F.A.Hayek, Free-Market Think Tanks, And Intellectual Entrepreneurs

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 16/3/17 en: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2017/03/16/f-a-hayek-free-market-think-tanks-and-intellectual-entrepreneurs/#5d916ae552dc

 

I still recall the first time I heard F.A. Hayek (1899-1992) deliver a major lecture: it was in 1981 at the main hall in the classic building of the old Argentine Stock Exchange. During his presentation, he defended unemployment insurance, especially for those in risky occupations. I was so “radical” at the time after having studied all the books of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek’s mentor and colleague. Hayek’s statement shocked me. I handed in a card with my question and to my surprise, the moderator read it out loud. I’d written, “Ludwig von Mises wrote that in a free and unhampered market occupations with higher risks for unemployment already get a premium in salary, wouldn’t that invalidate the reason you stated?” I was even more surprised when Hayek answered, “as usual, my master was right.” Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many important intellectuals. Intellectual humility is seldom one of their traits. Hayek was different. I decided to learn from his example and began focusing on reading every one of Hayek’s work available to me.

Back in 2014, I wrote about the many think tanks and educational organizations named after Ludwig von Mises. At the time, I listed 25 Mises Institutes around the world. Most of them are still active, though many rely on the talents of one leader and will need to plan transitions for when their founder is no longer present. To my knowledge, the last Mises Institute to pop up was Mises Cuba. Early in February, two of their members were detained and later sent to the Melena II jail, a maximum security prison for political dissidents.

F.A. Hayek overlooking the Pacific Ocean from a cliff during his visit to Lima, Peru, in 1979 invited by Hernando de Soto (Institute for Liberty and Democracy)

F.A. Hayek overlooking the Pacific Ocean from a cliff during his visit to Lima, Peru, in 1979 invited by Hernando de Soto (Institute for Liberty and Democracy)

 

F.A. Hayek is another economist of tremendous relevance in the world of think tanks. Although he never used the term, he was also an intellectual entrepreneur. He inspired others to work professionally to produce and disseminate policy solutions consistent with sound economics and the philosophy of freedom. In addition to his academic publications, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974, his other major claim to fame was the founding of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947.

Mises’s work inspired the creation of many groups that now carry his name. Hayek, on the other hand, inspired more programs, awards, and scholarships than think tanks. The Hayek Foundation in Slovakia, and the Hayek Institutes in Austria, Italy, and Romania are exceptions. There was also an ambitious effort to build and consolidate a Hayek Foundation in Argentina, but it was dependent on an endowment set up by an aging donor and the heirs changed their minds, so the think tank floundered.

The seeds for the F. A. Hayek Foundation were planted in 1991 but the foundation was formally launched in 1992, during the second year of Slovakia’s economic and political transformation. Jan Oravec, one of the founders and key leaders, explains that at the beginning of the transition from communism, the debate was, “the market versus the mixed economy and radical, fast versus the gradual approach.” The intellectual climate was “crucial in understanding why we opted for Hayek’s name.”

The founders of the think tank supported radical reforms towards the market economy. Oravec adds, “our opponents supported a naive concept of ‘cherry picking’ from both systems and implementing them cautiously and gradually. At that time, Hayek was, in our country, a symbol of pro-market thinking, someone who., better than any of us, formulated and explained the superiority of markets over central planning.” Cultural reasons also helped: “Hayek was of Austrian origin, with experience from our region, very close to us. In addition, he died in March 1992. That resonated much still in May, when we established The F. A. Hayek Foundation.” Oravec is now president of the Entrepreneurs’ Association of Slovakia, which is teaming up with the Hayek Foundation in the Athena project to help reform primary and secondary education. Friends of freedom wish them the same success as they had when helping pass a flat tax in Slovakia.

Hayek Institutes around the world:

There is no room to describe here all the programs of Hayek Institutes in detail. What follows is just a summary.

Well known in classical liberal circles, the Hayek Institute in Austria is behind the Free-Market Road Show, which brings speakers to numerous countries. One year before his death, Hayek recommended the founding the  institute which took place in 1993. The institute also gives a yearly Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award.   Its homonym in Romania, founded in 2011 in Iasi, has an active publication and translation agenda, not only of Hayek’s books but also works by Murray Rothbard, Carl Menger, and other Austrian or Austrian-inspired authors. Their annual meeting is usually in May, and they will be soon hosting the “Free-Market Road Show” with their Austrian peers.

Hayek inspired a businessman of his time, Antony Fisher, to become an intellectual entrepreneur. Fisher founded the Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK, what is now the Manhattan Institute in New York, and several others. Fisher loved the Austrian economics of Mises and Hayek, but for him, arguments should be about right or wrong, not about Mises vs. Hayek vs. Friedman. He did not like partisan disputes and was not involved in opening any Hayek or Mises Institutes.

