catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Israel Kirzner

with 4 comments

Israel Kirzner is one of the least known of the great Austrian economists. When I speak to students about their reading they often tell me that they are reading Mises or Rothbard or Hoppe, seldom Hayek and never Kirzner. Many of those same students also tell me that Hayek is some sort of sell-out; that comes from reading Rothbard.

I think more people should try Kirzner – I’m in the process of reading his The driving force of the market: Essays in Austrian Economics. In this book he tells of his first encounter with Ludwig von Mises – and a statement Mises made at that meeting.

“The market,” Mises began, “is a process.” (See also the statement in Human Action (1966, p. 257): “The market is not a place, a thing, or a collective entity. The market is a process.”)

I used to teach that very quote to my final year Investments students in the very first lecture – What is a market?. I would then go onto talking about efficient markets and so on.

I first encountered Kirzner in 1991 (August 19 to be precise) when he gave the inaugural Ludwig Lachmann Memorial lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg where I was a graduate student. He didn’t present at all well. He read his paper and appeared to be editing it as he read. It is reproduced as chapter three in The driving force. It reads much better than he presented it and perhaps after neary 20 years I’m a bit more sympathetic to the argument than I was at the time.

Anyway, Peter Boettke and Frederic Sautet are editing Israel Kirzner’s Collected Works. The first book off the rank is his The economic point of view. This is a bit annoying, as the Mises Institute republished that book a couple of years ago. The Mises Institute also have other Kirzner material online. The Collected Works however promise to be very good and I’m looking forward to the completed set (in about five years). In the meantime read the online stuff – he is very good and well worth it. What I particularly like about Kirzner is that he is inclusive and not exclusive. He believes, correctly, that to gain the greatest appreciation of the insights of the Austrian School that you have to understand both Mises and Hayek.

In other book news, Liberty Fund have published the Collected Works of Henry Manne – also well worth reading.

Written by Sinclair Davidson

January 8, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. OK Sinc. The heap of books on my desk will get bigger.
    I read them – the current is “After the Prophet” highly recommended – but I’m buying faster than I read.

    Ken Nielsen

    January 8, 2010 at 7:06 pm

  2. I’m excited about this. So many of his books are held captive by IP with no way out. Sadly, LibertyFund isn’t all the way there yet with open source publishing but at least their editions are affordable. It’s good that Kirzner negotiated this deal before his death. Otherwise, everything would remain locked up for another 100 years.

    [Kirzner isn’t dead. Sinc]


    January 9, 2010 at 12:54 am

  3. The market is a process! Yet I recall being laughed at by the tribal warrior for making the same point about the ETS. Where were you then Sinclair? 😉 And I hope you’ve had a nice break.


    January 9, 2010 at 9:02 pm

  4. Tribal warrior??

    [Break was good. thank you. I saw the BG The Plan sequel (prequel?) show. underwhelming, I thought.]

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm

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