Expectations and the Meaning of Institutions: Essays in Economics

By Don Lavoie; Ludwig Lachmann | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Expectations and the meaning of institutions

Don Lavoie

The main social function of the economist is to provide the historian and the student of contemporary events with an arsenal of schemes of interpretation.

Ludwig M. Lachmann1

Professor Lachmann's contributions to economics, spanning six decades, and addressing issues in microeconomics, macroeconomics, methodology and the history of thought, are a treasure chest. His essays are consistently well written and extraordinarily insightful, yet his message has not yet been adequately appreciated, even by those who know some of his major works. As a dissident member of a dissident school of thought, the Austrian school, his work is not well known in the economics profession at large. Yet as these essays show, Lachmann's challenges to mainstream economics in general, and to mainstream Austrian economics, even those he penned a half century ago, strike at the very heart of what has gone wrong with 'the dismal science'.

Lachmann lived through dramatic changes in the status of the Austrian school during his long career. He began his academic life when the school was at its peak, witnessed its rapid decline throughout the 1930s, survived its dark ages during the next three decades, and then contributed to its resurgence during the 1970s and 1980s. 2 His work is now the inspiration of a growing group of Austrian-oriented critics of mainstream economics who are trying to recover what might be called its interpretive dimension. 3

Among Austrian economists he is best known as the leading representative of the 'radical subjectivist' wing of the school. His allies understand this to be an honourable position and his critics

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