The Manhattan Institute, which was founded by Antony Fisher in 1978, has a Hayek Book Prize that honors the publication that best reflects Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty. The Fraser Institute, where Fisher played an important role during its early years, has a program, Essential Hayek, which explains Hayek’s teachings to the educated layperson in simple terms and with short videos.

Country Effort Organization Type
Austria Hayek Institut Hayek Institut Think Tank
Brasil Instituto Hayek Brasil Instituto Hayek Brasil Facebook Page
Canada Essential Hayek Fraser Institute Think Tank Program
Chile Cátedra Friedrich A. Hayek Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez Academic Program
Italy Fondazione Hayek Italia Fondazione Hayek Italia Think Tank
Romania Hayek Institute Institul Friedrich Hayek Romania Think Tank
Slovakia F.A. Hayek Foundation Nadácia F.A. Hayeka Think Tank
United Kingdom LSE Student Union Hayek Society London School of Economics Student outreach
United Kingdom Hayek Annual Memorial Lecture Institute of Economic Affairs Think Tank Program
USA Hayek Fund for Scholars Institute for Humane Studies Academic Program
USA Hayek Center Greg Ransom blog Personal blog
USA Hayek Lecture and Book Prize Manhattan Institute Think Tank Program
USA Hayek PPE Mercatus Academic Program
USA Collected Works of F.A. Hayek University of Chicago Publications
USA On Line Library of Liberty Liberty Fund Publications
       

During a visit to Lima, Peru, in 1979, Hayek encouraged Hernando de Soto to get in touch with Fisher. De Soto founded the Instituto Libertad y Democracia which changed development economics for good. Today, universities and university-based centers are also helping preserve and disseminate Hayek’s legacy. In Guatemala, the New Media center at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) is the host of an educational video in English and Spanish describing Hayek’s major contributions. The video, entitled “Hayek’s Freedom Philosopher,” has been used in many classes; before a change in the video platform, it had been viewed over 30K times. The media center also hosts an outstanding collection of Hayek interviews, most conducted by eminent figures such as the late Nobel Laureate James Buchanan as well as the late Robert Bork. In Chile, the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, where he was an Honorary Professor, recently created a Hayek Chair. Axel Kaiser, executive director of Fundación Progreso, and prolific author, is the director of the Cátedra Friedrich A. Hayek.

In the United States, two centers affiliated with George Mason University have their own programs named after Hayek: Mercatus and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS). The former has the “F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics” (which wins the award as the prize with the longest name), usually known as Hayek PPE. I asked Peter Boettke, current President of the Mont Pelerin Society and director of the program, about its goals. He said, “we have long described our research emphasis with the PPE label (philosophy, politics, and economics). Hayek’s work stood in this tradition, as can be seen in his books, studies in PPE, and then [his book] New Studies.  Since my student days, I found inspiration in these works, so I thought this was the way we should train young economic scholars to be able to contribute to scholarship along these lines. So the [Hayek’s name] was used to signal methodological and analytical commitments as well as social philosophical questions.”

IHS has a Hayek Fund, which provides small grants to help with conference fees and other career-related expenses for PhD students or junior faculty members who have previously participated in its programs. There are also material tributes to Hayek: two Hayek Auditoriums, one at the Cato Institute and one at UFM. Hayek also lent his name to and was part of several think tanks, usually with an academic focus, from the Walter Eucken Institute in Germany, to the honorary presidency of the Academic board of the Centro de Estudios Públicos in Chile.

Hayek taught at major universities in Chicago, Freiburg, and London. The University of Chicago, which owns many of Hayek’s copyrights, has a publishing project titled “The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek.” The current general editor is Bruce Caldwell, who has produced outstanding versions of Hayek’s books. The London School of Economics, where Hayek taught between 1931 and 1950, has a student group named after him. I could not find a single program named after Hayek at the University of Freiburg.

In 1981, F.A. Hayek visited Argentina for the release of a Spanish edition of his book "New Studies", here with the author Alejandro Chafuen, at ESEADE business school. Hayek was the president of ESEADE's academic council until his death in 1992.

Alejandro Chafuen

In 1981, F.A. Hayek visited Argentina for the release of a Spanish edition of his book “New Studies”, here with the author Alejandro Chafuen, at ESEADE business school. Hayek was the president of ESEADE’s academic council until his death in 1992.

