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Peter Boettke

Peter Boettke

Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

Articles by Peter Boettke

Mises on Liberalism, Socialism and Democracy

5 days ago

I reread Mises’s classic work Socialism this summer.  Fun historical fact — this was the first book of Mises’s that I read, followed by Theory of Money and Credit, before I read Human Action.  The book had a huge impact on me when I read it, and it still does.  In many ways, I consider it Mises’s best book in terms of argument, tone, and urgency — though of course Human Action is his most magisterial work.  Mises’s commitment to liberal cosmopolitanism leaps off the pages for those who will read carefully, and this means a commitment to peaceful social cooperation.  Let’s look closely at some passages from the section on Liberalism and Socialism.

In the Liberal Social Philosophy the human mind becomes aware of the overcoming of the principle of violence by the principle of

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Hayek Was Crystal Clear — the true liberal embraces change even when it is uncomfortable

6 days ago

Hayek famously penned an essay "Why I am Not a Conservative".  I have often argued that folks need to read that essay in conjunction with his "Errors of Constructivism" to get a good sense of his position on why as true radical liberals we must be wiling to question all of societies values, and submit them to critical evaluation, but why epistemologically we cannot do so be assuming any ‘Archimedean point’ from which to commence our evaluation.  We must always question within specific contexts, and criticize on the margin while holding other values as given at that moment if we are to avoid serious errors in our reasoning about society.  Root and branch constructivism is merely an illusion of the revolutionary, and a dangerous illusion at that. But that doesn’t mean we are trapped in

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CEVRO Institute PPE program

15 days ago

|Peter Boettke|
I am currently at the Prague Airport heading home after giving a series of 10 lectures, a talk to ESFL chapter in Prague, and listening to MA thesis proposals. What Josef Sima has built here is a wonderful educational and life experience for the next generation of potential thought leaders. I highly recommend students considering a career in ideas (not just academics) to spend a year in Prague in this program, learn from the international consortium of lecturers, from fellow students, from the beautiful city of Prague, and from the opportunity for easy travel throughout East and Central Europe.  Just a phenomenal opportunity to live learning.
Watch this short video.

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The Role of the Economist in a Free Society

18 days ago

In May the MPS Regional meeting was hosted in Texas, and I gave one of the lunch talks on the theme of "Lessons for MPS from ‘The Pretense of Knowledge’."  It was a tour through the ideas of various major thinkers in the history of MPS and their cautions against the economists as orchestrator of social betterment.  Obviously my title for that talk draws on Hayek’s Nobel lecture.
EconLib has published my essay into parts for posting online under the title "The Role of the Economist in a Free Society".  The first part focused on my discussion of Mises and Knight. The second part focuses on my discussion of Friedman, Stigler, Buchanan and Coase.
What is currently missing is my extended discussion of Hayek’s Nobel address, which I highly recommend to everyone to read very closely.  So

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A Fictional Conversation Between Emma Goldman and John Reed — a must watch for anyone thinking about the history of socialism

19 days ago

John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shock the World, was an American journalist who worked on behalf of the socialist cause, and he was buried at the Kremlin Wall.  Warren Beatty wrote, directed, starred and produced the 1981 film Reds that depicted John Reed’s life as an American Communist and supporter of the Russian Revolution.  In my favorite scene in this movie, he is confronted by the great American anarchist thinker who was deported to Communist Russia in 1919, Emma Goldman (played by Maureen Stapleton).
Goldman wrote My Disillusionment with Russia in the early 1920s after witnessing the betrayal of the socialist dream in theory through the day to day practice of socialism in reality.  In this scene she points out to Reed that "my understanding of revolution is not the

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Prague, CZ: Then and Now

20 days ago

I am back in Prague teaching at the CEVRO Institute PPE program.  This will be 3rd year teaching in this program. But I have been coming to Prague for almost 30 years.  I came here first at the invitation of Central European University and the Center for Research and Graduate Education (they shared the same building at the time), I later came as part of a joint program between Charles University and TFAS that provided a summer institute for students throughout the former communist economies, then I came as part of the faculty and even as a Fulbright scholar to the Prague University of Economics, and now at CEVRO.  And, I was here for the MPS meetings as well.  I have spent more time in Prague than any other East or Central European country, though I have had the good fortune through

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Cultural Innovators and the GMU PhD Program

24 days ago

Listen to Tyler Cowen at the 50 min mark and following discuss his own personal situation at GMU and why our PhD program is so AWESOME.

