Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis). A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)
This almost never happens. People have a vested interest in the paradigm in which they’re trained. Jeff Herbener, department chairman of economics at Grove City College (where the great Hans Sennholz taught), was honest enough to admit the flaws in what he had been taught:
I was trained entirely in the mathematical/neoclassical tradition at Oklahoma State. Economics attracted me because it seemed to deal with fundamental and interesting questions. In this, it was unlike political science, which seemed to me to be steeped in irrelevant questions like, “what does the public think about this or that,” and superficial techniques like surveys. Even bad economics is leagues above that in sophistication. But my professors were all conventional economists, would-be planners working from one or another Keynesian paradigm. I wrote a highly mathematical dissertation on money demand that used all the latest econometric techniques. I did what everyone else was doing, and my only goal was to do it better.
I didn’t know enough to be dissatisfied with the neoclassical paradigm. I knew nothing about the Austrian School except for a brief exposure to the Böhm-Bawerkian structure of production in a class on capital theory. At the same time, I retained my interest in larger problems and deeper questions, which I owe to my father’s own philosophical turn of mind.
After getting out of graduate school, I took my first teaching position at Pittsburg State University. I began to read Hayek, and moved on to Mises and Rothbard and the rest of the tradition. They offered a much more satisfying and coherent way of looking at economic questions. This research has occupied me since.
More and more economists sense that their techniques and studies are merely arcane or even trivial. This realization provides an opening for the Austrian School. I’m surprised when I’m at mainstream conferences, or read American Economist. Many more people are showing interest in alternative ways of doing economics. If our work is good, we’ll eventually win these people over, and win the battle of ideas.
Professor Herbener’s whole interview is very much worth reading.
And Professor Herbener, who knows the neoclassical paradigm inside and out, is teaching our Austrian economics course at Liberty Classroom. I am also soliciting from him a course to be called “Keynes: His System and Its Fallacies.” I hope you’ll consider joining us.
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