What might explain the difference in the diverse appeal of Hayek and Mises in having their names used as free-market think tank brands? Could it be the more open-ended conclusions and unanswered questions in Hayekian teachings compared with the apparent certainty of Misesian economics? Could it be that certainty has more appeal as a driving force for a think tank? Hayek seems much more moderate and cautious in reaching conclusions. He accepts the creation of a safety net, as long as some conditions are met, like open entry and no monopoly in the provision of the services. Hayek respects tradition and evolution. Mises also accepted transitory middle-of-the-road solutions, among others, retaliatory tariffs and gradual rather than radical liberalization (in his plan for Mexico). These were usually offered when he acted as a consultant more than a theoretician. Nevertheless, in his main treatise, Human Action, Mises defended military conscription, as at the time he was writing, Western civilization was being challenged by the National Socialist and Communist menace.

I regard Peter Boettke as the major driving force in Austrian economics today. At Grove City College, he studied under Hans Sennholz, a leading disciple of Von Mises, but Boettke is also very comfortable with Hayekian approaches to economics and the philosophy of freedom. I asked Boettke about the different inspiration that one gets from Mises and Hayek.

Boettke thinks that indirectly, Hayek inspired more think tanks that focus on policy work while those who like more ideological work tended to follow Mises. He writes, “I think Mises is a more galvanizing ideological figure, whereas Hayek inspires scholars and academics,” and adds “I think Mises can also inspire academics, witness [Israel] Kirzner but also all his students from Vienna including Hayek. But this requires more work. We don’t immediately see the Mises of Theory of Money and Credit, or Epistemological Problems, or even Socialism, Liberalism, Interventionism, Bureaucracy, and Omnipotent Government. We don’t read how he gave rise to Lionel Robbins, Fritz Machlup, Gottfried Haberler, or Oskar Morgenstern, but instead we read him as an icon who opposed any deviation from laissez-faire. So he becomes a galvanizing figure.” I concur with his views.

At the end, given Hayek’s role in inspiring Fisher, and the latter’s role in creating an organization that helps individuals start and manage institutes , one can conclude that both Mises and Hayek have been a great inspiration for think tanks and academic centers. The intellectual entrepreneurs who work for a free society have a rich intellectual fountain in F. A. Hayek.

 

Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

El fiasco de la política fiscal expansiva

Por Iván Carrino. Publicado el 11/8/16 en: http://www.ivancarrino.com/el-fiasco-de-la-politica-fiscal-expansiva/

 

En el gobierno creen que la economía va a reactivarse una vez que pongan en marcha la parafernalia del gasto estatal. Una pena que no se haya aprendido la lección de Kicillof.

Un joven emprendedor estaba preocupado por sus finanzas personales. Tras meses de pensar y pensar, no encontraba la forma de incrementar sus ingresos, por lo que decidió buscar ayuda consultando a dos amigos economistas.

El primer profesional que visitó se identificaba con la corriente principal del pensamiento económico. Es decir, esa que de acuerdo con Peter Boettke abarca desde David Hume y Adam Smith y llega hasta F. A. Hayek y James Buchanan.

La conversación se dio de esta forma:

– Estimado amigo, me gustaría ganar $ 100 más por mes: ¿Qué me aconsejas?

– Bueno querido amigo, te recomiendo que ahorres un poco cada mes, y luego busques invertir ese ahorro en un proyecto productivo que le sirva a la gente. De esa manera vas a generar una rentabilidad que te permitirá ganar esos $ 100 que estás buscando.

Luego de visitar a su primer contacto, se dirigió al segundo. Su nuevo consejero también era economista, pero identificado con la corriente keynesiana. La charla fue la siguiente:

– Estimado amigo, me gustaría ganar $ 100 más por mes: ¿Qué me aconsejas?

– Muy fácil mi estimado, tienes que salir a gastar $ 100.

Desde el punto de vista keynesiano, el motor del crecimiento económico es el gasto público. Cuando el gobierno gasta, entonces genera ingresos para una parte de la economía, pero esta parte luego lo vuelca a otros sectores generando un “efecto multiplicador” que reactiva el consumo, la demanda agregada y el bienestar social. Para que el efecto multiplicador tenga un impacto verdadero, el gasto debe ser preferentemente deficitario. Así, el déficit público aparece como la receta perfecta para encender la economía cuando ésta se encuentra alicaída.

La tesis keynesiana está prendiendo en el gobierno. Recientemente en La Nación, el periodista Néstor Scibona escribía que, para cambiar las expectativas de la economía, el gobierno tenía pensada una batería de instrumentos. Entre ellos, el principal era una “política fiscal expansiva, basada en mayor ritmo de ejecución de obras públicas de carácter social y licitaciones de nuevos proyectos de infraestructura vial y ferroviaria (…) y el pago de juicios y/o mejora de haberes a más de 2 millones de jubilados de ingresos medios”.

