Meet the editors of... Advances in Austrian Economics
An interview with: Professors Roger Koppl and Steven G. Horwitz
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus
Professor Roger Koppl is professor of economics and finance in the Silberman College of Business, and director of the Institute for Forensic Science Administration at Fairleigh Dickinson University. In addition to being series editor of Advances in Austrian Economics, he is also book review editor of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, and has edited a special issue of that journal and of The Review of Austrian Economics.
He is also the author of numerous publications, including Big Players and the Economic Theory of Expectations (Koppl, 2002), for which he won the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics' annual best-book prize.
Professor Steven G. Horwitz is Charles A. Dana professor of economics at St Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He is the author of two books, Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective (Horwitz, 2000) and Monetary Evolution, Free Banking, and Economic Order (Horwitz, 1992).
He has written extensively on Austrian economics, Hayekian political economy, monetary theory and history, and the economics and social theory of gender and the family.
About the book series
Advances in Austrian Economics is dedicated to the rich, central-European tradition of economic thought and research in the social sciences. It began with Carl Menger's great 1871 work, Principles of Economics, and continued with such important economists as Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek. Since the Second World War, the tradition has mostly been cultivated in the US, although it also provided the basis of post-war economic reforms in Germany. Not as mathematical or model dominated as many other schools, it is open to influences from other disciplines, such as philosophy, sociology, psychology and the cognitive sciences.
Each volume in the series covers a specific theme, and contributions are double-blind peer reviewed. Editorial policy is to be open to both "Austrian" and "non-Austrian" scholars, in the spirit of welcoming dialogue and strengthening the contribution of the Austrian school to social science research. It also believes that Austrian economics is not a doctrine or a method, but a rich tradition of research in the social sciences whose potential has by no means been exhausted.
Can you explain how "Austrian economics" differs from other schools of economic thought?
Austrian economists have generally paid more attention than others to certain questions about knowledge and economics. We emphasize the limits of theorists' knowledge of "economic actors". As far back as 1920, for example, Austrian economists argued that mathematical modelling of the economy, as advocated by socialist planners, did not allow for the complexity of human behaviour and that, as a result, socialist economies would be less productive than market economies.
Mainstream economists are much more aware of such knowledge problems today, but Austrian economists place greater emphasis on the limits of knowledge and the difficulties these limits create for policymakers. This greater emphasis on the limits of knowledge follows from our greater attention to subjectivism. We ask whether "real" people could really be expected to do what the theory says.
Your editorial policy is to be eclectic and welcome perspectives from other disciplines and schools. How does this translate into the types of contributions you encourage?
We believe that truth is an economic good: it is scarce and hard to find. Since no one has a monopoly on the truth we need to have lots of exchange between different points of view. Thus we welcome contributions that may be quite far from the Austrian perspective, but intersect with it in interesting ways. We want engagement, not agreement.
What do you see as the merits of book series, as opposed to journals, as a means of scholarly communication?
Each volume of Advances in Austrian Economics is devoted to a theme. Thus, we have a kind of dialogue across articles that you don't always get in journals. We think that helps the reader to see how competing points of view interact. It can be a very rich and stimulating vehicle for new ideas.
Who are your main readers?
We are aiming at a broad audience. Each issue will be of interest to Austrian economists, of course, but we seem to be reaching the profession as a whole, as well as disciplines outside of economics that intersect with it, such as psychology and entrepreneurial studies.
What are your plans for future volumes?
We have an exciting volume coming up on the Austrian economist F.A. Hayek and his ideas on psychology. His 1952 book The Sensory Order: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Theoretical Psychology was a pioneering work in cognitive psychology and the theory of the mind.
Another volume in the pipeline will feature articles from a conference on Austrian economics sponsored by the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies. We expect the conference to be a biennial event and we expect to publish the conference volumes.
The publishing process
How do you select your theme, and your contributors, for each volume?
Themes depend partly on the state of the scholarship out there. The growing importance of entrepreneurial studies, for example, naturally suggested a volume on that topic. We are also open to ideas from potential volume editors. Potential contributors may be responding to a call for papers or they could be directly approached by a volume editor. In any event, all contributions are subject to a double-blind referee process.
What is the role of the volume editor?
A volume's editors are responsible for the volume's theme and the coherence of the overall result. They are responsible for soliciting potential contributors and for governing the referee process. Sometimes these duties can require skills they don't teach you at graduate school, such as gently prodding slow referees and diplomatically rejecting papers from scholars you know and respect.
How does your peer review system work, and what do your reviewers look for?
