June 23, 2003

Man as Machine

The Plight of 20th Century Economics
  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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We argue that in the 20th century economic theory took a path that purged human actors from economic analysis. We describe this evolution as the result of four competing visions in economics: the analytic narrative approach pursued by the classical economists, New Institutional Economics, and Austrian economics, the approach of the old institutional economics, the approach of modern neoclassical economics, and an approach that blended neoclassical economics with a particular form of game theory, which we call formalistic historicism. We contend that only the first of these visions is consistent with acting man as the center of economic analysis. Movement back to human-centered economics requires a return to this vision.