Como se observa, luego de reconocer que el déficit era uno de los principales económicos a resolver y que las cuentas fiscales debían ordenarse para bajar la inflación, ahora el gobierno parece que se compromete a hacer precisamente lo contrario. Darle “bomba” al gasto público (e incumplir sus objetivos de déficit) con la ilusión de que así la economía vuelva a crecer.

El problema de este enfoque es que ya se aplicó y fue un estruendoso fracaso.

Durante la segunda presidencia de Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, los ministros Lorenzino y Kicillof llevaron adelante una agresiva política fiscal. El déficit, que sin la contabilidad creativa ya ascendía a $AR 84.300 millones en 2012, se multiplicó por 4 en 2015, ascendiendo a $AR 370.000 millones o más del 6% del PBI.

El efecto de esta expansión del gasto deficitario del gobierno no fue el esperado por los keynesianos. Durante esos 4 años, la economía estuvo prácticamente estancada, creciendo al 0,3% promedio por año y reduciendo el producto per cápita de los argentinos. Por si esto fuera poco, el período estuvo signado por el aumento del nivel de pobreza.

Lo curioso del gobierno actual no es tanto que no haya aprendido la lección de “la era Kicillof”, sino que no escuche la opinión de los propios miembros de su equipo económico al respecto. En el año 2013, Federico Sturzenneger publicó un libro titulado “Yo no me quiero ir”. Allí explicaba por qué los aumentos del gasto público no reactivaban la economía:

Una manera de ver que el impacto (de aumentar el gasto público) puede no ser significativo, parte de entender que cuando el gobierno gasta, primero tiene que conseguir el financiamiento para ese gasto; es decir, tiene que cobrar impuestos o tomar la plata prestada. Pero esto implica que mientras gasta por un lado, le resta un poder de compra similar a quienes les está cobrando impuestos o de quienes está tomando deuda

Nada es gratis. Ni siquiera el déficit fiscal. Si el gobierno gasta y cobra impuestos, no hay un mayor gasto total. Si gasta con déficit, alguien tiene que financiar el déficit prestándole plata al tesoro. Si nadie lo hace, todavía queda la inflación, que no es otra cosa que la imposición de un nuevo impuesto que reduce la capacidad de consumo de la gente.

La idea de que el aumento del gasto público estimula la economía tiene pies de barro tanto en la teoría como en la práctica. Así que un consejo para el actual equipo económico es que deje de guiarse por los cantos de sirena de los gastoadictos y siga en el camino de equilibrar las cuentas públicas.

Solo si se baja el déficit achicando el gasto habrá posibilidad de bajar impuestos. Y solo con una menor carga tributaria Argentina tendrá la probabilidad de volver a crecer para alcanzar a los países que progresan en el mundo.

 

Iván Carrino es Licenciado en Administración por la Universidad de Buenos Aires y Máster en Economía de la Escuela Austriaca por la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid. Es editor de El Diario del Lunes, el informe económico de Inversor Global. Además, es profesor asistente de Comercio Internacional en el Instituto Universitario ESEADE y de Economía en la Universidad de Belgrano.

Juan C. Cachanosky (1953 – 2015): See you in our next morning walk

Por Nicolás Cachanosky. Publicado el 4/1/16 en: https://puntodevistaeconomico.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/juan-c-cachanosky-1957-2015-see-you-in-our-next-morning-walk/

 

Foto - 20

These are probably the most difficult lines I’ll have to write in a very long time, if not ever. In a premature way, JCC, my dad, died on December 31st, 2015. Frank Sinatra was probably his favorite singer. And his version of “May Way” probably his favorite song. He certainly lived his life his way. He died in peace doing what he loved most, doing economics and spreading the ideas of classical liberalism. For him to work during the afternoon of the last day of the year was the most natural thing to do. He achieved what most want but not everyone can: A loving family that will miss him dearly, more friends than one can count, and international academic recognition despite not being know for his “academic journal papers.” He did it, indeed, his way.

Surely my personal experience with him is different to those of many. I’m not only his son, I’m also an economist with an academic career and is impossible for me to separate both things. If anything, I rather focus on my personal experience (introspection maybe?) than on a summary of his personal life which others are more suitable to tell. I want to remember him by reflecting, maybe for the first time, how much he influenced me on key points of my life.

I cherish warm reminiscences with him since I have use of my memory. From playing video games together in our first Commodore 64 (mid 80s version of a PC), to our morning walkings along Pinamar’s beach, the both of us and sometimes with my sibllings where I would ask him all sort of questions (economics, history, philosophy, physics, etc.) Those morning walk were among the favorite part of my days and remain as one of my most cherished memories of our old times. How much I’d love to have one last walk with him.

