Remembering Oskar Morganstern
Richard Ebeling ([email protected]) is the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel.
[This article in the QJAE’s “Remembering” series is adapted from https://mises.org/wire/remembering-oskar-morgenstern.]
In this article in our “Remembering” series, we commemorate the well-known economist Oskar Morgenstern. Born on January 24, 1902 in Görlitz, on the modern border of Germany and Poland, he died on July 26, 1977, at the age of 75. He is best known as the codeveloper of modern game theory with John von Neumann in their 1944 book, “The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.”
Morgenstern had been educated at the University of Vienna, studying with one of the early leaders of the Austrian school of economics, Friedrich von Wieser. But his main “Austrian” mentor was Hans Mayer, who replaced Wieser at the time of the latter’s retirement in 1923. (Hans Mayer was the author in 1932 of a 100-page monograph offering an “Austrian” critique of mathematical general equilibrium theory.)
Morgenstern’s first book was on economic forecasting (1928), in which he argued that precise predictions in the realm of economics was inherently impossible due to the unique qualities of the social sciences arising from human beings as intentional, thinking men whose very expectations about the future can frustrate the projections the forecaster attempts to make about their anticipated conduct. In addition, the events in the human arena have sufficient
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