Study Guide to the Jordan Peterson – Robert Murphy Podcast

This week, Jordan Peterson released an interview titled, “Is Property Theft?”, with Austrian economist Robert Murphy. The conversation was fast and exciting, with a lot of references to books, articles, and other ideas from Austrian economics thrown in.

Since this is likely to be the first introduction to Austrian economics for many people, I am taking it upon myself to release a “study guide” of sorts for this interview. Here I will give citations, references, and other explanations for that may have gone by too quickly for the audience.

As a table of contents, I will use the time stamps from the original video as they appear on YouTube. Almost all of the links will take you to a free book, article, or lecture. That’s one of the great things about Austrian economics: there are a lot free learning resources.

A word of warning: the first few sections are much longer than others, as they provide a lot of necessary background information. Feel free to skim the information as needed on a first pass, and come back to it later for more details.

Continue reading “Study Guide to the Jordan Peterson – Robert Murphy Podcast”

The Impossibility of Economic Calculation, in One-Syllable Words

More economics in one-syllable words, this time Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth by Ludwig von Mises. Here is a two-paragraph summary:

Cash is the one thing that all of us in the world want. This trait of cash is what lets us use it with math: if the cash I pay to build a good is less than the cash I will get when I sell it, I can make the choice to build the good in a clear way. For cash to have this trait, though, it must trade among all goods in the world, and each trade must be a free choice. This way, each price lets us know how much a thing is worth to all the folks in the world.

But in a world where all a large chunk of the goods are owned by one group, then that group can’t trade what it owns with things that it also owns to get a cash price. It would be mad. Since these goods can’t be priced in cash, we can’t know how what they’re worth to the world! Thus, to use math to learn if our yield to build a thing is good or bad would be vain. This is bad!

And a longer, section-by-section summary of the whole essay:

Continue reading “The Impossibility of Economic Calculation, in One-Syllable Words”

Forget about the second wave of the virus, get ready for a recessionary tsunami

Originally published at the Hill Times.

In the midst of multi-phase re-opening plans, Covid-19 cases are back on the rise around the world. This has caused talks of a second round of lockdowns to circulate before this first round of unlocking. This is music to the ears of struggling business owners. Yet we shouldn’t expect a government-orchestrated economic plan to be harmonious. The new normal for businesses will still mean a cacophony of higher input prices and disrupted distribution networks. 

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fiscal snapshot delivered Wednesday predicts a very sharp recovery in GDP, with a gentle tapering of unemployment. This is a bad prognosis. With or without a second round of lockdowns, the economy will fall sharply ill again. Simply put, the global economy of the past few months has produced less stuff to use in trade, production, and manufacturing. What makes it worse is that these disruptions have happened at the arbitrary whim of bureaucrats. Even if demand returns to pre-Covid levels tomorrow, businesses may not be able to support their existing workforces or capital structure. 

The invisible hand of supply and demand will soon be greeting the market not with a socially distant salute; but rather with an invasive groping of revenue streams and supply chains. Investors and business owners must prepare for the worst. Expect more layoffs, store closures, and bankruptcies, as entrepreneurs unmask what the new normal will look like.

Politicians themselves will never admit to these problems. Many will tout that their decision-making has been prudent and shrewd, as they’ve been seeking expert advice. Officials tell us to expect the economy to bounce right back, even though these advisors are not economists themselves. Whether the recovery will look like a “V” or “U”, we should seriously question the alphabet soup of optimism that we’re being told to swallow. 

Foremost: politicians have no objective measure for determining what is and isn’t essential. The global supply and distribution system is, quite literally, unimaginably complex. The metaphor of a supply “chain” is misleading, as it implies a clear beginning and end. Since what may be a consumption good for one person may be a capital good for another, it’s more accurate to talk about an economic crochet—an intricate interweaving of supply threads and demand threads, coming together in an ever growing pattern of commerce. Plucking away at random threads may seem harmless at first, but it fundamentally alters the structural integrity of the whole economy. 

The impacts are already being felt. Scholars estimate an increase of over 253,000 cases of infant mortality this year due to the global lockdowns (compare that number to 550,000, the worldwide death total of Covid-19). 