My first contact with economics was, of course, through him. But not without some initial mistakes on my part. In elementary school (as I was told by my mom I think), we were asked what our dads do for work. At my turn I said that “My dad is a communist (producing a white-pale face in our teacher, and quietly moving on).” In Spanish, communist and economist sound similar enough for a younger version of me to get confused. I know now, that if dad didn’t kick me out from home, his patience was indeed almost unlimited. When I started high school I wanted to become an astronomer due to an astronomy book my mom gave my for my birthday. Years later I passed that book to my sister, who actually started astronomy and then moved to physics. By mid high school I shifted my interested from astronomy to physics after reading different physics books from my dads bookshelf (George Gamow is what I remember most.) Then I could do a specialization in astronomy (astrophysics) if I felt inclined to (I now realize my sister might be living my parallel life. I gave her a few economics books too, but apparently I don’t have my dad’s magic powers). I wanted to understand how this huge universe of which we are an insignificant dot in space is possible and works by itself (I can’t say I ever was a religious person). But in mid high school we were required to write a short essay on a controversial topic; meaning an essay that would be open to debate different opinions in class. I saw that as an opportunity to explore some economics: what dad does for life that gets him all this respect I see in people around him! I chose to write why to build new machines does not increase unemployment. I couldn’t pin down by myself why that would be the case. Two things happened.

First, he walked me through the value added process of production with more capital or higher technology step-by-step to the point that a young 14 year old kid would say “duh!” (I actually think it might been on a napkin.) The conclusion that machines do not produce unemployment didn’t surprise me, I was expecting that already. But the strength of an argument that did not require to much (any?) empiric had an effect that left a strong impression in a mind that was used to think about empiric problems of physics. How do you show something that cannot be shown and still be convincing? I don’t know, and now never will, if he realized that in retrospection a 20 minutes talk produced the most important inflection point in my life. It wasn’t the explanation, it was how it was explained. I’m not surprised of all the positive comments we received the last few days of him as professor. There was no lecture by him I would attended were I wouldn’t learn something new, even if it was on a topic I’ve heard him lecture before.

The second thing that a happened is that he gave me four books to read. If I recall the order correctly (1) a cartoon-type book by Luis Pazos which I can’t remember the title, (2) Hazzlit’s Economics in One Lesson, (3) Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order and (4) Mises’s Planning for Freedom. After these readings there was no question on my mind. It doesn’t matter how hard physics and astronomy might be, economics deals with unintended consequences of living things that do not react to the law of nature. In my mind economics became the really hard (difficulty) science (from some time I entertained the idea of doing both careers, economics and physics, but this delusion didn’t last long.) Dad never asked me or pushed to follow one path or the other, he wanted me to do whatever I wanted to; I’m sure he was happy when I finally told him I wanted to be an economist too in one of our summer morning walks in the beach. I just couldn’t take my mind out of it, and I still can’t. To paraphrase his friend Peter Boettke, dad lived and transpire economics. During my remaining years at high school I read everything I could from his bookshelf. As you can imagine, a lot of Hazzlit, Hayek, Mises, Friedman, etc,. But mostly, I’ve read and re-read, and then re-read, everything he wrote. For me he was THE economist and I wanted to be able to think as clearly as he did. Even today I feel I’m influence by his way of thinking when I write an op/ed or work research papers.

As I said, I was always curious why an economic argument that deals with living things instead of empirical regularity can be so strong. That “apriori thing” my dad would talk about led me in my last year in high school to work on “rewriting” my own way (to the best I could do as a young high school student) Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations. This put me in contact with Mario Silar and opened a still healthy appetite for epistemological problems of economics. This epistemological appetite led to me work with one my dad’s closest friends, who I now also consider a good close friend, Gabriel Zanotti. Gabriel was my masters advisor at ESEADE, where dad spent so many years teaching economics and principles of classical liberalism. Recently Gabriel and I wrote a paper together on the implications of Machlup’s reading of Mises’ epistemology (as wonkish as it gets!) I consider this, now in Journal of the History of Economic Thought, as one of the my best papers so far.

As I was about to finish high school, in one of his so many international trips he had a connection in New York, he went all the way to FEE to buy a copy of Human Action which gave me as an end of high-school gift. I read it of the first time that summer before starting college. While I had an intuition and general understanding of the apriori in economics, this was the first time I’ve read about praxeology by Mises and I don’t know I could have gone through those pages without working before hand on Popper, which wouldn’t have occurred with the impact the machine-unemployment napkin-long argument left in my head. I say the first time because I was so well impressed by Human Action that I read it every summer even after finishing my college degree. I’ve read this book only six times. I say only because after I asked dad, he told me that he thought he had read it around 9 times (but who’s counting, right?). It seems I still have some catch-up to do… Needless to say, this is my most cherished piece in my bookshelf. There’s a joke I’ve heard but can’t remember from who: “An Austrian doesn’t lend even to his best friend neither his guitar, his girlfriend, nor his Human Action.” I don’t have a guitar, I play the piano. I’m single (who knows, hopefully not for long). But sure as hell I’m not lending my copy of Human Action.