[embedded content]
The entire episode is self-recommending with Glenn Loury and Tyler Cowen, so after you speed ahead go back and listen to the entire thing.  Also, it was amazing that Glenn gave the shout out to David Skarbek and Daniel D’Amico and the work they are doing at Brown, and how well they reflect the breadth and depth of our program at GMU.  Both Dave and Dan wrote their PhD thesis under my supervision, and I am thrilled to see them get this recognition by a senior scholar as distinguished and accomplished at Glenn Loury. Keep up the great work Dave and Dan, continue to make Political Theory Project great, and to reflect so strongly

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Socialism Sucks by Robert Lawson and Ben Powell

26 days ago

I just finished watching Bob and Ben do an interview about their new book that is released today.  Socialism Sucks is timely and entertaining tour through the ruins left behind by an ideology that has both been poorly understood and devastating for humanity in its practice.  They provide a tour guide through the socialist world, and focus on the everyday pleasure of enjoying a good beer.  It turns out, that is quite hard to do in many regions of the world.  As Ben put it in the interview I just watched, that is because capitalism provides.  Socialism on the other hand, as Mises taught, lives off the accumulated production of the previous capitalist stage, and thus is in essence destructivism. 

Bob and Ben are the perfect authors for this book.  Bob has been involved and in fact

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Liberalism Misunderstood

July 3, 2019

Liberalism was born in an effort to escape oppression and dogma — a critique of the alignment of the Crown and the Altar that was enforced by the Sword. True radical liberalism is a foundational critique, and seeks to set in place constraints and establish extreme limits on the scale and scope of the Crown, Altar and Sword.  In operational terms this led to constitutionally limited government, religious toleration, and peaceful relations between nations through the free flow of labor, capital and goods.  I have not raised the issue of the abolition of the Crown, the Altar and the Sword, I am just limiting the discussion to the constraints and the machinery of establishing and enforcing those constraints — the institutions of Liberalism.
The intimate relationship between the

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Knight, Common Sense Principles, and Democracy

July 2, 2019

Part 1 of a new essay of mine is available at Econlib.  "The Role of the Economists is a Free Society: Mises to Knight" is adapted from my larger essay recently delivered at the MPS meetings in Dallas.
In working on that paper, and a few other projects over the past few years (mainly with Rosolino Candela, but also with Scott King and Henry Thompson) working through these issues of the role of the economist in a self-governing democratic society has led to an increased appreciation for the profound nature of the puzzles that Frank Knight sought to crack with his work.  Ross Emmett is probably the world’s leading authority on all things Frank Knight.  He is, in short, an internationally recognized expert on Knight, and of course, on Knight’s expert critique of rule by expertise

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Israell M. Kirzner — 10 Volume Collected Works

June 26, 2019

This month the last volume in the Collected Works of Israel M. Kirzner will be published.  It is his book Ludwig von Mises: The Man and His Economics, but it includes a comprehensive bibliography of Kirzner’s works throughout his career that was expertly edited and refined by Rosolino Candela for this version.  It is fitting for Kirzner’s collected works to be bookended by his dissertation written under Mises’s direction at NYU — The Economic Point of View — and his intellectual biography of Mises which was originally published in 2001 as Kirzner officially retired from active teaching at NYU.

Editing this collection was a labor of love for Frederic Sautet and me, and we are thrilled to see the corpus of Kirzner’s work now easily available for new generation of students and

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What is Heterodox Economics and what is its relationship to Mainline Economics?

June 25, 2019

I just returned from the annual History of Economic Society meetings at Columbia University. It was a great meeting if you ask me, but also very revealing.  Europeans scholars dominated the attendance, especially for younger scholars, and the number of none economists actively engaged in research in the history of economics and political economy is staggering.  This has been an evolving trend, but it was particularly striking to me at this years meetings.  It speaks to the challenge that those of us who hope to carve out a niche within economic science, and within the US academic landscape face, and how one’s main discourse partners in scholarship are changing.  My observation has no normative thrust to it, it is just what it is.  If you go back in time to the old internet discussion

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Richard Ebeling on the South Royalton, VT Conference in June 1974

June 24, 2019

Economists and social thinkers of a certain generation draw great inspiration from a conference sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies 45 years ago this week.  This conference produced Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics, and led to a flourishing of educational programs, publishing (both classics in reprints and new volumes) and additional conferences.  Karen Vaughn’s Austrian Economics in America (Cambridge, 1994) builds its core narrative around this conference, and Joe Salerno has countered with a history that challenges that by going back farther in history to the publication of Man, Economy, and State (1962) — and of course there is truth in both because South Royalton conference was possible only because of Rothbard’s galvanizing personality, but South Royalton was

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Hayek’s PhD students in Freiburg

June 14, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
After I finished FA Hayek last summer, I received an email from Stefan Kolev detailing information he learned about Hayek’s time in Freiburg.  Here is the list he compiled.

