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Faculty Spotlight Interview: Randall G. Holcombe

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Randall G. Holcombe is DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and taught at Texas A&M University and at Auburn University prior to coming to Florida State in 1988. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute, a Tallahassee-based think tank that specializes in issues facing state governments. He served on Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors from 2000 to 2006, and is past president of the Public Choice Society and the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. Dr. Holcombe is the author of twelve books and more than 150 articles published in academic and professional journals. His books include The Economic Foundations of Government (1994), Public Policy and the Quality of Life (1995), From Liberty to Democracy: The Transformation of American Government (2002), and Entrepreneurship and Economic Progress (2007). His primary areas of research are public finance and the economic analysis of public policy issues.


What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I have too many hobbies. I have an interest in music, and play guitar, keyboards, and enjoy electronic music. Regrettably, I have more interest than talent! I also enjoy photography. I am a jogger. I get out several times a week to jog, and run in local races. I am also a pilot and airplane owner, with a commercial pilot’s license, instrument and multi-engine ratings, and have accumulated more than 4,000 hours of flight time over the years.

What drew you to the Austrian school and to the Ludwig von Mises Institute?
I was drawn to the Austrian school by some classmates I had in graduate school. As an undergraduate major in economics, I never had any classes that had any Austrian content, so it was a revelation to me when some of my classmates who were familiar with the Austrian school pointed me in that direction. As to the second part of the question, the Ludwig von Mises Institute was drawn to me! I was a faculty member in the economics department at Auburn University when the Mises Institute was founded there. It was a wonderful and enthusiastic organization from the beginning, and it was a great experience for me to have been there to see the Institute develop from the very beginning.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
This is a tough question, because I have been inspired by lots of people. One person on that list would be James Buchanan, my dissertation director and one of the founders of the public choice movement. Another person, who would have to be high on the list of anyone who met him, is Murray Rothbard.

How essential is it that the Austrian school discuss entrepreneurship and does your book, Entrepreneurship and Economic Progress, bring any insights that mainstream economists fail to recognize?
Entrepreneurship has always been a key part of the Austrian school, but something that is left out of the neoclassical framework altogether. For the broader profession, I believe economists cannot have a good understanding of the nature of economic progress without making entrepreneurship a fundamental part of their analysis. That’s the main idea I would like to get across to the mainstream. For Austrian economists, who are already aware of the central role played by entrepreneurship, the book shows the way that I would integrate ideas developed by Kirzner, Schumpeter, and others, into a consistent story of economic progress.

Do you have any new works on the way?
Yes, I have several articles in progress, and another book, all of which rest on the foundation of entrepreneurship.

What kind of impact do you hope to make with your work? What drives you to do what you do?
Ideally, I would like to change the direction of the profession’s thinking. That’s probably wishful thinking on my part, because I don’t think my ideas, by themselves, have had that large an impact. But as a part of a school of thought, when you add my ideas to those of others who are headed in the same direction, together we can have an impact. You can see the increased visibility of the Austrian school over the past few decades. The school’s ideas remain relevant and I am convinced they will have a greater impact in the future, but it’s up to us to see that that happens.


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