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An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (2 Vol. Set) Hardcover – February 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1084 pages
  • Publisher: Ludwig von Mises Institute; 2 VOLUME HARDCOVER SET edition (February 1, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 094546648X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945466482
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 2.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Hans Haneberg on February 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This work is a tour de force of economic thought, spanning a thousand pages and nearly two millennia.

The books thesis rests on Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts of scientific intellectuals in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." In these two volumes, Rothbard grinds his axe against what he would refer to as the "Whig theory of history" or the idea that history of ideas is always a progression forward.

In light of this thesis, Rothbard carefully works in progression from ancient Greek thought of Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon to the late 19th century works of J.S. Mill, Marx, Bastiat and Pareto. What is truly amazing is amount of time in Volume I he devotes to smaller unknown scholastics (who revived much of the work of Aristotle after finding preserved by the Arabs) overlooked by works like Lionel Robbins lectures on Economic thought and much of Hayek's contributions, which were dominated by the Scottish Enlightenment. Insomuch, Rothbard credits - like Schumpeter did - many lesser individuals which prefigured Smith, like Turgot, Cantillon and the French tradition; or the School of Salamanca and the Scholastic's who debunked the idea of a just price - based in a theoretical corpus of Natural Law (like Rothbard himself).

There are some who have taken the whole book out of context by reading only his treatment of Adam Smith - mostly because this is the most controversial section. Without context, Rothbard chapter on Smith seems to be harsh for those who consider him a great defender of liberty and lassie faire.
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Format: Kindle Edition
When an economist writes history, you are going to get something much different than when a historian writes history. For regular historians, economics is a poorly understood sideshow at best. Unlike Rothbard, they'll skip consideration of the economists themselves and their ideas.

In other words, you will never have heard of 95% of the historical figures in this book, important as they were to the birthing of the modern world, nor will you have heard of the wars of ideas they fought. Certain major factors moving big events of history will not be there because the historians simiply haven't noticed.

For example...

We all know about the Black Death. But a free market economist studying the era quickly makes a connection missed (so far as I know) by standard historians. Standard historians tell us about how the bubonic plague affected the economy but generally miss how the economy affected the plague. Rothbard doesn't miss it. 13th and 14th century kings, challenging the power of Rome and in need of money to finance their new structures of centralized state power, taxed and regulated the burgeoning commerce that had been bringing Europe out of the Dark Ages. In so doing, they sent the economy spiraling back into a new dark age of poverty, poor sanitation, and ill health that made the plague just that much more virulent when it hit.

Rothbard is not a proponent of the "Great Men" school of economic thought that has a few giants like Smith, Marx, Keynes etc. doing all the heavy lifting. He sees the conscious study of economics as somewhat unusual in history and the advancement of economic understanding as slow and incremental. Actually, advancement is not always the right word.
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Format: Hardcover
The product of a lifetime of dedicated scholarship, this is Rothbard's magnum opus.

Volume one is a breathtaking journey through time, analyzing how culture, religion, and politics have impacted upon economic thought.

Volume two contains the most devastating refutation and trenchant analysis of Karl Marx and his destructive, apocalyptic theory of Communism."
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Format: Hardcover
I borrowed this work from my local university library and read it through TWICE! I am now about to order this new affordable set published by the Mises Institute so that I can not only read it through again but have as a constant source of reference. A brilliant work!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was better than I expected. A quite different perspective on Plato and Aristotle, and how they were so egotistical - as in "we are the polis, and those ignorant slaves and merchants and craftsmen and all the other filthy classes, really need us to tell them what to do and how to live, since we're so much smarter than they are." This may truly be the foundation of the modern elitist attitude, it seemed to me. (My summary of attitudes here, the book is much more erudite and particular)
The book then continues on with example after example of highly intelligent, gifted thinkers who kept disagreeing with each other through the centuries. In fact, one impression I gained was that the Absolutist, or total government-control-of-everything theory, has alternated many times with the Property rights/Natural Law theory of individual rights and free markets. And perhaps the Black Death/Plague years really happened because that was in a time of the Absolutist theory being predominate, and both rich and poor were so impoverished that their health failed from hunger and weakness and exhaustion, and the inability to practice sanitation and rat control - because the governments had ruined the economy so badly. Wow!
Not that it's all generalities. This book is stuffed full of names, and often will reverse your opinion of who really invented many of the theories and thought systems we've learned about in history classes. The connections and influences, the famous schools and philosophers, and the catastrophic reversals of opinion and the huge mistakes made by famous people, is sure to have you shaking your head. So little learning from history, even by the most influential and famous of thinkers!
There is truly nothing new under the sun. But this book will give you perspective and a degree of understanding of both history and economics which is very uncommon in this day. Highly recommended, I actually enjoyed it.
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