Learn about the Classical Economists
An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, the capstone of Murray Rothbard's career, is one of the greatest works of intellectual history written in the 20th century. It is a massive book, over 1,000 pages of small print, and students often find it hard to read. This course will cover the second volume. Students who take it will gain a thorough knowledge of some of the key themes of the book.
People with three different interests will find this course of value.
First, if you want to learn Austrian economics, it is essential to grasp how this system grew out of previous economic thought. Austrian economics from the time of Carl Menger developed in reaction to the classical economics of David Ricardo and his successors, down to John Stuart Mill. Also, to understand the monetary theory of Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard, knowledge of the 19th-century British debates between the Banking and Currency Schools is extremely helpful. Rothbard's book is an unrivalled source of insight on these vital topics.
Second, if you are interested in the thought of Murray Rothbard, you need to read An Austrian Perspective. It contains his views on many topics either not otherwise available or not discussed elsewhere in so much detail. These include
- the nature and problems of Bentham's utilitarianism,
- why John Stuart Mill is a confused thinker,
- the basic flaws of Marxist economics, and
- the contributions of Say and Bastiat.
Third, if you are interested in intellectual history, you will find in Rothbard's book a treasure trove of insights.
What are the theological roots of Marxism?
What is the underlying pattern of thought of German romanticism?
What is the basis of Hegel's dialectic?
What is the significance of Bentham's panopticon project?
These are only a few of the topics Rothbard addresses in the book.
The course consists of six weekly lectures, beginning April 24. Each lecture will last about one hour, followed by a half hour for questions and discussion. Weekly quizzes will be offered for those who wish to take the course for credit. The course does not presuppose knowledge of the first volume of Rothbard's history.
Here is a tentative schedule for the course:
Week 1: J.B. Say and His Followers: How Say Anticipated Austrian Economics. Rothbard's Method in Writing the History of Economic Thought.
Week 2: Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism; The Ricardian System.
Week 3: The Bullionist Controversy and the Banking and Currency Schools.
Week 4: John Stuart Mill: Ricardianism Revived and Modified.
Week 5: Marxism: Philosophy and Economics.
Week 6: Bastiat and the French Laissez-Faire School.