In the 20th century, the Austrian school of economics developed a powerful defense of free enterprise and critique of central planning based on the limitations of individual human knowledge and the potential for human creativity. An Austrian approach to economics is associated with an appreciation for market institutions such as property rights and sound money, a robust theory of entrepreneurship, and the study of business cycles. These insights were developed primarily in the middle decades of the 20th century, against the backdrop of the economic questions and theories of the day. But the past few decades have seen the emergence of new economic methods and areas of study, ranging from “big data” analysis to cultural economics; the resurgence of questions about economic history, economic inequality, and social justice; and increased interest in interdisciplinary work across philosophy, politics, and economics.
This project is a joint venture between Brown University's Political Theory Project and Texas Tech University's Free Market Institute to investigate the continuing relevance of Austrian economics in the 21st century. Is a defense of free markets grounded in intellectual humility and respect for human creativity still relevant today? Does Austrian economics have anything unique left to offer contemporary social science? Through a series of research colloquia and other activities, this project will bring together practitioners of a variety of social scientific approaches to consider whether key Austrian insights still have a role to play in understanding the promise and the pitfalls of a free society.