Richard K. Vedder is professor of economics at Ohio University. He is also the co-author of Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America and Poverty, Income Distribution and the Family, and Public Policy and the American Economy in Historical Perspective.
What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
In my free time, I read a lot, and I also travel a good deal. In 2010, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean eight times, more on pleasure than on business. I used to do mostly serious reading, and, I still like to read good books done by writers with a classical liberal perspective, but for therapy I read a fair amount of light fiction as well.
What drew you to the Austrian school and to the Ludwig von Mises Institute?
In graduate school, I had a small exposure to Hayek, but my exposure to Austrian economics was modest until around 1980. In the late 1970s, Lowell Gallaway and I started doing empirical analysis that led to results highly congenial to Austrians. We met Murray Rothbard at an IHS/Liberty Fund program in California in 1983, and he liked a paper we had written on unemployment. That led to a very long paper for the first issue of the Review of Austrian Economics (now QJAE), and, ultimately, to our book Out of Work published first in the early 1990s. Murray and Lew Rockwell started inviting me to the Mises University and my appreciation of Austrian ideas grew with that of the students.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Many economists have inspired me, ranging from Austrians such as Mises himself to other economists who largely espouse a classical liberal viewpoint,albeit one different than that of Austrians, such as Milton Friedman. I sometimes think that in accentuating differences, scholars on the right engage in unproductive contretemps that detract from focusing on the real source of most evil, namely those wanting to use governments and central banks to manipulate us, deprive us of our liberty, and lower the quality of our lives.
There has been a recent up tick in the US unemployment rate. Is this just the beginning of a possible upsurge in unemployment?
Putting aside the destructive monetary policies of the Fed, which are awful, and putting aside even the completely ineffective and potentially inflationary federal stimulus policies, and even putting aside the devastation to be caused by the socializing of health care, the unemployment rate has been bumped up 2 to
3 percentage points –maybe even more–by the continuing extension of unemployment benefits. Mainstream economists said decades ago what Austrians already knew, namely that this form of labor market interference will have severe unintended consequences, which we are seeing now.
Do you have any new works on the way?
I have been working a lot on the economics of higher education, and have finished a book that argues governmental interferences into this sector has made universities expensive, ineffective and destructive of economic growth. Naturally, university presses are showing reluctance in publishing it, so I am pursuing other options. I also am attacking current administration policies everywhere I can, from op-eds to even congressional testimony.
What kind of impact do you hope to make with your work? What drives you to do what you do?
I hope that in time my work influences the view of younger scholars and, once in a while, even thoughtful politicians (if there is such a specie). I do what I do at a furious pace because I believe what I say is true and that if I convince others of that, the world would be a bit better off.
Are there any words of wisdom you wish to pass onto the next generation of Austrian scholars?
I have written on this previously. Sometimes there is a bit of a balancing act that has to be performed –if students push their Austrian ideas too hard, they sometimes have trouble getting jobs,particularly in academia. Yet, in the long run, I think the Austrian approach will gain more adherents, so young scholars should not become overly discouraged.