A Lil’ Bit Older, a Lil’ Bit Wiser

While this may be the first post on this particular software, Economic Thought has a history which goes back to sometime 2009.  At that time, I had just embarked upon my journey into the world of economics, absolutely uncertain about where it may lead me and where I would end up.  Two years and some change later I am a little bit wiser, but still just as unsure — wisdom does not necessarily identify with maturity.  In early 2011, my web server’s database was hacked and the index page was changed.  I could have probably just as easily uploaded a new index page, but I decided to use this event as an excuse to quit blogging.  In the process, I also lost all of my work from the previous two years, but some things are better off incinerated in the fire.

Blogging is a hard habit to break.  In July 2011 I asked for a blogging role at the Mises blog and contributed here-and-there.  I came to realize, though, that the topics I was accustomed to writing about were not really suited for that website, and it was also difficult to speak my mind entirely since I felt uncomfortable discussing things which were not necessarily in line with the Rothbardian paradigm which, for the most part, identifies the Institute.  No less, it was not a place for me to post about random musings, or rant about subjects that had just come to mind.  In other words, the Mises blog could not become a regular blogging platform for me — it did not afford me the complete freedom that Economic Thought did.

That I could not blog regularly on the Mises blog would not be an entirely bad thing if it was not for the always present urge to give my point of view in every little mini-debate that surged up in the blogosphere.  Two blog-debates in particular come to mind: that revolving around DeLong’s comments on Mises’ theory of money (which I did respond to on the Mises blog) and David Warsh’s and Krugman’s more recent comments on Hayek’s contributions to economics.  These served as the proverbial straws which broke the proverbial camel’s back, and it led me here: writing the introductory post to the second edition of Economic Thought, while enjoying Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.

I had promised Daniel Kuehn, over Facebook, that I would read John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory before re-starting my blog.  That has turned out to be a big fat lie, but I am sure somebody figured as much.  It has not been out of disinterest; I just have been busy with other things, which is why this blog had not been resuscitated earlier.  The General Theory, in fact, is ordered second in my list of books to read.  The first book on the list is Ludwig Lachmann’s The Market as an Economic Process, which is due back to my university’s library by 30 December.

Keynes’ magnum opus takes us to a brief explanation of my hopes and aspirations with regards to the new Economic Thought.  The first thing someone who was literate in the last edition will notice is that the blog has been moved to a sub-folder within the domain.  This implies that there is another index page that corresponds to a main website.  This is no accident.  As of right now, the main index page is just a placeholder for what is to come in the (most likely, far) future.

What I envision for the site as a whole is an actual “encyclopedia” of the history of economic thought (no Austro-centrism either, in the long-run).  For the most part, it will be written by me — which is why I would like to emphasize that this project is relegated to the far, far future —, but it stems from the original idea of creating a central hub for the Keynes v. Hayek debate (elucidating on the ideas of both, et cetera).  One of the first short-run projects is to read The General Theory and then go back and put it in a language that is less adverse to those who approach with a negative characterization.  This idea comes from something I wanted to do for readers of Mises.org, since it would let non-academic Austrians know what Keynes really wrote without having to rely on the more biased interpretations afforded to them by Austrian academics (I have the non-nuanced renditions of Keynes’ theories as laid out by Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard in mind).

I really do not know how far I will get with this project, or even if it will unfold in exactly the way I plan for.  The main site will also probably start running weekend columns of mine, and I hope this will also grow into something more — including contributions by other authors (of different economic perspectives).  These columns will also be, broadly considered, on the topic of the history of economic thought (or economic thought, in general).  For now, though, all my attention is placed on the blog.  Once it is running smoothly I can focus on the other things.  Until then, I can spend my time reading the vast ocean of literature that I have only superficially explored.

I hope that you, the reader, find entertainment of some sort in my writing.  Not everyone will agree with me, and I hope that those who do not also express their opinions here.  I invite, nay insist for, commentary on my writing.  Comments are one of the best ways, I think, of letting an author know you are reading his writing and I really do appreciate them when they come.  Nonetheless, I thank you for reading and I do hope that you return.