Between overloaded mental crisis hotlines, deferred cancer testing and treatment, an increase in domestic abuse, disruptions in supplying pharmaceuticals, and a global food supply crisis that the UN’s World Food Programme says could lead to 270 million people being “acutely food insecure”, it will be years until the full effects of these lockdowns will be reckoned with. 

Governments around the world have been almost uniform in their response: hand out money to seemingly anyone who asks for it. Where did all this money come from, in a time when many are working and earning less? The central banks. Yet printing money to prop up financial assets devalues the currency overall. Ultimately, all of us will be forced to pay higher prices for everyday goods and services. 

Although this pandemic is novel, the laws of economics remain unchanged. Prices are determined by supply and demand, and enterprising individuals will find a solution to anything profitable. Understanding these principles will be the key to a healthy prognosis for recovery. The only complication to worry about is more meddling by politicians, which has a simple cure: civic vigilance.  

Mises’ Bureaucracy, in One-Syllable Words

Bureaucracy, by Ludwig von Mises, summarized in one-syllable words:

Folks on both the left and the right claim to hate the thing this book is named for. The word has rude tinge to it. The gripes are that they’re slow, with lots of fault in how they’re run, and who they’re run by: lots old guys — way more than there ought to be.

Yet they keep on their path of growth. Strange, right? Do they even know what it is that they’re mad at? I don’t think they know. But I know what’s got their goat. Read on to find out.

Continue reading “Mises’ Bureaucracy, in One-Syllable Words”

The Collected Works of Ludwig von Mises

MisesLibrary.jpgIt always struck me as strange that such a great and important thinker as Ludwig von Mises, whose last posthumous work was published in 2012, did not have a dedicated and comprehensive anthology. Since I personally have a significant interest in “what Mises said” on this or that topic, it also frustrated me that there was no simple online resource available where I could do this—despite so much of Mises’s works being available online.

Thus, I’ve used my time during the COVID-19 lockdown to create this compendium: over 8600 pages, 36 separate volumes, 200 megabytes.

Find it under the Free eBooks section of this website, or simply click here. This version was last updated May 12th, 2020. 

The list of titles of the collected works include:



Pages of the PDF

A Critique of Interventionism






Economic Freedom and Intervention                                                     



Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow                                  



Human Action (Scholar’s Edition)



Interventionism: An Economic Analysis                                               






Liberty and Property                                                                    



Marxism Unmasked                                                                       






Money, Method, and the Market Process                                            



Nation, State, and Economy                                                             



Notes and Recollections, with the Historical Setting of the Austrian School         



Omnipotent Government                                                                 



Planned Chaos                                                                            



Planning for Freedom (and other essays)



Profit and Loss                                                                             



Selected Works Vol I                                                                     



Selected Works Vol II                                                                    



Selected Works Vol III                                                                   



Socialism: An Economic Analysis                                                           



The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality                                                          



The Clash of Group Interest and Other Essays                                       



The Free Market and Its Enemies                                                       



The Theory of Money and Credit                                                       



The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science                                         



On the Manipulation of Money and Credit                                                                       



The “Austrian” Theory of the Trade Cycle                                                                          



Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth                                                     



Money and Inflation                                                                                



Epistemological Problems of Economics



Entries for the Encyclopedia Britannica



Theory and History



Human Action (Liberty Fund Edition, volumes 1-3)



A Critique of Bohm-Bawerk’s Reasoning



Glossary (“Mises Made Easier”)



Will Iceland’s Sovereign Money Proposal End Economic Crises?

Frosti Sigurjonsson

A recent proposal out of Iceland has been making the waves around economics blogosphere. In it, Frosti Sigurjonsson critiques the current fractional-reserve banking system and proposes instead a system he calls “Sovereign Money”. But what is “sovereign money”, how is it different from the current system, and how will it work? In this post I’ll first explain how the current system works and the problems it has from an Austrian perspective, then go through the sovereign money proposal to see how it solves any of the short-comings of the current system.

How is money created in the current system?

Before we can analyze the sovereign money proposal, we need to understand how the current system operates. This can be demonstrated in a 4 step process. But first understand that a central bank (like the Bank of Canada or the Federal Reserve) is a lot like any other bank: it offers deposit accounts and loans to clients. The difference is that you can only become a customer of the central bank by invitation only.

Here’s a step-by-step process:  Continue reading “Will Iceland’s Sovereign Money Proposal End Economic Crises?”

