There are many reasons to be excited about Klein’s book. Guido Hulsmann mentioned in passing a few years ago just how rare it is for a new book to appear that focuses on pure theory in the Austrian tradition.
Guido estimated that it happens about every ten to fifteen years. There are several reasons: a) writing pure theory is hard, b) the Austrian theoretical apparatus old and well developed and thereby difficult to add to in a substantive way, c) with something so well developed, there is always a greater risk of making errors than of making genuine progress.
So The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur is important in that respect. It is something of an event: a real book on theory. The last one on this topic was probably Kirzner’s book of 1972, Competition and Entrepreneurship. The purpose of that book was to delineate the theoretical confines of the idea of pure entrepreneurship. Professor Klein takes the topic in a different direction, one more influenced by the Rothbardian account: explaining the function of the capitalistic entrepreneur, who is not an idea of pure theory but rather a real person who uses real capital to speculate about an unknown and unknowable future.
The capitalist entrepreneur, moreover, doesn’t remain a lone figure working in isolation but rather builds institutions and organizations. Klein then turns to the topic of the firm, taking on the mainstream literature which tends to view the firm solely in managerial terms. Klein embeds the Austrian idea of the entrepreneur into the heart of the theory of the firm.
Aside from the content, this is another in a series of Mises Institute books that is published into the free-market commons, which is certainly the method of publishing for the future. Over the last decades, and even in the last few years, too many important Austrian books have been lost in the copyright prison. It is nothing short of tragic for a great scholar to work for years on a book, have it published by a university press for reasons of career advancement, and then see it vanish in the stacks of huge state-funded institutions, and otherwise made inaccessible to real consumers and web surfers due to IP restrictions and ridiculously inflated prices.
Klein’s book, in contrast, is $15 in our store. It is also free online and embeddable on blogs around the world, the same as the great works of Mises, Menger, Hayek, and Rothbard.
I hope that many of Klein’s colleagues are watching what happens here. They will see that Klein’s influence in this area is going to go way up because his book combines a powerful argument with universal accessibility. Both are hugely important and the combination are what make for vast influence, increasingly the likelihood that his book will make a dent in the universe.
Henry Manne has said of Klein’s book: “It is simply too logical and well reasoned for the profession to ignore. The storied entrepreneur is about to have a new chapter written in its intellectual history.”
I believe that this is true, but an essential ingredient that makes it possible is the publishing method, which releases the ideas into the world of ideas rather than keeping them locked behind firewalls and brick walls. Hence, Professor Klein deserves congratulations not only for his masterful argument and content but also for his progressive understanding of the publishing and the best way to make a difference in the world of ideas in this digital age.