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Study Rothbard in the Digital Universe of the Mises Academy

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Tags Austrian Economics Overview

04/14/2011Robert P. Murphy

I am pleased to announce that in late April I will start teaching the Mises Academy's first class on Murray Rothbard's masterpiece, Man, Economy, and State. This course, Austrian Economics I: Praxeology to Price Theory, will cover the first third of the book.

The Scope of the Course

This course runs for eight weeks, from April 27 through June 21. We will move methodically through the first four chapters (a little more than 300 pages) of Rothbard's treatise. Ideally, students will read his text in the original, but those who are able to make only a smaller time commitment can still benefit from the course if they rely on my (much shorter) Study Guide instead.

Man, Economy, and State is Rothbard's magnum opus, in which he constructs the entire edifice of modern Austrian economics from scratch. Rothbard is a wonderful writer, who assumes nothing on the part of his reader except dedication and a willingness to think through the implications of various economic principles. In this respect, Man, Economy and State is a much better stand-alone text for learning Austrian economics than even Mises's Human Action, because at times Mises assumed that his reader was a Renaissance man well versed in not only economics but also philosophy.

Although we won't cover every last topic discussed in Rothbard's work, the slow pace will allow us to discuss all of the major points in careful detail. The student who completes this first course on Rothbard's masterpiece will have a solid foundation for a thorough understanding of modern Austrian economics in the Rothbardian tradition.

In addition to covering the philosophical moorings of Austrian economics, we will go through the mechanics of equilibrium price formation under direct exchange, including alternate concepts of demand, such as the Wicksteedian "total demand to hold." (This approach is more useful when it comes to the explanation of the demand for money.) We will then cover the emergence of indirect exchange and ultimately money (involving Mises's famous regression theorem), and how the consumer allocates his money income across various consumption goods.

There are no prerequisites to this class, though students who have taken my (much more basic) Principles of Economics course will find this one to be a natural successor.

These topics will involve fairly standard features such as the determination of supply-and-demand curves, but also advanced Austrian analysis of the nature of utility and the "welfare-economics" analysis of the benefits of markets. (Click on the side image to see a screenshot of the full syllabus for registered students.)

Structure of the Course

In a typical week of the course, I will give a live video broadcast on Wednesday from 6:00–7:30pm EDT. I will spend the first hour lecturing on that week's material, and then I will field questions from students for the remaining half hour. In addition, on Saturday I will have "office hours" (the times varying from week to week to cater to different students), meaning that I will be available on a live video broadcast to answer questions from any students who tune in.

Note that the Saturday sessions are purely for the students' convenience, and are not mandatory. Also, all broadcasts will b recorded and available to enrolled students, so that people who have a scheduling conflict can still take the class if they wish.

If a student wishes, he or she can simply "audit" the class. This was a popular option for many adults who took my classes on the business cycle and the Federal Reserve, because they could watch my lectures without having to keep up with the reading.

However, students may also take the class for a grade. These students will take a multiple-choice quiz each week, in addition to a final exam. Although the Mises Institute is not accredited, we will present certificates of completion and a formal grade at the end of the class to those students who desire it.

The Future of the Mises Academy

Whether it is in one of my classes or those offered by other instructors, I strongly encourage you to participate in the Mises Academy if you haven't already done so. Because of the economies of scale, we are able to provide top-flight instruction at a fraction of the cost of a typical university online class. As the awareness and popularity of the Mises Academy grows, we can offer an expanding list of courses from a growing stable of superb instructors.

For those who are interested in the idea of taking online classes, but worry about the actual implementation, here are some comments from my students in the online business-cycle class:

"Murphy was fantastic in both lectures and Q&A. … Dr. Murphy's clarity, candor, and focus were really showcased in the extended Q&A sessions after lectures and during the office hours. He is very precise in his use of language, thinks quickly, and gives complete and patient answers."

"I loved the lectures and how open professor Murphy was with answering questions. He was able to switch from addressing introductory level questions to much more in depth questions without talking down to anyone or talking too much over anybody's head."

"I love Dr. Murphy's practical approach to teaching, the selection of reading, podcast, and PowerPoint materials were outstanding, the lectures were well-organized and conversational in tone, and the course itself was seamlessly integrated into a coherent whole. The online venue is also well organized and easy to navigate. …

[N]ot one of the classes I have taken in [a university online] program even remotely compares in quality to this class on the business cycle. … From literally every standpoint — quality of materials, teacher involvement and interaction with students, discussion forums, and use of multimedia, Mises wins hands down, and at a small fraction of the cost. I couldn't be more satisfied. Thank you for a wonderful learning experience — seriously."


Whether you are new to Austrian economics or a longtime fan intimidated by the classic works, this class will provide you with a solid grasp of the foundations of the school and its approach to price theory. I hope to see you in a couple of weeks!

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