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Gems in Mises’s Notes and Recollections

June 11, 2019

There are some great gems in Mises’s memoir.  I was looking for 1 small item, but I ended up spending most of the day reading a book I had not read I wage since the 1980s in any serious way.  Mises is a proud man, and a man with great conviction.  But there are so many things crystal clear to anyone who will read this book.  His opposition to violence and militarism is evident throughout, as is his embrace of true radical liberalism.  He warned his friend Otto Bauer of the coming violent backlash — he did NOT embrace that violent backlash against the Social Democrats.  Look at his depiction of the "Home Guard" those rose up in opposition. Otto Bauer lead Social Democrats of Red Vienna, who had engaged in street violence to "control the streets" … Mises had challenged his friend

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Elinor Ostrom as Role Model and Mentor

June 7, 2019

Bobbi Herzberg and Vlad Tarko discuss Lin and Vincent Ostrom and the Workshop in a recent Hayek Program Podcast.  The discussion focus on Lin’s impact is worth listening to and fully absorbing. Her approach has had a huge impact on the way we have pursued things here at GMU, as I discussed at this celebration of her work at the APSA meetings.

Listen to Bobbi’s wonderful discussion of the choice of the name "Workshop", and also the deliberate flat nature of the organization, and the Ostroms’ self-understanding of apprenticeship, citizenship and scholarship.
Lin inspired in word and deed, and the Ostrom legacy — both Vincent and Lin — continues to shine through in ongoing work on democratic self-governance both here at the Hayek Program and at universities and research centers

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Why are we not talking about this more?

June 7, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
The other day in lecturing to undergrad class I made a mistake only foolish old professors make. Discussing the Soviet experience, I said to the class ‘How old were you in 1989?’  Of course, they looked at me with puzzled looks.  ‘I wasn’t born yet’, one pointed out.  Right!  My son Matthew was born in 1988, and he is 31, what was I thinking?!
But boy those decades have flown by. Still scrambling to get my bearings, I asked a follow up, ok, how old where you when 9/11 happened?  2-3-4 years old the answers came back.  And then two realities hit me. These kids have no living memory of communism, and their entire lives the US has been at war.  We are living in a permanent war economy with all the distortions and dysfunctions that follow. 
For the first time in US

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Clothes on Floor, not put away; Jazz music, not Classical; Books all around, not Sports posters — and Political Division and Democratic Society

June 6, 2019

One of my favorite podcasts as readers of this blog will know is Hidden Brain hosted by Shankar Vedantam.   A recent episode discussed partisanship in America, and offered psychological/biological analysis, and historical analysis. But as I was listening I couldn’t help thinking about a few things and I wonder how you think about these things as well and what your personal experiences are — both with the psychological dispositions discussed to define conservatives and liberals, and with your understanding of history and challenges to democratic society.
On the first, just let me say.  I think I am probably some odd ball — a liberal with some conservative dispositions, but not many.  Maybe I am just a radical liberal who learned economics so that I take the issue of scarcity

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LISTEN … and pray that someone like Julian Simon can emerge to bring reason and evidence back into the conversation

June 1, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
Climate change is real; climate change is man-made, but once we agree on that there is still the matters of (1) trade-offs that must be made in negotiating public policy priorities and alternatives, (2) the adaptations and adjustments that human choosers will make due to the incentives they face as change is impressed upon them, and (3) the technological innovations that can in many cases ameliorate problems if not eliminate. 
In studying this process of adaptation and adjustment, the ultimate resource we must remember is the human imagination, and the greatest tools we have for directing that imagination in productive directions is property, prices and profit and loss.
None of this is recognized in this episode of On the Media, May 31, 2019.
So respectfully listen,

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Facts Should Get In The Way of a Good Story!!!

May 30, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
James M Buchanan — my teacher — has had a rough couple years where historians and other critics have in essence insisted that the facts should never get in the way of their preferred narrative.  BUT THEY SHOULD!  It is a sad tragedy when they don’t because the allure of ideological blinders is just too great.
So one small set of facts — the visitors brought to Thomas Jefferson Center at UVa.
Visiting scholars at UVA’s Thomas Jefferson Center under James Buchanan’s watch:
1958 (Spring semester) – Frank Knight1958-59 – Maurice Allais1959-60 – Bertil Ohlin
Notable guest lecturers brought in:
1957 – Ronald Coase (later joined faculty)1958 – Charles Lindblom1958 – Peter Bauer1959 – Robert A. Dahl1960 – T. W. Hutchison

And, just another set of facts, first Presidents

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Facts Should Get In The Way of a Good Story!!!

