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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/3842/randian-hoppe-austrian-rand/

Randian Hoppe(?), Austrian Rand(?)

July 17, 2005 by

An interesting essay by Heidi C. Morris, Reason and Reality: The Logical Compatibility of Austrian Economics and Objectivism. (Thanks to Jack Criss)


Buzzo July 17, 2005 at 9:28 pm

Dear Mr. Kinsella,

I admit that the essay was interesting, but enough with the objectivist spam already. It is an embarrasment for an Austrian adherent such as myself to be mixed up with this objectivist nonsense.

There is no logical compatibility between Austrian economics and objectivism. Yes, both ways of thinking lead to the conclusion that a free market is better than an unfree market, but the premises from which this is reasoned could not be more different.

The Austrian begins with the subject, whereas the Randian begins with the object. The objectivist makes the same mistake in metaphysics that the collectivist makes in economics by failing posit the subject as the starting point for all thinking. The subjective individual is logically prior to any object, which is necessarily a product of the mind. The only reality is subjective, as it is the subject who realizes the object (i.e., makes it real).

Every objectivist axiom is trivial because of its failure to recognize the subject nature of reality. Please do not attempt to marginalize the Austrian school by associating it with objectivism.

zuzu July 18, 2005 at 12:36 am

Hear hear, Buzzo!

Stephan, I’m usually very enthusiastic of your input on matters economic and political.

But Buzzo is on point for my opinion towards objectivism as well. Its axioms are groundless and otherwise in conflict with accepted scientific models. Additionally, objectivism has always, to me, seemed shoddily lifted and cobbled from more clever/intelligent thinkers.

The ARI then goes on to make matters even worse, imho.

I’m not ardently opposed to objectivism, but personally I’d like to see it as more of a gateway for angry teenagers on a path towards more accurate models and enlightened philosophies.

Also, maybe I’m just too autistic about such things (public perception), but I don’t mind comparisons made the between Austrian school and objectivism because the more accurate models will come out on top… but to me that certianly seems to be the Austrian school.

Carl Svanberg July 18, 2005 at 12:38 am

Mr. Stephan Kinsella, have you ever heard of Dr. George Reisman or his book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics? It is, to my understanding (note: I am not a economist nor a student of economics) a mixture of the Classical school, the Austrian school and the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I am also pretty sure that I’ve seen some of his articles been published on this site, so I think you should know of him :-) And while you’re at it, why don’t you read Dr. Richard C.B. Johnssons essay on the issue of reconciling Objectivism with the Austrian School. It is divided in two parts. You can read part I here, and part II here.

Stephan Kinsella July 18, 2005 at 1:13 am

This is not about me.

I don’t know what it means for it to be “an embarrassment” for someone to be “mixed up” in something.

zuzu July 18, 2005 at 1:25 am

I don’t know what it means for it to be “an embarrassment” for someone to be “mixed up” in something.

hehe… all I can think of is that Monty Python episode where John Cleese is “mixed up” in the mouse problem. ;)

Also, I think the LvMI provides a free PDF edition of Reisman’s ‘Capitalism’ because they purchased a digital distribution license or somesuch…

Zach July 18, 2005 at 3:38 am

I agree with the above comments. Enough with the Objectivism already — this is not the Ayn Rand Institute.

Stefan Karlsson July 18, 2005 at 4:38 am

In defence of Stephan, this blog is supposed to be about Austrian economics, including its relation to other schools of thought including for example Objectivism. So there is nothing wrong with writing about Objectivism as long as it is in a context related to Austrian economics.

As for Buzzos commemnts about subjective and objective, he seems to be clueless as to what contexts they are used in Austrian economics and Objectivism respectively. Mises has a subjective value theory in a praxeological (economic) context i.e. that value for acting man is determined by his subjective preferences. Rand uses objective value theory in a ethical context i.e. that certain actions will be objectively better for the individual. The praxeological context is descriptive (what is), the ethical context is normative (what ought to be).