We stick with the standard process. Volume editors are responsible for knowing who could judge the merits of potential contributions and arranging for suitable reviewers. Referees are not to judge papers on whether they agree with them, but on their scholarly merits: Do the authors know the state of the literature today? Is the argument new or otherwise a contribution to the literature? And so on. It is very important for editors to choose reviewers who will evaluate potential contributions on such grounds rather than on narrow or partisan considerations.
Can you describe a typical development cycle, from initial idea up to submission of the final manuscript to Emerald (i.e. how many review stages do you have, how do you decide how to divide up the book and in what order chapters should appear, etc.)?
It's usually a two-year process that begins with a good idea for a theme. Of course there's no telling where such an idea might come from. I vividly recall one that emerged from a lunch conversation on a beautiful June day in the Provence countryside. A potential editor should share his or her idea with the series editors. If we think it works, the editor will then round up a group of potential contributors. Typically it takes about a year before all potential contributions have been submitted and, perhaps, another six months before the process of reviewing, revising, and resubmitting has run its course. Once the volume has been submitted to Emerald, it takes about three months to produce. Sometimes you can squeeze the process down to about a year, but that's not always possible.
Contribution to the debate
Lawrence White (2008) states that Austrian economists have not been successful at getting cited or influencing the mainstream economics' research agenda. How can this situation change?
The key is for Austrians to do the most careful, complete, and powerful scholarly work they can while also finding ways to address the issues that mainstream economics thinks are central. Doing so requires that Austrians not only pay careful attention to what is going on in the mainstream of the discipline, but that they also treat that work with respect, even as they might wish to criticize it. The idea of "advances" in Austrian economics is therefore twofold: First, we wish to provide a series in which these sorts of Austrian-mainstream interactions can take place and thereby advance our understanding of the topic at hand; and second, we wish to provide a series in which Austrian economists can advance their own ideas, both by internally developing that tradition and also by bringing it into contact with the rest of the profession, especially ideas and approaches that are related to what Austrians do.
Austrians certainly need to try to get published in the very mainstream journals of which they are frequently critical, but there is a place for a series like Advances where we give Austrians and others an opportunity to confront key research topics in ways that we hope will forward the respect given to Austrian ideas.
Steven, you believe that the current economic crisis was caused by interventionist government policy, and not unbridled capitalism (Horwitz, 2009). What insights can Austrian economics offer us, as we seek to extricate ourselves from the Great Recession?
There are two key insights that differentiate Austrian analyses of the recession from most others. First, Austrians emphasize the microeconomic factors at play. Yes, Austrians talk much about the ways in which the Federation's monetary policy was a core cause of the mess, but they also recognize that the way in which the excess credit led to trouble was by distorting interest rates and prices, which thereby led to misallocation of resources at the microeconomic level.
What this means for extracting ourselves is that we need to let the microeconomic market process continue to reallocate resources away from where they shouldn't have been and back to where they should be.
Interfering with that reallocation process through bailouts, subsidies, stimuli and the like only makes matters worse by preventing the needed corrective. As many Austrians like to say, the recession isn't the problem, it's the cure! The recession reflects a necessary reallocation of resources in the face of the end of the boom, revealing all the mistakes we made over the last decade. Saying that does not preclude an important role for monetary policy in ensuring that the money supply is adequate to meet the demand to hold money, and avoiding the sort of catastrophic deflation we saw in the early 1930s. We want to maintain the total effective volume of circulation while still allowing micro-level reallocation to take place.
Second, and relatedly, Austrians emphasize the limits of the knowledge of politicians and policymakers. All of the various "plans" to get us out of this mess rely on what Hayek called a "pretence of knowledge" on the part of policymakers. The whole raison d'être of markets and competition is that we cannot know how resources should be allocated without them. The Austrian focus on the way in which market institutions enable us to overcome ignorance and learn, demarcates it from most mainstream approaches in which policymakers (and economists!) are assumed to know, generally, how resources should be allocated. True recovery from the recession involves letting markets figure out where resources should be allocated.
Horwitz, S. (1992), Monetary Evolution, Free Banking, and Economic Order, Westview, CO.
Horwitz, S. (2000), Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective, Routledge, London.
Horwitz, S. (2009), "The 'Great Recession' as the institutional and ideological residue of the Great Depression", paper presented at the Symposium on the Economy in Crisis: Causes and Cures, Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics at Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, March 18.
Koppl, R. (2002), Big Players and the Economic Theory of Expectations, Palgrave Macmillan, London.
White, L.H. (2008), "The research program of Austrian economics", Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 11, pp. 11-24.
Professors Roger Koppl and Steven G. Horwitz were interviewed in September 2009.
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