24 August 2012

And Now, For Some Pedantry


(2) He thinks private ownership is a form of “central planning.” (This guy has his own show?) Central planning involves (1) the direction of resources in the absence of property rights, or (2) orders handed down to resource owners by non-owners. Neither applies in the case of the ownership and use of a resource owned by someone with legitimate property title.
Keep in mind that Woods is refuting Max Keiser’s utterly asinine assertion that Mises was not an Austrian economist because he didn’t adhere to Mengerian economic principles.  Besides being counterfactual, this claim is more generally stupid because Mises is more clearly associated with the Austrian School than Menger.  (Note for aspie Austrian schoolers:  I’m not suggesting that Menger is not connected with the Austrian school, I’m simply saying that if you mention the Austrian school to anyone, most people who have any familiarity with it are more likely to think of Mises in association with it than Menger.  In fact, I’d bet that people are more likely to associate Rothbard and Hayek with the Austrian school than Menger, by virtue of the former two having more fame/notoriety/name recognition.)

Anyhow, the point I’m getting at here is that Woods and Keiser may not be using central planning to mean the same thing.  Woods is definitely using the phrase in the political economy sense.  I’m not sure how Keiser is using it.

It could be that Keiser is simply making the rather pedantic observation that most people use their property in a somewhat organized fashion.  For example, major businesses most certainly engage in a form of central planning when they come up with a new product and attempt to sell it on the market.   This is not a political organization, to be sure; however, they are making centralized plans to engage in an activity.  Even a basic activity, like mowing one’s lawn, may be considered “centrally planned” if one (say, a father) tells someone else (say, a teenage son) how to go about this task.  Again, this is a more pedantic use of the phrase “central planning,” but it is a legitimate one nonetheless, and it may be the definition that Keiser is using.  In which case, Woods has accomplished the remarkable task of refuting a straw man.

Of course, Keiser is still wrong about a good number of things regarding the Austrian school (most notably the incredibly bizarre assertion that Mises’ economic beliefs were radically different from Menger’s instead of building on them).  Woods would do well to hammer on those things, especially given the amount of confusion and misinformation that could result, instead of muddying the waters by refuting a (possible) straw man and shifting the debate to a technical side point.

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