To advocate subjective value theory in economics and objective value theory in ethics is therefore certainly not incompatible. Indeed Murray Rothbard explicitly advocated objective value theory in ethics and subjective value theory in economics. If you think Objectivism is incompatibel with Austrian economics then you’re rejecting Rothbard and his ethical writings as well.

Stefan Karlsson July 18, 2005 at 4:55 am

If I may quote from Chapter 2 in Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty :

“In a significant sense, then, natural law provides man with a “science of happiness,” with the paths which will lead to his real happiness. In contrast, praxeology or economics, as well as the utilitarian philosophy with which this science has been closely allied, treat “happiness” in the purely formal sense as the fulfillment of those ends which people happen—for whatever reason—to place high on their scales of value. Satisfaction of those ends yields to man his “utility” or “satisfaction” or “happiness.”[9] Value in the sense of valuation or utility is purely subjective, and decided by each individual. This procedure is perfectly proper for the formal science of praxeology, or economic theory, but not necessarily elsewhere. For in natural-law ethics, ends are demonstrated to be good or bad for man in varying degrees; value here is objective—determined by the natural law of man’s being, and here “happiness” for man is considered in the commonsensical, contentual sense.”

Stefan Karlsson July 18, 2005 at 4:58 am

The link got screwed up. Let’s see if I can get it right now:

Rothbard on subjective economics and objective ethics

zuzu July 18, 2005 at 7:48 am

Indeed Murray Rothbard explicitly advocated objective value theory in ethics and subjective value theory in economics. If you think Objectivism is incompatibel with Austrian economics then you’re rejecting Rothbard and his ethical writings as well.

I agree with Rothbard on many insights, and I’m grateful for the support he’s received in raising awareness of the feasibility (and rationale) of anarcho-capitalism.

However, in fact I do disagree with Rothbard’s reliance on “Natural law” objective ethics. I believe that all valuation, whether economic or moral, is relative to the individual, and as we become mature responsible adults, we re-value our values (usually a collection of social norms and “common sense” during the prior Camel phase).

To better understand how all information only has value relative to other information, I find it helpful to learn more about the study of emergence.

Michael A. Clem July 18, 2005 at 9:12 am

It seems clear to me that whether or not there is a conflict between Objectivism and Austrian economics, there is at least a historical relation, and thus Objectivism is fair game on this website.
If anything, exploring and understanding the differences might help clarify Austrian economics and benefit us all.

Buzzo, the objective individual has to exist prior to the individual being able to perceive objective reality and make subjective valuations based upon that perception. Or are you saying that subjective individuals are all gods who create themselves out of nothing?

William Tanksley July 18, 2005 at 9:20 am

zuzu, I think you may possibly be overstating this particular argument against Natural Law ethics. The problem is that even if one accepts emergence, you still have to admit that all humans share a common history/ancestry/background, and thus may conceivably share common needs. A Natural Law adherent might claim that the Natural Law is simply a statement of what those needs are at this point in history.

So even though, to quote you, “information only has value relative to other information”, we find ourselves in a sea of information that is universal to all humans, whether we know it or not and whether we accept it or not — for example, although we can each set our own value scales for ear piercings, hypothalamus piercings are always a bad fashion idea. Even your own language demonstrates this, as you acnowledge a difference between “mature responsible adults” and the prior phases in /all humans/, as though it were a Natural Law.

As a side note, you claim that information only has value relative to other information. May I point out that praxeology already has a theory of value that explains the value of information without infinite regress to other information? Information, like any other good, has value chosen by the individual. (Actually, this may be prior to praxeology, but it’s definitely required by the central axiom of human action.)


Stephan Kinsella July 18, 2005 at 9:20 am

Buzzo, zuzu, zach, svanberg– I simply don’t know what to make of your replies. I never endorsed the views in the article or promoted Objectivism. I simply noted it as something some might find of interest–given that a large number of Austrians are libertarians and have some interest or origin in Rand’s thought too. Why anyone would recommend a well-known treatise by Reismanto me in response to my posting a simple notice of a new article out is a mystery to me.

