Philosophers of Capitalism: Menger, Mises, Rand, and Beyond

Article excerpt

Philosophers of Capitalism: Menger, Mises, Rand, and Beyond edited by Edward W. Younkins Lexington Books * 2005 * 374 pages * $28.95

Reviewed by Aeon J. Skoble

Edward Younkins is a man with an idea. His idea is that there is an underlying theme linking Austrian economics, neo-Aristotelian moral theory, and Ayn Rand's Objectivism. His ultimate goal is an integrated, comprehensive philosophy that coordinates the insights of Menger, Mises, Rothbard, Aristotle, and Rand. It is an ambitious project and a challenging idea, and Younkins does a good job here of demonstrating these thematic connections. Such connections will not be obvious to some. For instance, Austrian economics holds that values are subjective, while Rand would argue that values are objective, but Younkins shows how those are not incompatible claims-partly because they're not really claims about the same things.

Younkins, a professor in the department of business at Wheeling Jesuit University, notes that both Menger and Rand would agree that "the ultimate standard of value is the life of the valuer." Furthermore, while Menger's primary focus is on economic values and Rand's is on moral values, their "shared biocentric concept of value contends that every value serves biological needs," and thus value in both senses "has its roots in the conditional nature of life." So, according to Younkins s argument, the value-subjectivity of the Austrians is not only not incompatible with a Randian sense of objectivity, but indeed complements it. Younkins has an ambitious (and plausible) schematic that links Aristotelian theories of human flourishing and Objectivist arguments about the nature of reality and "man's distinctive attributes of reason and free will" with Austrian praxeological conceptions of valuation, decision-making, and cooperation.

It's no secret that Rand was influenced by Aristotle, and one way Younkins ties Objectivism to Austrianism is to document the Aristotelian influence on Menger. As Younkins puts it, "Menger's Aristotelian inclinations can be observed in his desire to uncover the essence of economic phenomena. . . . Like Aristotle, Menger thought that the laws governing phenomena of thought processes and the natural and social world were all related as parts of the natural order." This means that our volitional end-seeking is connected to our natures as human beings-a theme that appears in both Rand and later Austrians, notably Mises and Rothbard.

Younkins explains those areas where Mises and Rothbard differ, but shows that those differences do not supersede the fundamental agreement about a praxeological conception of economic choice. …