Postcript: Do not mind the various changes taking place over the coming weeks with regards to the blog’s “look.”  I am playing around with fonts, and the header images should also soon be changed (and smaller).  I am trying to make it more content-oriented, and the way the theme is set up now it hides the content under a huge space that is taken up by the banner, the blog header, and other things which I deem as unnecessary.  So, I will be tweaking the website to my liking.

  • TPF

    Welcome back! I look forward to reading Economic Thought again!

  • http://www.vforvoluntary.com Nielsio

    Hi Jonathan,

    You’re asking for feedback, so I offer you this: http://www.reddit.com/r/austrolib_watchdog/comments/meng7/jonathan_catalan_in_a_note_on_delongs/ . If you read the sidebar (on the right) you’ll understand what’s going on.

  • Jonathan Finegold Catalán

    Nelsio,

    I see where you’re coming from. In my defense, I was attacking DeLong in the same fashion he did the Austrians. He doesn’t seem interested in actual debate — so why waste my time trying to approach the issue as if he is? It doesnt totally excuse the language, but it was not accidental.

  • Ivan Georgiev

    Nielsio, then I guess we should condemn and/or dismiss almost all of Rothbard’s work? What are you – some kind of internet moderator of the proper behavior of austro-libertarians? If I spend 5 hours a day working on my understanding of Austrian Economics and have the brains and honesty to realizy that Mises is right and then a complete and f idiot like Krugman comes along with his stupid charges, well, excuse me that I may be a little edgy.

  • http://www.factsandotherstubbornthings.blogspot.com Daniel Kuehn

    Welcome back! Let me know if you ever want to talk about Keynes. I’ve always wanted to write something on the General Theory myself. You hear a lot of people saying that “everyone has a different view of what it means”. I don’t think that’s quite true. Most people who put real effort into “what the General Theory said” come out with essentially the same answer. There’s some divergence between people who emphasize effective demand and who emphasize expectations (and of course there’s no reason one has to choose between those!). The confusion comes in because Keynes gave way to Keynesianism, there are lots of Keynesianisms, and nobody really reads Keynes beyond the General Theory (if they read that), so there’s confusion about what in Keynesianism they can attribute to Keynes himself. That confusion is natural, of course. That’s what happens with a paradigm shift.

    Anyway – it sounds like an interesting project.

  • Patch

    If you mind me asking, what are your particular thoughts that are not in line with the Rothbardian paradigm (no looking for a debate or anything, just curious). I was a poster/lurker on the old Mises forums and remembered you from there. Good to see you again!

    • Jonathan Finegold Catalán

      Hey Patch,

      I think the most obvious divergence is in my support of fractional reserve banking (with a non-monopolized currency system), in line with George Selgin and Larry White. With that in mind, I also differ in opinion with regards to whether money held is synonymous with saved money (deferred consumption) — I am of the opinion that it is.

      I also disagree with some of Rothbard’s beliefs on the history of economic thought. I think that, to some degree, there are strong points to Rothbard’s history, but I think that he usually goes overboard with his accusations (for instance, he is right that Cantillon may have given Smith a large portion of his ideas on economics, but that does not mean that Smith provided no valuable insight of his own).

      That doesn’t mean I’m completely opposed to Rothbard on these points. For instance, I do not agree with most of monetary equilibrium theory. But, there are points of difference, and these points tend not to be welcomed by a more Rothbardian crowd.

      • Patch

        Okay, thanks, just curious.

        I am rather ambivalent to free banking. I don’t agree with the economic benefits of White and Selgin, although I do see the points they make on contractual agreements. But I’m no legal theorist, nor do I have any desire to become one. I still share many of Rothbard’s beliefs on what money is, business cycles (I’m afraid I also agree with his savings definition), aside from forcing 100% (though I am with Mises and think over time it will develop to 100%).

        I haven’t yet read his History of Economic Thought, though I asked for it over Christmas. I’ve read many of his other historical writings. Some facts I agree with, others I don’t. Part of what makes a good scholar is to carefully discern and scrutinize everything someone has said instead of accepting them at face value.