An Update on Buchanan’s comments on Wiseman and Shackle

This is an update on my post on what Buchanan claims about Shackle and Wiseman.

I have claimed that Buchanan’s comments on radical subjectivism (that radical subjectivism is a nihilistic position) is absurd but it is a common straw man to make. Specifically that if one was to “go all the way down the road” to a radical subjectivist position, like that of Shackle’s, one just ends up with a nihilistic position and thus the closest person to his methodology would be Jack Wiseman. I have claimed that Wiseman is not that different than Shackle when it comes to writing about uncertainty and how it applies to economics. Now I have a comment by Wiseman that confirms that he was part of the radical subjectivist position that Buchanan accuses of being the nihilistic school of thought. From his foreword to his essay “General Equilibrium or Market Process: An Evaluation” :

This essay returns to the critique of established theory…It is concerned with the question of equilibrium, but although the conference assignment for which it was prepared called for a comparison of neoclassical general equilibrium theory and Austrian market process, I interpreted my remit more ambitiously, to incorporate a criticism of both formulations from the point of view of a radical subjectivist, and to make some suggestions as to what is now needed… The paper concludes by extending the discussion to incorporate the arguments of radical subjectivists such as Shackle, Littlechild*, Lachmann, and myself.

I haven’t read the essay yet, just the foreward, but it sounds like a pretty interesting essay. Obviously he is challenging the neoclassical equilibrium position in this essay but he is also giving a critique to fellow Austrians. Here is Wiseman:

The Austrian specification of the problem is more appealing, in that it recognizes many of the difficulties of the neo-classical model. But writers in this genre then generally fail to come to terms with the radical implications of their own insights, preferring rather to argue that there is nothing wrong with neo-classical economics that could not be remedied by a return to its earlier traditions. Austrians continue to be preoccupied with notions of consistency and harmony, to the comparative neglect of the powerful insights implied by the role in human decision of the ‘filter of the human mind’, radical uncertainty and spontaneous learning.

*I actually don’t know much about Stephen C. Littlechild (Wiseman does mention him a few times throughout several of his articles) but Wiseman does consider him a radical subjectivist. I plan to study Littlechild’s writing sometime in the near future.

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3 responses to “An Update on Buchanan’s comments on Wiseman and Shackle

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