Wieser and Smart: Austrian Classics Online
The latest additions to the Molinari Online Library are two early classics of the Austrian School:
- First: the 1893 English translation of Friedrich von Wieser’s 1889 treatise Natural Value. Wieser – student of Menger, brother-in-law of Böhm-Bawerk, and teacher of Hayek – was one of the founders of the Austrian tradition in economics. He’s admittedly somewhat heterodox from the standpoint of mainline Austrian theory; for example, he rejects Böhm-Bawerk’s theory of interest on the grounds that positive time-preference is irrational (a “sign of a defective economy”); and Joseph Salerno has argued that Wieser’s whole concept of “natural value” veers too closely to a general equilibrium approach. But Wieser’s treatise is nevertheless a useful and fascinating discussion of subjective value and marginal utility from a broadly Mengerian standpoint, and certainly deserves its place among the founding Austrian texts. And moreover, while he is certainly friendlier to government intervention than Mises or even Hayek, Wieser does offer a partial anticipation of Mises’ calculation argument against socialist central planning.
- Second: William Smart’s 1891 primer An Introduction to the Theory of Value on the Lines of Menger, Wieser, and Böhm-Bawerk. Smart was the first English translator of Böhm-Bawerk (as well editor of the Wieser volume above), and his Introduction has been described by Salerno as a “lucid and highly sympathetic introduction to Austrian value theory.” In later years Smart moved away from a pure Austrian position in order to impale himself on the Marshallian “scissors”; in the interest of maximum usefulness to scholars, this online version includes both the fully Austrian first edition and the semi-Marshallian second edition.
Wieser’s Natural Value has been available online previously, but only in an incomplete, error-ridden, and de-formatted ASCII version. (I don’t promise that my version has no errors, only that it has fewer errors.) Smart’s Introduction to the Theory of Value, as far as I know, has never been previously available online (in either edition).