Some readers have expressed interest in the Austrian School of economics. What is the Austrian School, and what is its role?
The Austrian School is a branch of marginalist economics. It differs from the other schools of marginalism by avoiding mathematics. Instead, it specializes in advocating marginalist ideas in ordinary language. In contrast, most of the other schools of modern marginalism specialize in building mathematical models that are only accessible to those who have mastered the necessary higher mathematics.
The reason why the Austrian School avoids math is that unlike most professional economists they aim their arguments at the “non-mathematical” lay public. The Austrian School—as its name implies—began in German-speaking Austria. As a result, it soon found itself in intense ideological combat with the Marxist-led Austrian workers’ movement. While most marginalists simply ignored Marx, the Austrian School attempted to refute him.
The Austrians specialize in demoralizing intellectuals attracted to the workers’ movement, attempting to steer them toward reactionary bourgeois economics and politics instead.
Since they concentrate on refuting Marx, they are frequently somewhat more familiar with Marxist ideas than are most professional bourgeois economists. As intellectuals they love to play with ideas, and have in fact absorbed certain ideas from Marx, which they use for their own purposes. Undoubtedly, Austrian economic theory was influenced by the Austro-Marxist School and the Austro-Marxists were, in turn, influenced by the ideas of the Austrian School. I will examine some of these mutual influences below.