Ross Gittins Misunderstands Libertarianism and Economics

Review of Ross Gittins, “Economists’ views more political than they admit,” SMH, Feb 7, 2011.

Gittins continues his long history of going out of his way to pretend that the Austrian school of economics does not exist. He says:

[I]n principle, all economists accept there can be instances of “market failure”. Even the libertarians accept markets can’t be relied on to protect the private property rights of the individual. So they support government intervention to provide law, order and defence. [My emboldening.]

Wrong. The Austrian school of economics, as represented by Murray Rothbard (the one man often called Mr. Libertarian), and other students of Ludwig von Mises, do not believe there is any role for government anywhere, including law, order and defence. Why has Gittins never engaged with the Austrian school? What is he afraid of? (Austrian arguments can easily be found in the middle and right columns of Economics.org.au.) Gittins constantly repeats the same criticism of economists — that they assume individuals are rational, that they make value-judgements, etc. — ignoring the fact that none of these criticisms apply to the Austrian school. For one more blatant example from today:

Like beauty and fairness, wastefulness lies in the eye of the beholder; it’s a value judgment, not something that proceeds from value-free economic analysis (which doesn’t exist).

It does exist. Check out, for example, the five value-free economic truths of huge explanatory value in the “SHOTS” tab of the “OUR REASONING” section of the middle column of Economics.org.au. Do it. Now.

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