When I told a friend of mine three years ago that I was interested in Austrian economics she asked “Isn’t that just selling cuckoo clocks and lederhosen?” True, she wasn’t the brightest, but Austrian economics was fringe stuff. An influential school originating in Vienna in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century it was largely buried under the Keynesian avalanche of the 1930’s. That’s changing.
The Austrian school survived in America where émigré economists escaping the turmoil of 1930s Europe inspired a new generation. Perennial presidential candidate Ron Paul is an advocate of Austrian economics and the Ludwig von Mises Institute dominates the field.
But the economic crisis has seen the school gain new popularity in Britain. Radio 4 broadcast one show, "Yo Hayek!", which examined the ideas of one of the leading Austrian school economists, and a debate between Keynesians and "Hayekians" (the Austrians won). The Economist, bastion of conventional economics, recently carried a complimentary piece. The Institute of Economic Affairs has produced or reproduced a number of works in and on the Austrian school and Eamonn Butler has written an excellent short introduction for the Adam Smith Institute. In The Cobden Centre the UK now has its own Austrian-minded think tank and in May last year the first (to my knowledge) Austrian MP, Steve Baker, was elected.