Relativity

Relativity

My introduction to classic rock was more-or-less preordained, since it is one of the three styles of music my listens to, and probably the principle one he forced on me by playing it on the radio whenever we drove anywhere (although, I never really caught on to this two other preferred styles: country and classical). But, sometimes in high school I took the jump from classic rock to some heavy metal (I suppose) when I bought my first Iron Maiden album. I think I was more generally moving to the music of the 1980s, including the different styles embodied by bands like Iron Maiden and The Ramones. I’m a 90s child, so it makes sense to fill in the gaps between what my dad listens to and the stuff I was exposed to through my friends (my first rock album from the 90s, I remember, was The Offspring’s Americana, which was released in the late 90s).

I immediately fell in love with Iron Maiden — although since then I never really dove into other heavy metal bands — and I decided to put it on in my dad’s music system. Suffice to say, he wasn’t into it and I don’t even think we got through the first song, “Run to the Hills” (the album was their greatest hits). To me, this music was close enough to classic rock to sound essentially the same. 80s heavy rock and metal isn’t exactly unknown to those who listen to classic rock radio stations: Def Leppard, AC/DC (the Brian Johnson era began in 1980), Whitesnake, et cetera. These were all bands that were founded in the late 1970s, but rose to fame in the early to mid-1980s, and Iron Maiden more-or-less belongs to this group (“hair metal”) — at worst, the band represents a transitional music from early hair metal to bands like Metallica. Long story short, I thought my dad would enjoy it. But, I was wrong.

I’m sure that to my dad this was borderline heresy. For him, Iron Maiden was nothing like the music he enjoys: AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and other heavy rock that’s closer to the style of the late 1960s to the late 1970s. But, this is an interesting paradox. One person things that the styles are similar enough such that a person who enjoys one should enjoy the other. Yet, the other person thinks they are completely dissimilar, one being enjoyable and other not.

The reason this thought comes to mind is that it resembles the question of intellectual purity. Take the Austrian School, for instance. Some have argued to the effect that the Rothbardian tradition represents the “purest” of the school, and look upon Austrians who might take somewhat different positions as having deviated. On the other hand, many of those who have deviated consider their position to be similar enough to the rest of theoretical body of the school that for all intents and purposes they are also within the Austrian tradition. It’s ultimately all a question of relativity. Of course, in economics this kind of territorial demarcation is more damaging, since, unlike music, there really is an objective correct body of economic theory. In both instances, focusing on toeing the line stinks of conservativism, in the literal sense of the word: dragging one’s heels against progress. But, whereas in music it’s trivial since taste is subjective, when it’s done in economics it’s unscientific.

Note: This isn’t a criticism of the Austrian School or any particular self-declared camp within it. I could just as well have used “Keynesian School” and used “New Keynesians” and “Post Keynesians” as two warring camps (the latter being the most vocal, by a long shot, in arguing for intellectual purity in the tradition of Keynes). It’s just that I don’t know other schools as well, and since I’m an Austrian I think it’s in better taste to attack myself.

  • Roberto Severino

    To be honest, if it weren’t for all of these blogs, I would have never been familiar with Post-Keynesian economics, MMT, market monetarism, or even the differences between various Austrian school economists. High school economics education wasn’t that great and they never delved into these kinds of issues and based on how the AP Macroeconomics courses were taught at my school and the rubrics, they mainly seemed to focus on standard macroeconomic issues, Keynesian theories, some classical economics, fiscal policy, a bit of monetary policy, and taxation. I wonder how much of the public, especially the common folk, know about these distinctions.

    I like classic rock, but I find myself listening to a ton of old jazz music, mainly anything between 1920-1970, even though I can listen to pretty much anything in jazz before the 1980s came around. Early rhythm and blues (1940s and 50s) is always a treat to listen to as well and its influence on rock n’ roll is undeniable. I like many other kinds of music, even some hip hop depending on the time period. Basically, I can listen to almost anything else except most modern pop, smooth jazz, that kind of thing.

    • http://economicthought.net/blog JCatalan

      Yea, I don’t remember AP Macro too well. I didn’t learn much, but that was mostly due to me being a very poor high school student. I remember it being essentially Econ 101, or introduction to macroeconomics. I don’t think having a grasp on basic technical knowledge is necessary for the public to be well informed, though. I think someone is better off reading the news and non-academic journals, such as Foreign Affairs. The analyses aren’t always right, but it helps you get a handle of basic economics and its applications. Thinking about this way, it’d be great if there were something like The Freeman which circulated more widely, but I guess the internet helps in this regard.

    • http://economicthought.net/blog JCatalan

      Actually, funny AP Macro. story. My dad is a teacher at the high school I went to, and he told me that a student brought in a piece from this blog into the AP econ. classroom. I think my teacher has retired by now, but if she was the one who saw it she must have been surprised, given how little I enjoyed econ. when I was there.

  • John S

    What’s really sad is that the Rothbardian-wing is utterly dominant over the GMU-wing in terms of how the public, as well as mainstream economists like Krugman & Delong (and even most bloggers) see the Austrian school.

    I respect Rothbard for keeping the Austrian tradition alive during the dark years and for helping to establish the Libertarian Party. But, on net, I think his obsessions with frac. reserve banking, praxeology, and insistence on an unchanging money supply have done much more harm than good for the Austrian cause.

    • http://economicthought.net/blog JCatalan

      Well, I’m all for intellectual heterogeneity, so it’s not the specific ideas we should attack. Rather, what’s damaging are criticisms of Austrians for not being Austrian “enough” or attacking others for expounding “Keynesian” doctrines, where the latter term is used as an insult (as if something being “Keynesian” is necessarily a bad thing). It works the other way around, as well — claims that some people are dogmatic or doctrinaire.

      • John S

        Diversity of opinion is laudable when there is room for reasonable people to disagree, but when Rothbardians say things like “banknotes are warehouse receipts” and “frac. reserve banking will collapse w/o a central bank” while ignoring all historical evidence to the contrary, these ideas are quite worthy of attack, imo.

        But I agree that “more Austrian than thou” type attacks are dumb (as well as Salerno’s ridiculous “Keynesian” accusation against Selgin). Who cares who’s more Austrian (or less Keynesian), isn’t the truth what matters?

        Off-topic: Have you read Kindelberger’s Manias, Panics, and Crashes? I admit that I held off for a while, given Steve Keen’s endorsement, but so far I’m really enjoying his account (although not his prescription).

        • http://economicthought.net/blog JCatalan

          I agree that it’s worthwhile to attack certain ideas, but as long as we’re engaging ideas on the basis of whether they’re correct or not.

          I haven’t read Kindelberger’s book. It’s one of those that I know I need to read, and will read at some point, but it hasn’t come up yet.