TA: Why did you decide that the Mises Institute was something you wanted to support?
NB: Primarily because I was dismayed that the Austrian school generally isn’t even presented as an alternative to the Keynesian or Chicago schools in your typical econ course (let alone the media). I am amazed at how many econ majors I run into that haven’t even heard of Austrian business cycle theory for instance. Whether you agree with the Austrian school or not, part of the role of education, in my opinion, is to at least present the different viewpoints and the Mises Institute plays an important role not only keeping the Austrian tradition alive but continuing to advance the discipline as an alternative to the mainstream view.
It is even more amazing that much of economics talks about markets and does not mention the school which is so much about markets. By taking out history of economic thought from teaching, in one master stroke all possible alternative schools have been removed from discussion.
There is a long tradition in Austrian economics and libertarian thought of presenting ideas not only to academic peers and fellow intellectuals, but directly to the broader public. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, and Rothbard’s What Has Government Done to Our Money?are prime examples. In the German speaking world it was Roland Baader, a student of Hayek’s at the University of Freiburg in the 1960s, who has from 1988 until his death in 2012, more than anyone else, popularized the ideas of the Austrian school of economics. Blind Robbery! How the Fed, Banks and Government Steal Our Money by Philipp Bagus and Andreas Marquart stands in that tradition. The German-language original has already been translated into Taiwanese, Korean, and Spanish, and it is now made accessible to a much wider audience in English.
The aim of the book is to shed light on a subject that far too many people spend too little time, if any at all, thinking about: the monetary system. Everybody knows about the importance of money, but what do we really know about the functioning of the monetary system? The authors invite the reader to think carefully and critically about central questions: What is money? How is it produced? And what effects does an excessive production of money have on the distribution of incomes and wealth, our ways of life, our culture, and the economic system as a whole?
In nine chapters Bagus and Marquart outline the most important and elementary insights of Austrian monetary theory without discouraging the layman with overly technical or formal language. In fact, readers will not even notice that they are holding a book on allegedly dry economic theory in their hands until the very last pages, on which the authors admit that the book could equally well carry the title An Introduction to the Monetary Theory of the Austrian School. With a self-deprecating sense of humor they ask: “Who after all wants to spend their spare time reading macroeconomics?” (p. 165)
Throughout the book, the interactions and relationships between the inhabitants of an imaginary city by the lake serve as vivid illustrations of how money emerged in the first place and how it was transformed over time. The analogies help readers understand the roots and consequences of the modern financial system and the underlying expansionary monetary policy.
It is a pity that none of these textbooks will form part of reading on monetary economics.