This personal detour is no accidental. All these reading and interaction with my dad led me to start my economics career, also at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina, as an Austrian economist first (Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Mises, Hayek, Kirzner), and only then as a trained mainstrem economist. For better and for worse, this has always affected how I think about economic problems, what questions to ask, and how to answer them.

There are four papers from dad that merit, I think, special mention. All of them published in Libertas. This journal was discontinued a few years ago and he was still trying to bring it back to life the same day he left this world. The last email I received by him was addressed to a “club of academic libertarians” discussing the feasibility of using Libertas as the title of a new journal:

1-. Mathematical Economics vs Economic Science I & II

The title is no accidental. This paper is the outcome of his doctoral dissertation under the direction of Hans Sennholz (himself a doctoral student of Mises). I still know of no answers to some of the arguments he puts forward in this work. I also don’t know of an English written text that rise similar arguments to his. Hopefully I’ll find the time to continue this line of work at some point in my career. The doctoral committee, I should add, was composed of mathematicians as well. When dad defended his dissertation I was only one, or maybe two, years old and stayed at home with mom. The defense took place in Grove City. Pete Boettke can share colorful recollection of the defense as he was himself there and was the first doctoral dissertation he observed. I’ve heard his colorful recollection before, it’s worth listening to.

2-. Theories of Value and Price I & II

The best reference I know about history of thought in what respects to theories of value and price. It is because of these papers that every time I hear anyone say “labor theory of value” I feel the urge to scream. Classic economists, from Smith to J. S. Mill did not have a labor theory of value, they had a cost-theory of price. The cost part is not even just labor and, of course, price is not value. For the classics, value was subjective, they just didn’t have a theory about it and that’s why they were immerse in their circular reasoning (which they knew about). If you don’t believe me, be a scholar and read the classics first hand yourself. Or read his papers on this subject. I also learned about marginal theory of value from these papers, and is because of these papers that every time I teach with a textbook that uses the famous food or water example to explain marginal theory I can’t resist the need to explain why such examples are actually wrong (yes, most economic textbook get marginal theory of value inaccurately, no surprise about dad’s skepticism on mathematical economics). I can’t deal with the idea of a student of mine that does nor properly understand what marginal theory is about (the value of similar good satisfying different needs, not different goods satisfying the same need: number of glasses of water to satisfy a unique need, being thirsty).

3-. The Great Depression

Also my first reference for the Great Depression. If there were an English version of this paper it would certainly be an assigned reading in my macro courses. I’ve learned many things from this paper. One lesson I always remember is that there is no such thing as fixing the price of gold or an international system of fixed exchange rates under gold standard. This explanation is flavored with his unique and self-reliant irony. If it weren’t for this paper I would had a very hard time understanding some of the monetary literature like Larry White’s and George Selgin’s free banking, which was my first research topic when I first started to write academic papers. It was my good friend Adrian Ravier who first pushed me into this topics, but was dad who got me ready to deal with them.

4-. Value Based Management

This is one of his latest papers (1999), also one that seems to have gone somewhat unnoticed. In this paper he applies finance to economic analysis; think of micro vs finance and macro vs finance, not of financial economics. Being his son I couldn’t resist everything he wrote and I read this peace just as I did with all others. This paper left a seed in my head for many years: apply finance to economics (not economics to finance). If economics wants to deal with real world problems, the assumptions have to simplify the real world without changing the problem to be solved in the process (Hayek’s points in The Use of Knowledge in Society). Conventional micro simplifies but also modifies the problem to be solved. Finance, however, is how entrepreneurs actually make decisions. During a discussion about the rational expectations critique to ABCT with Pete Leeson as he was visiting Suffolk University, where I was a doctoral student working with Ben Powell, this paper came to my head and I used its line of reasoning to answer Leeson’s criticism of ABCT. Soon after (a few days actually) I wrote a rebuttal to the RE critique using a EVA(R) as the financial framework [now in The Review of Austrian Economics]. It was this paper that also put me in contact for the first time with Anthony Evans in the U.K., with whom I interact with from time to time. In this paper I cite dad as the only work I know doing a similar application to mine (well, it was his application actually). Now this finance application to capital theory is my largest research project, one I’m still working along with Peter Lewin in a set of so far 7 papers. At the moment of reading his paper, in 1999, I couldn’t phantom that this would become, so far from home, a research project more than 10 years later. I’m only sorry that he didn’t live long enough to see how far this project is going [Spoiler for Peter Lewin: The seed has transformed into a book structure in my head I still need to discuss with him]. In some sense, I can’t help feeling I’m carrying out what was his original idea. I wish he would have had more time to read my papers with Pete to give us his comments.


