This Professor Hates the Austrian School. But He Clearly Doesn’t Know Much about It.
Capitalism vs. Freedom: The Toll Road to Serfdom
by Rob Larson
Zero Books, 2018, 233 pp.
Rob Larson, who is a professor of economics at Tacoma Community College in Washington, does not agree with Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Friedman that the free market promotes freedom and prosperity and that socialism is the “road to serfdom.” That is an understatement, and you won’t find any understatements in this book. To the contrary, the book abounds in wild accusations.
For Larson, the eminent economists just mentioned are more than mistaken: they are criminal deceivers. His principal targets are Friedman and Hayek, but Mises and Rothbard are not spared. He says,
This consistent pattern reveals that a number of quite respected Nobel Prize–winning conservative economists, including Friedman and Hayek, are intellectual opportunists. By coincidence, their analysis has bottomless contempt for organized labor … but the giant crimes of the enormous greater power of organized capital are studiously ignored. This puts Friedman and Hayek closer to other figures who have used their formidable intellects to defend other cruel power systems. (p. 48. All references are to the Amazon Kindle edition.)
Faced with terrible people like this, there is no need to read them carefully. Why waste your time doing so on intellectual criminals? And Larson does not waste his time. He says, “But more than Friedman and even more than Rand, the bar for capitalist worship was set by Ludwig von Mises, who is conceived to be the founder [sic] of the highly conservative Austrian school of economics, to which Hayek and Rothbard belong. Mises wrote about the ‘creative genius’ of wealthy entrepreneurs” (pp. 13–14). Larson then quotes a passage from Human Action about the “creative genius,” but Mises is not talking there about entrepreneurs but of people like Beethoven who are so driven by the urge to create that they never stop working. More generally, I don’t think that Larson knows much about the Austrian school, and I suspect Menger, Böhm
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