Selected Papers on Economic Theory

By Knut Wicksell; Erik Lindahl | Go to book overview

THE NEW EDITION OF MENGER'S GRUNDSÄTZE1

THERE is something a little tragic about the life and writings of Carl Menger. It is not a tragedy of the kind that befell Cournot, or Rae, or Gossen, whose brilliant contributions went entirely unnoticed by their contemporaries, and were not recognised until long after their deaths. Menger had no cause to complain of lack of success or recognition. After only four years' study of economics he had finished the work that made him famous, and right from the beginning it was received with such approval in his own country that he had attained a professorship at Vienna University when he was no more than thirty-three years old. He received many other distinctions, and, what was more important, he was successful in establishing a school of enthusiastic and highly talented followers, the Austrian School, whose doctrines spread over the whole world, and for a period of fifty years set the course of all work and discussion in theoretical economics, and to some extent in fiscal theory too.

The tragedy lies in the fact that Menger himself had no part in this work and discussion; neither in the positive fulfilment of his own ideas, nor even as a critic of the way in which these were developed, or opposed, by others. This latter task would have been equally important, and one for which Menger, with his logical perspicuity, would certainly have been eminently suited. Instead, he allowed the lack of understanding which he encountered from the group of economists whom he had particularly in mind, the Reich Germans-- especially the Schmoller group--to beguile him into wasting years of time and energy on literary feuds about the justification of his method. It is true that Menger carried on this discussion in a masterly fashion, but it was a more or less fruitless one. The ultimate criterion of the value of a method is provided by the results derived from it; if one wishes to defend a method, the way to do so is to use it, not to

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1

"'Mengers Grundsätze i ny upplaga,'" Ekonomisk Tidskrift, 1924, pp. 1-10. Review of Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre von Carl Menger, Zweite Auflage aus dem Nachlass herausgegeben von Karl Menger, Wien, 1923.

-193-

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