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Part Four: Catallactics or Economics of the... > Chapter XXIII. The Data of the Market

1. The Theory and the Data

Catallactics, the theory of the market economy, is not a system of theorems valid only under ideal and unrealizable conditions and applicable to reality merely with essential restrictions and modifications. All the theorems of catallactics are rigidly and without any exception valid for all phenomena of the market economy, provided the particular conditions which they presuppose are present. It is, for instance, a simple question of fact whether there is direct or indirect exchange. But where there is indirect exchange, all the general laws of the theory of indirect exchange are valid with regard to the acts of exchange and the media of exchange. As has been pointed out,1 praxeological knowledge is precise or exact knowledge of reality. All references to the epistemological issues of the natural sciences and all analogies derived from comparing these two radically different realms of reality and cognition are misleading. There is, apart from formal logic, no such thing as a set of "methodological" rules applicable both to cognition by means of the category of causality and to that by means of the category of finality.

Praxeology deals with human action as such in a general and universal way. It deals neither with the particular conditions of the environment in which man acts nor with the concrete content of the valuations which direct his actions. For praxeology data are the bodily and psychological features of the acting men, their desires and value judgments, and the theories, doctrines, and ideologies they develop in order to adjust themselves purposively to the conditions of their environment and thus to attain the ends they are aiming at. These data, although permanent in their structure and strictly determined by the laws controlling the order of the universe, are perpetually fluctuating and varying; they change from instant to instant.2

The fullness of reality can be mentally mastered only by a mind resorting both to the conception of praxeology and to the understanding [p. 647] of history; and the latter requires command of the teachings of the natural sciences. Cognition and prediction are provided by the totality of knowledge. What the various single branches of science offer is always fragmentary; it must be complemented by the results of all the other branches. From the point of view of acting man the specialization of knowledge and its breaking up into the various sciences is merely a device of the division of labor. In the same way in which the consumer utilizes the products of various branches of production, the actor must base his decisions on knowledge brought about by various branches of thought and investigation.

It is not permissible to disregard any of these branches in dealing with reality. The Historical School and the Institutionalists want to outlaw the study of praxeology and economics and to occupy themselves merely with the registration of the data or, as they call them nowadays, the institutions. But no statement concerning these data can be made without reference to a definite set of economic theorems. When an institutionalist ascribes a definite event to a definite cause, e.g., mass unemployment to the alleged deficiencies of the capitalist mode of production, he resorts to an economic theorem. In objecting to the closer examination of the theorem tacitly implied in his conclusions, he merely wants to avoid the exposure of the fallacies of his argument. There is no such thing as a mere recording of unadulterated facts apart from any reference to theories. As soon as two events are recorded together or integrated into a class of events, a theory is operative. The question whether there is any connection between them can only be answered by a theory, i.e., in the case of human action by praxeology. It is vain to search for coefficients of correlation if one does not start from a theoretical insight acquired beforehand. The coefficient may have a high numerical value without indicating any significant and relevant connection between the two groups.3

  • 1. See above, p. 39.
  • 2. Cf. Strigl, Die okonomischen Kategorien und die Organisation der Wirtschaft (Jena, 1923), pp. 18 ff.
  • 3. Cf. Cohen and Nagel, An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method (New York, 1939), pp. 316-322.