Cultonomics and the Austrian School

Originally posted on July 31, 2014

Mainstream economists have long derided the Austrian School as a “cult”. Professor Walter Block recounts stories from Nobelists Gary Becker and James Buchanan off-handedly referring to the cultish Austrians. When pressed by Professor Block, Becker said, “By a cult I mean a small number of dedicated followers who speak mainly to each other, and interact little with let us call them mainstream economists.”

Nobelist Paul Krugman just last week gloated over Noah Smith’s attacks on the “hermetic system that is Austrians”. And onMonday, Krugman once again lambasted the Austrians as “as the floating crap game — the same 30 or 40 people meeting in conferences all over the world, reading and citing each others’ work”.

Oh wait. He was actually talking about mainstream economists. Here’s the full quote: Continue reading “Cultonomics and the Austrian School”

Mathematical Economics vs. “Literary” Economics?

Originally posted on July 28, 2014

Famed Chicago economist John Cochrane gives a report from a recent meeting at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER, the US government institution which is tasked with determining whether or not the economy is in a recession, and where Ludwig von Mises was first employed upon moving to the United States). He reports that a recurring theme throughout the discussions was about “just how we do economics”. Certainly a topical conversation. Unfortunately, just how Professor Cochrane frames the discussion proves that gross methodological misunderstandings are still pervasive in the profession.

Firstly, Cochrane frames the methodological debate as “math vs. literature”. While the current orthodoxy in economics is to have quantifiable theories that can be “proved” or falsified by empirical evidence, and though there may be some who hold that the proper way to ascertain economic truths is through “imaginative and creative writing, especially recognized artistic value”, this dichotomy is not comprehensive of the Austrian view.

The Austrian methodological position is that economics should proceed logically from realistic foundations. Continue reading “Mathematical Economics vs. “Literary” Economics?”

Noahgreement on similarities between Austrians and New Classicals

Originally posted on February 7, 2014

I’ve got a confession to make: my favourite economics blog name is Noah Smith’s “Noahpinion”. It’s a really great blog name.

With the niceties out of the way, let’s address Smith’s latest screed: “How the New Classicals drank the Austrians’ milkshake”. In it, Smith tries to make the case that the reason that the Austrian school is “dead” as a serious scholarship program isn’t because the Austrians have too many different ideas from the “New Classical” mainstream, but rather because all the best Austrian ideas have been incorporated into the New Classical tradition.

Smith does this using cutting edge blogging techniques: a list. First he lists three similarities between central Austrian and New Classical claims, and then lists two “big differences”. Let’s see what Smith gets right, and wrong, in his comparative analysis of Austrian and New Classical economics.

Smith Claim #1: “Rational Expectations” is a refinement of the Action Axiom

Smith starts out his characterization of the Austrian school by quoting Mises from Human Action, which is good. He goes on to describe Mises’ writing as “pre-WW2 European literary style”, which is somewhat funny, given that Human Action was written after the Second World War, and in the United States. But I get what he’s saying.

Let’s reproduce the Mises quote here: Continue reading “Noahgreement on similarities between Austrians and New Classicals”

The Ultimate Microfoundation: Human Action

Originally posted on on January 25, 2014

Much fuss is made in macroeconomic circles over so-called “microfoundations”: microeconomic justifications for macroeconomic models, as opposed to macro models that make ad hoc assumptions about utility, preferences, and price setting. People like to bring up the “Calvo pricing model”, where (supposedly) a magical fairy selects a firm at random to change its price, as both an example of a solid microfoundation and a brazenly nonsensical one.

Of course, when the even foundations of mainstream microeconomics are shaky at best—assuming such silly things such as perfect competition, farmers who solve calculus equations, perfect information, infinitely lived households, and infinitely divisible tractors—many macroeconomists are rightly skeptical of blanket calls by microeconomists to cite their papers and books when macro guys are constructing a new model for inflation targeting or growth modeling. Some have even gone to deny any strong linkages between microeconomics and macroeconomics.

Ludwig von Mises acknowledged this debate and made a veiled attempt to solve it over a century ago in his first treatise, The Theory of Money and Credit (TMAC); and then made a more explicitly argument in his magnum opus, Human Action (HA). Continue reading “The Ultimate Microfoundation: Human Action”