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Carl Menger still woth reading

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(Read caption) Carl Menger, born February 23, 1840, was the author of the book Principles of Economics. Guest blogger Mario Rizzo writes that the book is still one of the best texts on the importance of knowledge in economic development.

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Today is the birthday of Carl Menger, born February 23, 1840. Menger was, of course, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics. His Principles of Economics, a great achievement for its time, is still well worth reading. It conveys like no other book at the time (and unlike most basic texts today) the importance of mind, knowledge, ignorance, causal relationships between goods and wants, and of course marginal utility. I think we can still learn from Menger’s book today, especially about the importance of knowledge in economic development. Austrians should be pleased to have such a great mind as the founder of their school.

Menger’s work has garnered respect from even those who have not considered themselves Austrians. George Stigler, for example, wrote a very appreciative essay on Menger in his Production and Distribution Theories. For a long time Menger’s contributions were not clearly distinguished from those of Jevons and Walras, the other leaders of the “marginalist revolution.” We have William Jaffe to thank for his de-homogenization of the three great economists. But, really, a moment’s perusal of the three books should make the differences obvious. Walras is concerned about mathematical elegance and Jevons is so enamored of hedonistic psychology that he gives the appearance, at least, of casting marginalism as an application of Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy – thus unduly limiting it.

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