I wasn’t, of course, a typical student of him. I wasn’t also his typical colleague. I only worked briefly at his firm, CMT Group, after quitting Reuters and before moving to the U.S. to become one of Ben Powell students. But his passion for economics and teaching was as alive as ever up to the very end.

The eternal optimist, always with a smile ready for everyone. Professor in numerous universities in Argentina, and many countries in Latin America. He leaves students and friendly colleagues all around the world. Humble to the limit.

He died too young and with plenty of energy that will go unused, but I know we’ll share again our morning walks in the after life and I’ll tell him what I did since that first napkin when I was only 14 years old.

Foto - 10

 

Nicolás Cachanosky es Doctor en Economía, (Suffolk University), Lic. en Economía, (UCA), Master en Economía y Ciencias Políticas, (ESEADE). Fué profesor de Finanzas Públicas en UCA y es Assistant Professor of Economics en Metropolitan State University of Denver.

ECONOMÍA Y HERMENÉUTICA

Por Alberto Benegas Lynch (h).

Las clases de mi amigo Don Lavoie, prematuramente muerto en su plenitud, suscitaban gran atracción entre los alumnos de George Mason University por su teoría hermenéutica aplicada a la economía. Su fuente principal de inspiración era el economista Ludwig Lachmann profesor en la London School of Economics (a su vez influido por escritos de Max Weber) y el hermeneuta Hans-Georg Gadamer, profesor y Rector de la Universidad de Leipzig.

Lavoie apuntaba a instalar su tesis en el contexto de la Escuela Austriaca retomando la tradición subjetivista que partió con Carl Menger y la extrapolaba no solo a los fundamentos de toda transacción comercial sino a toda comunicación intraindividual.

Con razón mantenía que todo es materia de interpretación: cuando se observa una obra de arte, cuando se lee un texto, cuando se mira un paisaje, cuando se conversa etc. Pero de allí concluía que toda manifestación subjetiva enriquecía y alimentaba lo interpretado. Esta forma de ver las cosas está íntimamente emparentada con el posmodernismo y la adulteración de textos a través de interpretaciones que nada tienen que ver con lo que el autor ha consignado.

Una cosa es la valorización subjetiva en el sentido del me gusta o no me gusta que establece los precios de mercado y otra bien diferente es la objetividad de las cosas que son independientes de las opiniones que de ellas se pueda tener. Esta diferencia epistemológica resulta central para no caer en el dadaísmo cultural.

Es muy cierto que en la apreciación de muy diversos mensajes incluyendo la conversación, la mente no opera como un scanner que toma lo dicho tal cual el emisor lo trasmitió (aún prestando debida atención como aconseja Tom Peters en uno de los capítulos de su Thriving on Chaos titulado muy acertadamente “Become Obsessed with Listening”). Hay un bagaje cultural y un contexto que el esqueleto conceptual del receptor incorpora, lo cual hace que haya diversas interpretaciones, incluso malentendidos de distinta naturaleza, pero de allí no se sigue que todas la interpretaciones sean legítimas: unas se acercarán más a la verdad de lo expuesto que otras, del mismo modo que ocurre con la interpretación de textos y otras manifestaciones de la vida en sociedad. Todo esto es de naturaleza distinta de cuanto ocurre en el mercado, en este proceso es irrelevante la verdad de la interpretación puesto que lo importante son las preferencias de compradores y vendedores.

Otro autor de peso que ha influido en Lavoie es Paul Ricoeur. En una oportunidad formé parte del tribunal de tesis doctoral en economía en la Universidad Francisco Marroquín que versaba sobre una aplicación de Ricoeur a la ciencia económica. No recuerdo quien era el doctorando, si tengo presente que su director de tesis era nada menos que Peter Boettke y que otro de mis colegas en el tribunal era Lawrence White. En todo caso, si bien tengo desdibujado el esqueleto central de ese trabajo, tengo presente que la disertación y las respuestas a nuestras preguntas resultaron satisfactorias. Precisamente, el libro más conocido de Ricoeur es Hermeneutics & the Human Sciences en el que sostiene que dado que las palabras no son unívocas se abre la posibilidad de interpretaciones varias pero que la faena del caso consiste en trabajar la recepción de lo dicho o escrito, lo cual presenta sin duda una serie de problemas a resolver.

