Tag Archives | Praxeology

Sagebrush Thymology

I recall a long car trip with my mother from Colorado Springs to San Diego when I was seven. (We were moving.) (I mean we were relocating to a different residence, not merely that we were in motion relative to our geographical surroundings.) The only reading material I seem to have had with me was a single comic book (Wacky Witch #4, October 1971 – this was before I’d discovered the greener pastures of superhero, sci-fi, and horror comics, a revelation awaiting me in the stores of Ocean Beach), and so I read its contents, aloud, in the car, over and over and over and over and over and over as we traversed the desert landscape. That my mother did not bludgeon me to death with the tire iron is a mystery that passeth understanding. (Maybe we didn’t have a tire iron?)

(I haven’t seen this issue in many years and have no idea whether I still even have it , but I can still assure you: show me a king who can’t sleep, and I’ll show you a sleepy king!)

Anyway, my audio performance included not only the story but also, as an extra treat for my captive audience, the ads. There was one Hawaiian Punch ad that to this day I can still recite nearly verbatim – but I don’t need to, because I just found it online:

As a tot I found this very droll.

Anyway, back then I didn’t give much thought as to why Fruit Juicy Red was excluded from the promotion. (I remember a slight puzzlement, but no real interest in the question.) But now, knowing some economics, I would guess that Fruit Juicy Red was their best selling flavour, and that this promotion was designed to get readers to buy (or to nag their parents to buy) some of the other flavours as well – not to get them simply to switch from Fruit Juicy Red to another flavour (there’d be no particular point in achieving that), but rather on the hypothesis that if kids got to liking a wider variety of Hawaiian Punch flavours, this would lead to their desiring Hawaiian Punch more often (since if they got temporarily sick of flavour A they might then turn to flavour B of the same brand rather than turning to some entirely different brand), and so a greater total amount of Hawaiian Punch would be sold.

Incidentally, let me assure you, for the sake of my mother’s sanity, that the in-car entertainment on this cross-desert voyage did not consist solely in my repeated dramatic readings of Wacky Witch #4. My mother and I also improvised a long drama about two brothers, Maraschino (an aristocratic fop) and Bing (a crude, vulgar sort), though the details now escape me.


Who Said This?

[The] whole doctrine [of laissez-faire] was founded on the complete impossibility of directing, by invariant rules and by continuous inspection, a multitude of transactions which by their immensity alone could not be fully known, and which, moreover, are continually dependent on a multitude of ever-changing circumstances which cannot be managed or even foreseen ….

See the answer.


Kant Unbound!

kant-touch-this

[cross-posted at BHL]

I neglected to post about this while it was actually happening, but I just finished participating in a Cato Unbound exchange on Immanuel Kant’s place in classical liberalism – with digressions on, inter alia, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rand. My interlocutors were a Kantian and two Randians.

Reading it is categorically imperative! Catch the phenomenal action here.


Caffeinated Philosophy of Happiness

This Wednesday (so either tomorrow or today, depending on your time zone) the Auburn Philosophy Club will be hosting a public panel on happiness at 5:00 at Mama Mocha’s coffeeshop (414 S. Gay St.); details here. My contribution will be to argue that Kant’s arguments against happiness-focused theories of morality, while they may work against some versions of that approach, don’t succeed against the ancient Greek versions (as represented, e.g., by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics).


Cordial and Sanguine, Part 63: From the Unthinking Depths

[cross-posted at BHL]

Mike Munger maintains that libertarians should stop being “reflexively opposed to government”; should recognise that “in some instances, it is possible that the State is useful for advancing liberty”; and should give “empirical claims about consequences … a central place in the debate.” But he warns that this will require libertarians to “actually … think about stuff,” a requirement that he suggests will be unwelcome to his “Austrian colleagues.”

As one of his unthinking Austrian colleagues, let me offer three points in rebuttal:

1. The state is anti-liberty (and anti-equality) not just in its consequences but also inherently. After all, the state is by definition a violent monopolist. This isn’t some eccentric definition that libertarians came up with; this definition, or some variant thereof, is the standard mainstream sociological account. If the state claims for itself certain rights of action that it forcibly denies to others, then freedom of competition and equality of legal status are already curtailed in virtue of that fact alone, regardless of what further consequences this institution has.

2. As regards the state’s consequences, however, the Austrian tradition has never opposed empirical research. The traditional Austrian position (not universally accepted even among Austrians, however) is that the principles of economics – what Misesians call the province of praxeology – are a priori rather than empirical. (I defend this position here.) But the application of those principles to particular contingent circumstances – what Misesians call the province of thymology – has never been regarded by any Austrians as a priori. Mises and Rothbard are perfectly clear on this, as is Hayek in The Counter-revolution of Science.
Empirical methods are perfectly in order in determining which principles apply to particular situations, and where and how they do so; admittedly the Austrian conception of empirical method, with its debt to the Verstehen tradition, is somewhat broader than, say, the mere use of statistics, but it does include the latter. And in fact, accordingly, Austrians have been doing empirical work all along, as is obvious from the briefest glance at Austrian publications. (See, e.g., the archives of the QJAE and the RAE.) To suggest that Austrians have simply been sitting on their butts intoning “the state is bad, apodictically bad” and offering no evidence, is to fly in the face of … well, empirical evidence.

3. Mike closes by urging libertarians to “attract people who mistrust concentrations of power in any setting, whether corporate or governmental.” On this point I thoroughly agree with him (hence my enthusiastic support for the work of the Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and for writers like Kevin A. Carson); and this is indeed an area where the Austrian tradition is sometimes (not always) lacking. But surely the way for libertarians, Austrian or otherwise, to win over those who mistrust concentrations of power both corporate and governmental is to increase our critical scrutiny of corporate power, not to relax our critical scrutiny of governmental power. After all, empirical research – including Austrian empirical research – has shown that these two forms of power are mutually reinforcing far more than they are mutually antagonistic.


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