not need a special break. The poor who spot entrepreneurial opportunities, including where to find willing capital investors, can do so without the advantage of their own capital, and thus they can lift themselves from poverty just by keen entrepreneurial awareness.
I can think of no one currently more deserving of the Noble Prize in economics than Kirzner. (Mises himself should have been awarded the prize after his publication of Human Action.)



  1. As those with a long memory and a knack for trivia, may recall, I have been touting this insight (and crediting Kirzner) for about a decade, much to the annoyance of Peter Klein et al.

    1. Klein makes great points against Kirzner's views though.

    2. I'll double check that, thanks. BTW I've got the greatest respect for PK.
      It could be a case of semantics, but as I wrote the other day, words DO matter.

    3. Check his work, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgement.