Classical liberalism around the world

A survey reported in Econ Journal Watch. Chris Berg of the IPA on the story in Australia. Put aside a generous amount of time to read it.

Classical liberalism, the tradition of free markets and individual liberty, has an outsider status in the Australian economics profession. This paper surveys the origin of Australian classical liberal economics in the nineteenth century, its sharp decline in the first half of the twentieth century, and its revival and growth in recent decades. Despite a period of successful market-oriented economic reform in the 1980s and 1990s, surveys suggest that classical liberalism is a minority viewpoint among Australian economists.

Currently the only critical mass of classical liberal academic economists in Australia is at RMIT University in Melbourne. A major difference between the RMIT school and the ANU school of the previous generation is that RMIT is less formally neoclassical in orientation and more explicitly Hayekian and institutional in orientation. Rather than aspiring to be a ‘Chicago of the South,’ the preferred model is George Mason University. The leaders of this school are Sinclair Davidson, professor of institutional economics, and Jason Potts, an evolutionary economist. Both have interests outside mainstream economics, although both are highly involved in contemporary policy debate.

There could have been a bit more about the Australian school of economics, Catallaxy and the synergy of Karl Popper and the other Austrians (a distinctive contribution of the Australian school) and I am in the IPA today so we can have a talk about that:)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Classical liberalism around the world

  1. Grey ghost who walks

    Thank god we have one!

  2. Old School Conservative

    Very interesting. I’d never heard of evolutionary economics before, but if it is as Professor Google tells me it analyses the unleashing of a process of technological and institutional innovation then it is a study worthy of tertiary rigour.

  3. Jim Rose

    things have come a long way. Mentioning Milton Friedman’s name in the mid-1980s at job interviews in Canberra would have been extremely career limiting. Not much better in the early 1990s.

    Back in the 1980s, Milton Friedman was just graduating from being ‘a wild man in the wings’ to just a suspicious character in policy circles.

    If you name dropped Hayek in the 1980s and 1990s, any sign of name recognition would have indicated that you were been interviewed by educated people.

  4. Ex-

    Chris’s piece is good, but … but:

    Have there

  5. Ex-Adelaidean

    Chris’s piece is good, but … but:

    Have there really been any universities bereft of classical liberals? Even at Adelaide – home of Geoff Harcourt, Eric Russell and a slew of Cambridge graduates with something of a fondness for being criticized by Mrs Robinson – there were (at least in my recall – latter 80s/early 90s) always numbers of people well-read in Smith, Buchanan, Hayek and so forth; and writers who certainly didn’t fit into the profile of that rather over-used term “Keynesian”; there were plenty of Hobart Paperbacks and well-thumbed copies of the Road to Serfdom about.

    Is it relevant to contrast the Age – like the NYT, always a paper of the “liberal left” – with the Sydney Herald, but omit its once mighty competitor, the Argus? The Argus outsold the Age until its demise.

    Finally – the received wisdom that the first phase of “liberalism” in policy was wrought by the arrival of the ginger group in the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s overlooks significant liberalization in the period after 1949: firstly the defeat of proposed bank nationalization; then the important step of “tarrification” – while hardly Free Trade, an advance on the previous quota allocation system; and at state levels, the phasing out and then near-elimination of rental price controls. Acknowledging these successes would lend a less whiggish tone to the essay; the reality, I’d contend, has seen rather more ebbing and flowing of the tide. Whether it is right to assess the position in the mid noughties as fairly “free” (as I expect the conventional wisdom is) is a matter of perspective: in retail product markets, undoubtedly it was; in terms of access to services, investment, taxation and the like, the position could be fairly keenly argued.

  6. Ex-Adelaidean

    OK – withdraw all the above comments … head explosion time.

    What on earth are these guys thinking? It takes academic economists who weren’t in Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s to think state banking could be any improvement on the (admittedly defective) state of the country’s banking system. (is this just journalistic gloss? Anyone got an ungated link to the AER article?):

Comments are closed.