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There you go again, Pete

July 4, 2009

My friend Peter Boettke is at it again. Pete is notorious for flippantly propagating gross distortions of the history of the modern Austrian revival. In a recent talk on “Socialism and Transition” at the Foundation for Economic Education Pete is caught in the midst of a discussion of incentives and socialism making the following jaw-dropping statement (at 51:55 of the podcast): “A few years ago at the Mises thing, Hans Hoppe said ‘No Hayekian economist ever believes in private property rights.’”

The “Mises thing” Pete is referring to was the first annual Austrian Scholars Conference held in 1995 at the Mises institute in Auburn Alabama. I was also in attendance at Hoppe’s talk that Pete alludes to and never heard him make such a statement.

Although I do not recall Hoppe’s exact words, I do recollect the gist of what Hoppe said, which was that those who adhere to Hayek’s position in the socialist calculation debate of the 1930s believe that lack of the knowledge conveyed by past prices and not the lack of private property rights, exchange, and monetary calculation based on anticipated prices is the essential problem of socialist central planning.

Whether one agrees with Hoppe’s position or not, thus stated it is certainly a far cry from the position that Boettke attributes to him. Not trusting to my own fallible memory, I asked two others who were also in attendance if Hoppe made the statement that Boettke alleged, i.e., that Hayekians do not believe in private property rights. They confirmed my recollection. Whether Pete was just fishing for cheap laughs–which he got when he later added “What the hell is he talking about”–or whether he had one of his typical lapses of memory, is not important. Since Pete is one of the most visible spokesman for Masonomics, I think it behooves him to express himself with greater attention to the facts and in a more scholarly fashion.

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