Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

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Against Mistaken Moralizing

The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Tags EducationMedia and Culture

07/30/2014Leland B. Yeager

Volume 3, No. 1 (Spring 2000)

What the author objects to is assertions about morality linked to misconceptions and word games concerning money and its functions, property, and titles. Modern money does not consist and does not pretend to consist of commodities. Ban knotes, demand deposits, and the new means of payment being multiplied by modern technology do not even purport to be titles, whether valid or false, to underlying property.  What money is and what functions it performs are far better described by elaborating on the concept of record-keeping and clearing device. HHB’s present style of argumentation parallels, by the way, Hans Hermann Hoppe’s well-known claim to derive the whole libertarian policy stance from his so-called logic of argumentation and Murray N. Rothbard’s attempt to derive the same stance from the Lockean axioms of self-ownership and first appropriation. All are attempts to derive sweeping conclusions essentially from one or a very few moral axioms. Moralizing does have its place, but it is no substitute for detailed economic analysis of existing institutions and of the likely operating properties of contemplated reforms. 

Leland B. Yeager

Leland Yeager (1924-2018) was Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at Auburn University.