Menger mania

I am going to be trying to write this preface to my translation of Silja Graupe’s Basho of Economics. So I might not be too on the mark this week. However, it is a good time to beg – I’m really looking for some editing jobs this month, which is lookin’ kind of Mother Hubbard bare. The dog wants a bone. LI wants a bone. The Landlady wants a bone. The phone company wants a bone. All God’s children want bones, want bones. So – if you want editing, research, proofreading, the whole deal, know somebody who wants same, know somebody who knows somebody, etc. – send them to me, please.

In the meantime, I’m going off to think about Carl Menger’s curious notions concerning the foundations of economics.


Anonymous said… google spreadsheet updates in realtime
Couldnt we use this for settlemnt? Seriously. I'm sitting here with another person with a laptop and when she enters numbers... Todd is well up in the top 10 of my favorite sane americans
Anonymous said…
hey, that's odd. Todd used to argue for scalability .. .but that was back when he posted articles on large commercial sites (aspnetwork?) .. .he's gone through some catharsis lately i noted.

Beckerath on Menger (kskuse the scanner's misreads; i did this in 1999): We may remark here that the transition from barser to safe for money should not beregarded as a transition from s i m p l e economie conditions calling for no reflection to c o m p l i c a t e d ones requiring this, To recognise that, the descriptions of bartering provided by travellers should be reed. Thus H Barth,the African explorer writes in his "Reisen und Entdeckungen in Nord und Zentral-Afrika von1849 bis 1855", ('Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa from 1849 to1855' : "A small farmer who brought his corn to the Monday market at Kukawa (in the Sudan) refused firmly to accept shells in payment and was seldom satisfied with thaler, (This is the well-knoen Maria Theresa thaler). He who wants to buy corn must accordingly, if he only possesses thaler barter these for shells, or rather he buys shells and with these, he buys a shirt _ ''kulgu" _ and only after repeated barter -transactions is he able to get his corn. The inconvenience experienced by a market frequenter is really so great that I frequently saw my servants return utterly exhausted," Karl Menger, from whose "Grundsaetze der Volkswirtschaftslehre' (Principles of Economics, second edition, p 245) the quotation is taken, reports even more circuitous, but quite common, barter operations from East Africa following V L Cameron's work "Across Africa" (1877).
from Part 5 of PEACE PLAN 11,
Public insurance and compensation money
by Ulrich von Beckerath

this text can be seen in full (probably done with a better scanner) at
roger said…
Thanks, Anonymous - although those comments reminded me of passages in an avant garde novel by James Kelman, Translated Accounts, that went way over my head a couple of years ago (I could nest, in this parenthesis, a story about getting drunk with Kelman years ago when I was trying to interview him, and the foggy memory of dancing on the stage at Zona Rosa at one point in that long fugue - but I won't).

Menger - like many of the 19th century economists - was really interested in the anthropological side of economics. But after the marginal revolution, this interest disappeared, as the market concept became an acid that dissolved all barriers - everything and nothing becomes a market. There's a market for sex (that is, any sex any person has occurs in the sex market), a market for kids, etc. Submerged in that conceptual inflation are all the distinctions between markets - which, as Polanyi claims, were not simply arbitrary constraints, but actually of the essence in defining the relationship between society and the economy. It is an odd thing that, until the seventeenth century, nobody in the world seemed to notice that there was such a thing as a science of economics. It is one of those odd things that tells us a lot about the set of objects and concepts that constitute the science of economics.

The most interesting thing about Menger to me - at this point in my Menger mania - is his own objection to mathematizing economics. The man who is considered one of the founders of the marginal utility school, who axiomatized the foundation of economics, seems, unaccountably, to have disdained the mathematical modeling that fascinated such as Jevons and Edgeworth. That disdain runs through the Austrian school. I'm not sure what to make of it. Did Menger realize that modeling would push economics to the very brink of irreality? for economics is the only science in which the mainstream actually despises empiricism - in which experiment is actually looked down upon.
Anonymous said…