It has always been very difficult to get a read on Masonomics, that is, the style of economics taught at George Mason University, generally under the term “Austrian Economics.” But thanks to Pete Boettke’s prodigious blogging, we learn more and more about it every day. Pete has in the past referred to research at GMU as “a stew of Menger, Boehm-Bawerk, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Kirzner, Lachmann, Alchian, Buchanan, Coase, Demsetz, and North”. Pete also recently characterized the Austrian track of the Ph.D. program at GMU as “a broader program in philosophy of economics and political economy.”
But these off-the-cuff descriptions are useless for young Austrians interested in pursuing a career in academia and seeking hard information that will assist them in choosing among various Ph.D. programs in the U.S. and abroad. I have often pressed Pete to remedy this information asymmetry and give an explicit characterization of Masonomics but have usually been churlishly rebuffed with a tedious listing of the “success” that GMU grads have had in job placement and journal publications.
In a few recent posts, however, Pete has given us some hints about the substance of Masonomics and the criteria of success GMU graduates are measured by. In one post Pete
of advancing the cause of “good economics” by which he means “Austrian economics and the Virginia Political Economy tradition.” But in a post the day before, Pete extolled the web-based research program of anti-globalist and Marxist philosopher Daniel Little and encouraged people to “Take some time and explore Little’s efforts.”
And a student interested in the unfolding research program of Masonomics indeed would be well advised to go to Little’s website and click on the syllabus for his Philosophy of the Social Science course.
Boettke then went on to conclude his post on Little, “From my perspective, historical sociology restructured to produce a comparative-historical political economy is how progress will be made.” He also revealed that he and two co-authors had a paper on this topic currently under revise and resubmit at the leftish heterodox Cambridge Journal of Economics. When this article appears it should be nothing short of a Masonomics Manifesto that we will all be the wiser for.
Regarding the standards for judging a successful Ph.D. student, Boettke gives an amazingly specific–almost mathematically exact–set of criteria, none of which refer to productivity in researching in and advancing the Austrian paradigm Rather according to Boettke:
“Success equals a tenure track job in a school with a 3-3 teaching load or less, and students with an average SAT score around 1200 or higher. This means appointment at a good liberal arts college, a public ivy, or a PhD granting institution. To achieve that, they must have: PhD in hand + refereed publications + good teaching evaluations – the lunch tax of their personality = tenure track job.”
So if a newly-minted Ph.D. teaches at a small state college or a second tier liberal arts college and writes a path-breaking book on Hayekian capital theory or the application of the Austrian business cycle theory to the current financial crisis are we to infer that they are not a success? This post is not meant to challenge Pete’s vision of the substance or strategic approach of Masonomics, but merely to cast a little more light on it in the interest of providing young Austrians with more information on alternative academic career paths. For the sake of the youngsters, keep a-blogging, Pete.