Apriorist self-interest: How it embraces altruism and is not vacuous

Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 20 (3):221-232 (1997)
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Abstract

This essay is part of an attempt to reconcile two extreme views in economics: the (neglected) subjective, apriorist approach and the (standard) objective, scientific (i.e., falsifiable) approach. The Austrian subjective view of value, building on Carl Menger’s theory of value, was developed into a theory of economics as being entirely an a priori theory of action. This probably finds its most extreme statement in Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (1949). In contrast, the standard economic view has developed into making falsifiable predictions about economic phenomena whereby the truth of the assumptions, especially about economic agents, is relatively unimportant: predictive fecundity is all. This finds an extreme statement in Milton Friedman’s introductory essay in his Essays in Positive Economics (1953). However, many economists fall somewhere between the two extremes, such as McKenzie and Tullock (1978).

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J. C. Lester
London School of Economics

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