William Tanksley July 18, 2005 at 9:25 am

Mises responded very powerfully (and very negatively) to the general philosophy of objectivism in his work, “The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science”. Very powerful writing, and it has some of his best definitions of terms — even after reading and studying his “Human Action”, I found that I’d misunderstood some aspects of the axiom of Human Action, and at least some of my misunderstandings were cleared up by his newer and clearer definitions. I highly recommend it to any student of Mises (and frankly, it’s generally more approachable than Human Action, being much shorter :-).


Michael A. Clem July 18, 2005 at 9:53 am

given that a large number of Austrians are libertarians and have some interest or origin in Rand’s thought too.

Absolutely. My starting points for libertarianism came from Rand and Milton Friedman, even though I eventually became an anarcho-capitalist.

Stefan Karlsson July 18, 2005 at 11:23 am

Zuzu, first of all, my main point was simply that objective ethics (whether as defined by Rand or Rothbard or anyone else) is compatible with subjective value theory in economics and accordingly with Austrian economics.

Secondly I do believe ethics can be shown to be basically objective. The point of objective ethics is that certain actions will produce results which will benefit the individual more than others.

For example it is objectively bad for any individual to get drunk when say driving or performing certain jobs, simply because the alcohol will lower his or her performance dramatically.

This does not mean that objective value theory would say that it is bad to drink for everyone or that it is bad for the same individual to drink at some other time. In other situations, for example if a extremely shy guy wants to ask a girl out, it is probably objectively good to drink since the alcohol will help him overcome his shyness. And indeed just the mere pleasure of being drunk might be sufficient to make it objectively good to drink if there are no negative side effects in the form of lower job performance (or that you embarass yourself!) since then the positive results of that action (drinking) will be greater than the negative results (losing the money yoou payed for the alcohol).

Buzzo July 18, 2005 at 11:29 am

To be honest, I actually enjoyed the article. However, I was responding more to seeing two out of three posts about Objectivism/Randianism. It felt like a hijacking to me. I especially disliked the “Randian Hoppe” title, since that is simply preposterous.

As for Mr. Karlsson’s charge of cluelessness, I plead guilty. Objectivist writings have never provided me with the slightest clue about their plausibility. What does it mean to say “certain actions will be objectively better for the individual?” According to who/what? The object? On what basis do we come across any value in an object other than through our subjective experience?

Mr. Clem – the faculties at my disposal prevent me from proving whether the subjective soul is in fact eternal, and therefore logically prior to my objective body, so I’m not sure what mental processes allow you to assert the opposite. Regardless of this larger and open question, even if I admit that my physical body must have existed before I was subjectively aware of it, I cannot experience anything whatsoever separately from my subjectivity. No object is given to me except as I experience it or think it subjectively. Perception is a subjective tool, and I can think of a subject without an object, but not an object without a subject.

Let’s just keep the Randian/objectivist posts to a once in a while thing if we could please.

Marenics John July 18, 2005 at 12:22 pm

It seems to me he might get it wrong here:

“For the Austrian, action is purposive, rational, goal-driven behavior. Only the actions of humans interest the Austrian economist, since he can only be certain of humans� rationality. The study of the actions of animals and other apparently non-rational animals is left to the biologist who studies them with far different tools than the economist uses to address his work. Precisely because the economist can apply his knowledge of what it is to be human, he can study the actions of humans in a far different way than he could study the actions of, say, a dog. The economist not only uses his rational mind to address the problems of economics, but he assumes that his subjects have rationality � and employ it � as well. For this reason, the term �human action� is limited to purposive behavior.”

Do the austrians really assume rationality in the sense i think he used the word?

Carl Svanberg July 18, 2005 at 12:24 pm

Mr. Stephan Kinsella, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you or anything.

Carl Svanberg July 18, 2005 at 12:25 pm

Also, I don’t mind Objectivist/Rand-posts.

Stephan Kinsella July 18, 2005 at 12:35 pm

C-dog– it’s very difficult to offend me, and you did not do so here.

Xellos July 18, 2005 at 1:52 pm

–”The ARI then goes on to make matters even worse, imho.”

