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“Human Action” and Robert Murphy’s “Choice,” Part 1

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8/22/2015

Filed under: General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 7:54 pm

 

Regular readers know that I increasingly believe that having a firm grasp of basic economics is one of the most important duties of a citizen. Placing religion to the side, the free market has been the greatest engine for improving the lives of humanity in recorded history. Understanding it is central to being a responsible citizen.

 

For a couple of years now, I have been studying Austrian economics, which offers (in my judgment) the best set of tools with which to battle the Keynesians and those who seek to regulate and manipulate the economy. And I think it’s beyond question that the most important figure in Austrian economics is Ludwig von Mises, and his most important work is “Human Action.” (Hayek is certainly more well known, and “The Road to Serfdom” should be required reading for every citizen, but Mises is still #1.)

 

The problem is that Human Action is a monstrously intimidating work. Not only is it long, but Mises assumes that you are familiar with the work of previous economists like Carl Menger or Eugen Böhm von Bawerk. And if you’re like most people, you aren’t. Scissors-32x32.png

http://patterico.com/2015/08/22/human-action-and-robert-murphys-choice-part-1/

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8/23/2015

Filed under: General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 10:31 am

This is Part 2 of my ongoing series of posts summarizing Bob Murphy’s excellent book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. The idea is to popularize and spread the word about Austrian economics and educate the public. Part 1 is here.

 

So what do we mean when we say economists study “human action”? First, the action must be purposeful behavior; reflex actions do not count, for example. It can even be inaction. Rush fans will recognize the quote: “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Right?

 

Remember yesterday, I said: “Mises thought of economics as a deductive discipline, in which one divines, through analysis and reflection, the fundamentals of why humans act, and derives the necessary logical implications of these fundamentals using a deductive and logical chain of reasoning.” So what can we deduce from purposeful behavior?

 

Well, some of these are going to seem obvious. But it’s still necessary to state them — because it’s all foundational for what comes in the future.

 

First, obviously, if there is human action, then there must be a mind behind it. Scissors-32x32.pnghttp://patterico.com/2015/08/23/human-action-and-robert-murphys-choice-part-2-what-is-action/

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8/24/2015

 

Filed under: General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 12:05 am

This is Part 3 of my ongoing series of posts summarizing Bob Murphy’s excellent book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action — which itself is a summary of Ludwig von Mises’s classic treatise “Human Action.” The idea of this series of posts is to popularize and spread the word about Austrian economics and educate the public. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

 

Feel free to read them first if you’re just getting started. They’re actually very simple posts, making very simple points — as we are still in foundational mode.

 

Also, I have created a category for all these posts, called “Human Action and Choice,” so that all these posts can be read (in reverse order) with a single click. Also, let me be clear: any errors in these summaries are mine and not Murphy’s. I am restating his points in my language, and that opens up the possibility of inaccuracy. Should that happen, blame me, not him.

 

One of the things that the Paul Krugmans of the world mock about Austrian economics is that they claim it is too abstract and has no relationship to the real world. After all, as I explained in previous posts, Mises sees economics as a discipline Scissors-32x32.pnghttp://patterico.com/2015/08/24/human-action-and-robert-murphys-choice-part-3-theory-vs-history/

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Filed under: General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 12:01 am

This is Part 4 of my ongoing series of posts summarizing Bob Murphy’s indispensable book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. Murphy’s book is itself is a summary of Ludwig von Mises’s classic treatise “Human Action” — so you’re reading a summary of a summary . . . which sounds about right for a blog post, no?

 

The idea of this series of posts is to popularize and spread the word about Austrian economics and educate the public. I have created a category for all these posts, called “Human Action and Choice,” so that all these posts can be read (in reverse order) with a single click. Note well: any errors in these summaries are mine and not Murphy’s.

 

In this post, we will be defining some terms, which is an exercise that is critical to any future discussion. We will also learn a concept that separates Austrian economics from classical economics: the heterogeneity of capital. Unlike classical economists, Austrians do not view capital as one large lump. Scissors-32x32.png

http://patterico.com/2015/08/25/human-action-and-robert-murphys-choice-part-4-rounding-out-the-basics/

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8/26/2015

Filed under: General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 7:45 am

This is Part 5 of my ongoing series of posts summarizing Bob Murphy’s indispensable book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. Murphy’s book is itself is a summary of Ludwig von Mises’s classic treatise “Human Action” — so you’re reading a summary of a summary. Hey, it’s a blog. Short and concise is what we do.. Scissors-32x32.pnghttp://patterico.com/2015/08/26/human-action-and-robert-murphys-choice-part-5-the-division-of-labor/

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8/27/2015

Filed under: General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 12:02 am

This is Part 6 of a 17-part series of posts summarizing Bob Murphy’s indispensable book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. Murphy’s book is itself is a summary of Ludwig von Mises’s classic treatise “Human Action.” As a result, this is a summary of a summary. Blog life. Scissors-32x32.pnghttp://patterico.com/2015/08/27/human-action-and-robert-murphys-choice-part-6-the-importance-of-ideas-and-reason/

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Filed under: Economics,General,Human Action and Choice — Patterico @ 12:01 am

This is Part 12 of a 17-part series of posts summarizing Bob Murphy’s indispensable book Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. Murphy’s book is itself is a summary of Ludwig von Mises’s classic treatise “Human Action.” Like previous posts, this post is a summary of a summary.

The purpose of these posts is to popularize and spread the word about Austrian economics and educate the public. Rather than list all the previous parts, I have created a category for all these posts, called “Human Action and Choice,” so that all these posts can be read (in reverse order) with a single click. Note well: any errors in these summaries are mine and not Murphy’s.

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