May 30, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
James M Buchanan — my teacher — has had a rough couple years where historians and other critics have in essence insisted that the facts should never get in the way of their preferred narrative.  BUT THEY SHOULD!  It is a sad tragedy when they don’t because the allure of ideological blinders is just too great.
So one small set of facts — the visitors brought to Thomas Jefferson Center at UVa.
Visiting scholars at UVA’s Thomas Jefferson Center under James Buchanan’s watch:
1958 (Spring semester) – Frank Knight1958-59 – Maurice Allais1959-60 – Bertil Ohlin
Notable guest lecturers brought in:
1957 – Ronald Coase (later joined faculty)1958 – Charles Lindblom1958 – Peter Bauer1959 – Robert A. Dahl1960 – T. W. Hutchison

And, just another set of facts, first Presidents

Read More »

Liberalism, Democracy and Political Economy for 21st Century

May 29, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
My Grove City College frat brother and intellectual confidant Matt Kibbe interviews John Taylor and me prior to recent MPS meeting in Dallas. Thanks Matt for this opportunity.

The MPS meetings focused in ‘Contentious Issues’ and was in my humble opinion at great success and wonderful learning experience. Congratulations to Bob Lawson (SMU) and Ben Powell (TTU) for putting together such a great meeting.

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Liberalism, Democracy and Political Economy for 21st Century

May 29, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
My Grove City College frat brother and intellectual confidant Matt Kibbe interviews John Taylor and me prior to recent MPS meeting in Dallas. Thanks Matt for this opportunity.

The MPS meetings focused in ‘Contentious Issues’ and was in my humble opinion at great success and wonderful learning experience. Congratulations to Bob Lawson (SMU) and Ben Powell (TTU) for putting together such a great meeting.

Read More »

The Trend of Economic Thinking Redux

May 22, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
Greg Mankiw will no longer be teaching Principles of Economics at Harvard and instead Raj Chetty will be. How fortunate are those students to be exposed to such a brilliant mind at the beginning of their education. And there is no doubt Chetty is brilliant.  But his plan is to change the style and more importantly the content of the course.  
You can be brilliantly wrong, which is what I believe Chetty is in making this move. Economic theory, understood correctly, cannot be so easily dispensed with because it is not so easily learned either. Students have to be taught the economic way of thinking to make sense of the big data they are processing and asked to analyze. Theory is the set of eyeglasses through which we can ‘read’ the chaotic world and make sense of it.

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Art Carden reviews F. A. Hayek: Economics, Political Economy, and Social Philosophy (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2019)

May 11, 2019

Art Carden reviews my book on Hayek and the title of his review essay is "Read Hayek As If Your Children’s Lives Depend On It."  I greatly appreciate Art’s kind words and fully endorse the urgency of the task of reading and fully comprehending what Hayek is arguing in his various works, including The Road to Serfdom.  That book read rightly, not in the cartoon caricature of it depicted by its detractors, is extremely relevant for our times.  In fact, it presents a timeless message about the interrelationship between institutional context of social arrangements and realized outcomes from those social arrangements.  Democracy, for example, cannot function without certain institutions in operation.  Various economic policy ideas will cut against the operation of those institutions, so

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Myth Busting and Economic Theory

May 10, 2019

|Peter Boettke|
I started reading John Quiggin’s Economics in Two Lessons, and its basically a critique of the proposition that market prices fully reflect opportunity costs. So the second lesson for Quiggin, as it was for Samuelson, teaches about externalities, monopoly power, business cycles, etc. in short, market failure theory.
But much of the great advances in economic science during the 1960s-1990s was blowing up the mythology of market failure and the idea of government as a corrective.
But the resurrection of market failure theory is not limited to Quiggin, but was evident already in writings earlier in the 2000s such as the books of Ho-Joon Chang
The trend is also evident in recent trends from behavioral economics to the sort of arguments one finds in Eric Posner and Glen

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Happy Birthday Professor Hayek

May 8, 2019

F. A. Hayek was born on May 8th 1899 in Vienna.  His intellectual achievements are well documented and well-known, culminating in his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1974.  The question that we must grapple with today is the evolutionary potential of his ideas for research in economics, political economy and social philosophy for our age.  On his birthday, look through the Living Bibliography to get a glimpse of the explosion of work done on Hayek’s ideas over the past decades and suggest additional items.

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