The debate continues.
From Robert Wenzel with responses from Dr. Walter Block in blue:
When you write:
"We have a different view about Austrian economics. As I see matters, praxeology does not apply to ALL theories, only to some. For example, free trade makes all parties to it better off, ex ante. There is a tendency for profits to equalize across industries (ignoring risk). Rent control reduces the quality of rental housing, ceteris paribus. Minimum wages unemploy unskilled workers. Demand curves slope downwards (phooey on Giffen goods). These are apodictically true, necessarily so, and they refer to the real world. They are not “theories”; they are economic laws. But, then, for mainstream economists and also Austrians, there are theories: A 10% rise in the price of beans will call forth a 5% (10%?, 15%) decrease in the price demanded, within a specified time limit. Or, stop and frisk, will reduce crime rates. Or, the broken window theory is correct. Here, there is no necessity. This is not praxeology. These are empirical claims, and can only be (tentatively) settled by resort to the evidence."
Are you rejecting what Mises wrote when he said?
"There is no means to abstract from a historical experience a posteriori any theories or theorems concerning human conduct and policies." (Human Action scholars edition p.41)
Second, do you really think you are using the term theory in the same sense as mainstream economists?
And, when you put a "specified time limit" on your price of beans "theory" why don't you do the same for your stop and frisk "theory", what is the difference?
Good point on your side. No. I take that back: excellent point of yours.
I think Mises and I are using the word “theory” differently. So, he and I are having a mere verbal dispute. I’m happy to change the word “theory” in what I wrote to “hypothesis.” Ok, so, along with Mises, we can readily say that no theories may be properly generated from a posteriori experience. But, I contend, that hypotheses may properly be so generated. Namely, we can have empirical generalizations. For example, men are taller than women (on average); men are heavier than women (on average); men are stronger than women (on average). These are not laws (thesises in Misesian terms), but, rather, pretty well established empirical hypotheses. I’d place stop and frisk in this sort of a category. S&F is not only statistically correlated with reduced crime, but, also, causally related. Namely, it reduces crime. A hypothesis, not a theory, so as to accord with Misesian language. Or, to use my language, this is a theory, but not an economic, praxeological, apodictic, law.
I think I see a way to reconcile all three of our positions. You two have to concede to me that from an ancap point of view, with all property privately owned, those owners who want to impose s&f on their customers may do so without violating rights. Also, the same from the point of view of minarchism: again s&f is not a rights violation. However, I now concede to you that from an ancap point of view, not with all property privately owned, but, rather, with streets, parks, etc., still under the ownership of the state, that s&f is indeed a rights violation, but only if and only if the target of the s&f is entirely innocent. On the other hand, if the target of the s&f is entirely innocent, then we can tell, after the fact, that s&f was not a rights violation.
But "men are taller than women (on average); men are heavier than women (on average); men are stronger than women (on average)" are examples in the physical world. Mises would agree with you here that we only have empirical evidence when it comes to the physical world. He is rejecting the notion that this can be carried over to the science of human action, regardless of what you call it theory or hypothesis. He is rejecting the idea of empirical forecasts in the science of human action. I don't believe it is just a case of differences in terminology with Mises.
I do not believe it is a case of terminology with mainstream economists, either. They are not using the term theory in the same way you are, even if you switch to calling what you are doing hypothesis, they think they are arriving at what you would call economic "laws." There are using empirical evidence in a more extreme sense than you are.
Also, please don't forget to answer this question:
"When you put a 'specified time limit' on your price of beans 'theory' why don't you do the same for your stop and frisk 'theory', what is the difference?"
Your reconciliation option for our three positions does have something to say for it, but I would think on a practical level it would virtually eliminate stop and frisk. I hope to put an essay together with some other options. Hopefully in the next couple of days.
For most people, coffee and tea are substitutes, not complements. That’s a theory of mine. Or a hypothesis. Ditto: for most people, coffee and cream are complements; ditto for beer and pretzels.
You ask, aver: "When you put a 'specified time limit' on your price of beans 'theory' why don't you do the same for your stop and frisk 'theory', what is the difference?"
I can do so. The longer time period s&f is in operation, the more effect it will have, but the marginal effect will decrease. That is, crime will decrease, but at a decreasing rate.
Your answer does not provide for why you put a "specified time limit" on your price of beans theory? What is the driving factor?
Also, when you write:
"For most people, coffee and tea are substitutes, not complements. That’s a theory of mine."
Do you see this as just an observational fact, or do you think that this is a forecast on your part that must continue forever?
Earlier debate posts in this series: