23 March, 2011
I have to get this off my chest:
M. Northrup Buechner, an Objectivist economist, has completed a book called Objective Economics: How Ayn Rand’s Philosophy Changes Everything about Economics, due to be released later this year. The preface to the book has been published both on Buechner’s own website and on Capitalism Magazine. Nothing wrong with that, so far: economics does need Objectivism. But what has stirred some controversy is the following line from the preface:
To the best of my knowledge, this book represents the first attempt to rewrite economics in the light of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.
In other words, Buechner does not acknowledge the existence of George Reisman’s Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics.
This was discussed on CapMag, and I was stupid enough to open my mouth. Here are some excerpts from the discussion:
ND: While I doubt Dr. George Reisman ever used the phrase “rewrite economics” to describe his Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, it seems like quite an omission to make this claim, unless, of course, Dr. Buechner is not aware of that volume.
Phil Coates: The above is a truly shameful statement. Nort Buechner is indeed aware of George Reisman’s book and his massive attempt to apply Objectivism completely and fully to the field of economics. He attended and spoke at seminars and conferences organized by Dr. Reisman.
“Reisman offers the most comprehensive defense of capitalism ever written… Reisman attempts something nobody else has done: combine some doctrines from classical economics, plus the free-market economics of the Austrian School and the pro-capitalist moral vision of Objectivism.” — The Freeman
POS: Standard Objectivist procedure since the mid-90’s has been to pretend George Reisman doesn’t exist and has never existed.
Mike: Yeah, except for Andrew Bernstein and Brian Simpson. [Andrew Bernstein quotes Reisman extensively in The Capitalist Manifesto, and Brian Simpson acknowledges Ayn Rand and George Reisman as his main sources of inspiration in Markets Don’t Fail.]
POS: Yes, I was exaggerating. There are some exceptions.
CapMag: Interesting how trolls (Philip Coates, Per-Olof S. etc.) are ready to condemn Dr. Buechner without even reading his work. [Emphasis added.]
Reisman’s work is his attempt at integration of Austrian and Objectivism; Buechner’s is a rewrite. They are very different books.
This is not say whether one or the other is correct; but, only that Buechner’s is a rewrite.
As to whether Dr. Buechner is correct or not is another issue for the reader to decide. But the method to decide is not that used by the above trolls. [Emphasis added.]
[One person commented, quite rightly, that neither Coates nor I had condemned Buechner’s book. But that comment was removed before I had a chance to copy it.]
Phil Coates: I wasn’t condemning his book, just his claim that it is “the first attempt to rewrite economics in the light of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism” and thereby totally failing to acknowledge the massive prior work of George Reisman in this area.
I would certainly hope that Dr. Buechner’s book itself is a great one.
And I don’t “condemn him” as a person or a thinker. Merely this statement and the enormous injustice done to Dr. Reisman.
POS: If you consider me a troll, then good-bye. I won’t accept insults.
Of course I don’t condemn Buechner’s book. How could I do that without reading it? What I condemn is the treatment accorded to George Reisman by “official Objectivism”. Read my website!
When I tried to post this comment, I found that I was unable to post. Obviously, I have been blocked. I wrote the following mail to CapMag:
With regard to the comments on Northrup Buechner’s book:
1. You call me a “troll”. That’s an insult, and I don’t accept insults.
2. I wasn’t condemning Buechner’s book, and there is nothing in what I wrote that could be construed as a condemnation. What I do condemn is the treatment accorded to George Reisman by “official Objectivism”.
3. When I try to post to rectify this, I can no longer post, which must mean you have blocked me.
4. Another commenter pointed out that I didn’t condemn Buechner, but you have already removed this comment.
I have to ask: What kind of people are you?
I have received no answer to this. I also wrote some comments on CapMag’s Facebook page, but those comments were immediately removed.
The subject also came up in a discussion on Facebook. I will quote my own short comment, which gives my actual view on the subject:
I’m willing to give Buechner the benefit of the doubt here. What he means to say is probably that his book is the first attempt to systematically and in great detail apply Objectivism to economics.
As you might know, I am a great admirer of George Reisman. And Reisman has some very good integrations of Objectivist ideas with economics in his book. I am particularly impressed with his integration of Ayn Rand’s “pyramid of ability” principle with the Ricardian “law of comparative advantages”; see p. 357f in his book. There are other examples, but this will do for the moment.
But the book is not a systematic attempt to apply Ayn Rand’s ideas to every aspect of economics. There is certainly much more Mises than Rand in the book.
This is of course a very preliminary judgment. I might say something different when the book is out and I have had time to read it. And if he gives Reisman the “silence treatment”, pretending he doesn’t exist and has never contributed anything to economics, that would certainly affect my judgment. ‘nough said.
This now being off my chest (unless I get nasty comments), I can now turn my attention to more worthy subjects, such as enjoying the coming of spring.
Or I could write a treatise on the virtue of justice. But then I would have to figure out why so many people pay lip service to this virtue and then don’t even bother to practice it.
Or maybe a treatise on evil being smutty and small.