Subjectivism and Traditional Austrian Business Cycle Theory: Could They Be Incompatible?
“On the one hand we want to have a time structure of production in order to have our theory of the trade cycle. On the other hand we often cop out by describing it as purely subjective; the time structure of production describes something about the plans of entrepreneurs and in this sense varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. But we can't have it both ways. If it supports ATBC, then it's an "objective" notion. If it is a "subjective" notion, the ATBC cannot be sustained. I wish we would pick up on a suggestion by Peter Lewin and cut the Gordonian knot with the idea of "duration." Before we can do that, however, we have to see the problem and it's my impression that almost no Austrians see the problem.”
This is an interesting point, although I’m not sure whether I entirely agree with it. However, if this dichotomy of subjective entrepreneurial plans and objective physical capital really cannot be bridged, I think that I would have to take the side of subjectivism.
After giving more thought to this, I think that we should discard the time component as a critical part of the theory. While we can say that inflation alters the number of stages of production and introduces greater uncertainty into the system, we can’t talk about the process in a uni-dimensional manner. Because of the existence of looping in the capital structure (some production processes may produce materials that later end up in that same process), the order of any production process is an entirely subjective phenomenon, existing only in the interlocking plans of entrepreneurs. Therefore, a distorted rate of interest can only be said to disfigure and warp the web of interconnected capital. Although we might be able to empirically discern more specific tendencies, given a particular capital structure, the theory itself cannot give us any more information. We need to accept that we cannot derive a satisfying business cycle theory without empirical insight.