En este sentido, es pertinente aludir a las trifulcas que produce la traducción puesto que en definitiva todo es traducción incluso dentro del mismo lenguaje en la simple conversación en cuanto a la secuencia interpretativa. También aquí de lo que se trata es de acercarse lo mejor posible a lo dicho (o escrito) en otro idioma. Traduttore-traditore es un lugar común que ilustra los riesgos de la traducción sin pretender nunca un texto definitivo como decía Borges, en todo caso puede ser lo mejor por el momento, hasta que aparezca una versión más precisa, del mismo modo que nos enseña Popper ocurre con la ciencia. Pero ya que lo mencionamos a Borges, es de interés señalar que ha subrayado que una traducción puede ser mejor que el original (puesto que en otro idioma puede emplearse un vocablo más pertinente)…hasta escribió en una  boutade que “un original puede ser infiel a su traducción” (y, por otra parte, decía esta autor que hay expresiones intraducibles como que fulana “estaba sentadita”).

Sin duda que la traducción “no puede administrarse a puro golpe de diccionario” como ha expresado Victoria Ocampo. Por su parte, Umberto Eco advierte que las traducciones literales resultan en tremendos mamarrachos (como cuando se traduce “it is raining cats and dogs” como “está lloviendo gatos y perros”). Resulta clave el contexto y el sentido en el que se usa una palabra en el texto original. Enrique Pezzoni denomina la traducción literal “servil”. Como apunta Alfonso Reyes “cuando se trata de nombres propios, la adaptación es repugnante”. Tengo muy presente la oportunidad en la que la Universidad de Buenos Aires le entregó un doctorado honoris causa a Friedrich Hayek, mientras bajábamos las escaleras de la Facultad de Derecho (donde tuvo lugar el acto), el homenajeado me señaló su diploma en el que se leía Federico y me dijo con un dejo de disgusto: “you never do this”.

Lachmann, Lavoie y sus numerosos discípulos entienden que las interpretaciones libres constituyen una manifestación del orden espontáneo en economía, primero expuesto por la Escuela Escocesa y luego afinada por Hayek, pero esto es otra extrapolación ilegítima. El orden espontáneo significa que cada una de las personas que persiguen sus intereses particulares en una sociedad abierta contribuyen a formar un orden que no estaba en la mente de aquellos sujetos actuantes, pero para nada implica la tergiversación de los fenómenos observados bajo el pretexto de una mal concebida subjetividad.

En su ensayo titulado “Understanding Differently: Hermeneutics and the Spontaneus Order of Communicative Processes”, Don Lavoie escribe con razón que “ El giro subjetivista que él [Menger] le dio a la economía, destaca que lo que le interesa al economista no son las circunstancias objetivas como tales sino el significado que tienen para el agente correspondiente”, pero de esto no puede inferirse que la subjetividad se aplique a cualquier interpretación de las propiedades de las cosas sino, como queda dicho, a las valorizaciones de lo que se intercambia según satisfaga deseos. Una cosa es concluir la perogrullada de que todo es materia de interpretación y otra bien diferente es afirmar que todo es lo que cualquiera dice que es.

Ya bastantes problemas existen en el seno de la economía como para introducir una visión posmoderna. Mark Blaug en “Disturbing Currents in Modern Economics” resume bien el asunto que venimos comentando: “El posmodernismo en la economía adopta formas diferentes pero siempre comienza con la ridiculización de las pretensiones científicas de la economía tirando agua fría a las creencias de que existe un sistema económico objetivo”.

Por último, una nota breve sobre la interpretación de la historia de los acontecimientos económicos que en no pocos casos también sufre de malformaciones hermenéuticas debido principalmente (aunque no exclusivamente) a una concepción errada de la noción de la filosofía de la historia. Robin Collingwood, en The Idea of History, explica que es inconducente entenderla como envuelta en leyes inexorables  (como Spengler), como la historia universal (como Hegel) ni en cierto sentido como la versión de la historia en la que se enfatizan grupos en bloque (como Toynbee) y mantiene que Voltaire -quien acuñó la expresión “filosofía de la historia”- fue el pionero en estudiarla con criterio independiente y no simplemente reproduciendo noticias consignadas por otros. Collingwood agrega a esta crítica de la reproducción sin más (la técnica “de las tijeras y el engrudo” en sus palabras) la concepción del primer término del binomio como un ejercicio de no solo escudriñar el objeto estudiado sino hurgar en el modo en que piensa el sujeto, y el segundo como la recreación del suceso bajo estudio.

Alberto Benegas Lynch (h) es Dr. en Economía y Dr. En Administración. Académico de la Academia Nacional de Ciencias Económicas y fue profesor y primer Rector de ESEADE.