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Where Are the Best Schools in Austrian Economics?

Where to Go for Libertarian-Friendly Higher Education

JULY 01, 2001 by MARK SKOUSEN

Filed Under : Austrian Economics

“We must raise and train an army of fighters for freedom.”

—F. A. Hayek

Frequently students or parents approach me at investment or economics conferences with the question, “Can you recommend an undergraduate or graduate program in free-market economics?” With the explosive interest in a degree in economics, it’s imperative that students get a topnotch education.* In my experience, if students aren’t exposed early to the principles of Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises, it is often difficult for them to shed the philosophies of John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, and other interventionists later on.

Here in the United States most colleges and universities have a goodly number of “neoclassical” economists with a free-market bent. (There are a number of “free market” colleges and universities in Latin America, Europe, and Asia, a topic I shall pursue in a future column.) The American schools include the University of Virginia; the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Florida State University; and the University of Chicago. However, anyone pursuing a degree in economics from these institutions will need to be well versed in advanced mathematics in order to understand the professional language. As New York University Professor Mario Rizzo wrote me, “Contemporary economics has become a branch of applied mathematics.”

Graduate Schools in Austrian Economics

Fortunately, there’s a growing number of schools that specialize in Austrian economics. The best-known program is located at New York University, ranked as one of the top 20 economics departments in the country. The Austrian Economics Program, under the tutelage of Israel Kirzner, David Harper, and Rizzo, has been functioning at NYU since the days of Mises. The Austrian course work attracts students from around the world.

NYU also offers a weekly Austrian Economics Colloquium and an annual summer course held at FEE. (Go to www.econ.nyu.edu/dept/austrian.) However, it should be noted that the NYU program is small, and most of the teachers there are non-Austrian.

George Mason University (in northern Virginia) is also attracting undergraduate and graduate students who want to specialize in Austrian economics, although Professor Peter Boettke, who also edits The Review of Austrian Economics, says that “what makes GMU particularly attractive are its affiliated fields of Public Choice, history of thought, and constitutional economics.” Boettke and Karen Vaughn teach the Austrian theory of the market process; Richard Wagner offers a course in institutional economics; and Walter Williams serves as chairman of the department. (Go to www.gmu.edu/departments/economics.) The Institute for Humane Studies is also located at GMU (www.theihs.org).

Another graduate Austrian program that is gaining prominence is at Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration in Troy, Michigan (near Detroit). Walsh College (www.walshcol.edu) specializes in business degrees—in marketing, management, finance, and economics. Under the direction of Harry Veryser, the school now offers a two-year bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in economics. The entire faculty consists of free-market economists, with a special emphasis on Austrian economics. Students are assigned books and readings by Mises, Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Wilhelm Röpke, Paul Heyne, and me, among others. Walsh’s program is impressive.

The Expanding Austrian Universe

With the Ludwig von Mises Institute (www.mises.org) next door, Auburn University (www.auburn.edu/business/economics) has attracted a large number of students over the years. The most prominent Austrian economist on campus is Roger Garrison, author of the new advanced macro text Time and Money. Garrison teaches the main course in macroeconomics. (Leland Yeager, former Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Auburn, is now retired.) Unfortunately, Auburn recently discontinued its Ph.D. program.

There are a goodly number of colleges offering solid undergraduate courses. Two mainstays are Hillsdale College in Michigan and Grove City College, near Pittsburgh. Grove City College (www.gcc.edu) no longer has Hans Sennholz as chairman of the department, but Hans indicates that the school is still free-market oriented, and John Moore, the president, is an economist. Hillsdale College (www.hillsdale.edu/dept/economics) has several free-market professors, the most well-known being Richard Ebeling, who runs the annual Ludwig von Mises lecture series. Hillsdale also houses the Mises library.

I should also mention Northwood University, an associate- or full-degree business school with campuses in Midland, Michigan; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Cedar Hill, Texas. Founded by Gary Stauffer and Arthur Turner in 1958, Northwood stresses free-market and Austrian economics. (Go to www.northwood.edu.)

In California, there are two universities with an Austrian bent. Santa Clara University, under the guidance of Daniel Klein, offers the Civil Society Institute (www.scu.edu/csi), which involves a weekly colloquium, lectures series, and “coffeehouse” for libertarian ideas. Other prominent members of the faculty are Laurence Iannaccone, Henry Demmert, Fred Foldvary, and David Friedman. Charles Baird, labor economist and Ideas on Liberty columnist, is the co-chairman of the department at California State University at Hayward (www.sbe.csuhayward.edu) and director of the Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies. According to Baird, half the tenure-track economists there are “unabashedly free-market.”

Lawrence H. White, a specialist in free banking, was recently appointed the first F. A. Hayek Professor of Economic History at University of Missouri-St. Louis (www.umsl.edu/divisions/artscience/economics). According to his colleague David C. Rose, “a number of economists are either outright Austrian or are very sympathetic to the Austrian school and free market ideals.”

If you want year-round sunshine, you can always come to central Florida and take one of my courses in investments, history of thought, or Austrian economics at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida (near Orlando). (See www.rollins.edu/.).

Austriae est imperare orbi universo!

* See Jon E. Hilsenrath, “In Hot Pursuit of Economics Ph.D.s—Short Supply and Big Demand Mean Young Graduates Are Courted Like Royalty,” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2001, p. B1

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July 2001

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