If you’ve formed your view of Objectivism based on their works, I can understand the sentiment. Peikoff has gone off in some weird directions. ^_^

Although I don’t fully agree with them either, The Objectivist Center (http://ios.org/) is a much better presenation of the philosophy.

Michael A. Clem July 18, 2005 at 2:39 pm

…even if I admit that my physical body must have existed before I was subjectively aware of it, I cannot experience anything whatsoever separately from my subjectivity.

The “admission” is a logical, a priori deduction that you must have objective existence before there can be subjective awareness. However, your experience surely reinforces the deduction, because how can there be an experience if there is not something in existence to have the experience? But if you’re going to call in spirituality into the argument, all bets are off.

zuzu July 18, 2005 at 2:42 pm

I never endorsed the views in the article or promoted Objectivism. I simply noted it as something some might find of interest–given that a large number of Austrians are libertarians and have some interest or origin in Rand’s thought too.


I didn’t want to make more of a “thing” out of it, but I meant to convey a criticism of objectivism and not ad hominem. Any personal opinion was very light and more along the lines of “I enjoy when Stephan points out articles explaining why intellectual proeprty is a sham better than when he points out articles comparing Austrian thought to objectivism”, but I’d hoped I sufficiently qualified that at the end of my first post by saying that pointing out relevant articles at all is a beneficial service.

But foremost I agree that ego is best left out of intellectual discussions.

Stefan Karlsson July 18, 2005 at 3:03 pm

Of course Carl Svanberg don’t mind posts about Objectivism since he is a Objectivist….

Buzzo, I think you again misunderstand what is meant. You seem to think of “objective” as being “intrinsical” i.e. independent of the subject. Followers of objective ethics ( Objectivists, Rothbardians and others) don’t attribute value to the object per se but to the object depending on its effect on the subject. And say drinking alcohol is objectively good or bad depending on whether it ultimately results in the subject having a better or worse life.

Buzzo July 18, 2005 at 4:20 pm


You are correct that I don’t understand what is meant. When you say, “drinking alcohol is objectively good or bad,” do you simply mean that it is unequivocally good or bad? Does it mean non-subjectively good or bad? Where does the object come into the ethical judgment?

The way I understand the relationship of the subject and the object is that the subject is the thinking thing, taken only in its thinking (not as a thing), while the object is any other thing insofar as it presents itself to the subject. Given this definition (I know it is somewhat crude, so please feel free to modify it) what is it about a judgment that is “objective.” It seems to me that the Objectivst actually throws out any meaningful sense of the word object and instead substitutes “correctness.” All the objectivist states, then, is that something is good or bad because it is correct, without asking anyone’s opinion, that something is good or bad. And how did we write the subject out of this judgment?

(please excuse the shoddy post – I’m supposed to be working right now).

averros July 20, 2005 at 1:26 am

The old mind-body dualism is getting out of vogue rather quickly as the new results in neuroscience and cognitive science start to illuminate the mechanism of production of consciousness by the brain.

What is clear is that there’s no that special homunculus inside embodying the spirit. It is more like the relationship between computer software and hardware, meaningless without each other.

This means that there’s no much sense in splitting hairs in endless discussions about primality of subjects or objects, for they are not irreconcilable polarities. In fact, it is conceivable to think about ethical implications of purposeful manipulation of the consciousness – a topic hardly addressed by any libertarian theorist, though it is becoming something real frigteningly fast. Check the recent news about manipulating the sense of trust with oxytocine, about proposed PTSD treatments by, essentially, erasure of long-term memories (MAPK inhibition). Think about personality modification with MDMA. Think of causing religious experiences by means of electric stimulation. Of “brain fingerprinting”. Of computer models of brains. Brain-computer interfaces. Manipulating our senses of reward and punishment (dopamine pathways). And we haven’t seen nothing yet.

The reality of objectification of subjective states holds some interesting implications for both praxeology and the Rothbardian ethics. Like, is a computer connected to someone’s brain an alienable property? Is an augmented human a subject to the natural law? What about AI?

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