Monday, March 24, 2008

don't panic!

Murray Rothbard's The Panic of 1819 is quite unlike any other scholarly work of his that I'm familiar with in that he let the facts speak for themselves. Though he does color the arguments presented, he does it in a fair-handed, 'just the facts, mam' manner which might mislead the unknowing reader to think that that he doesn't have a horse in the race. Honestly, I can recall seeing the term "Austrian School of Economics" mentioned just once in the entire book, a shocker considering that in it he analyzes the conditions surrounding what could have been the great depression of the early 1800's in support of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory.

The Rothbard that I'm familiar with, from the handful of his books that I've read is never dry, uncompromising, and his arguments intellectually-honed which can help the typical unmotivated reader to slog through the 1,400+ pages scholars edition of Man, Economy and State; perhaps not by the edge of his seat, but enough so.

In contrast, TPo1819 is a work of drudgery, detailing the minutia of inductive economic research, one which Rothbard clearly set aside his prejudice for utilizing the thymological method of Verstehen as pioneered by Mises in favor of appealing to those who favor a rather historical, empirical approach to the matter. After reading the first chapter I already was under the impression that Rothbard was writing not to the choir, but to mainstream historians and economic professors alike in an attempt to subtly win over academia to the ABCT.

Though this book required more patience than what I usually have to offer, I was rewarded every now and then when I found insider comments passed off as innocuous statements. One such comments appears towards the end:
"Stress on the moral virtues often took the form of attack on luxurious consumption and other extravagances of the day. Embryonic Veblenians called upon the rich to set an example in thrifty living to the lower classes, who tended to imitate the former."

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