Sunday, October 16, 2011

Personal Value Judgments

Ludwig von MisesImage via Wikipedia
In the, so far, excellent foreword to Ludwig von Mises's Epistemological Problems of Economics, Jörg Guido Hülsmann makes the following curious statement:
The discipline of economics dealt with human action to the extent that the acting person could base his decisions on personal value judgments and economic calculations, whereas praxeology dealt with human choices guided by personal value judgments alone.
But economic calculation simply augments personal value judgments.  Any analogy might be the use of a scale when confronted by two sacks of potatoes.  Which one should I buy?  The scale is a tool that can aid me in that decision, assuming that I want to buy a greater weight of potatoes for my money.  However, the color of the potatoes, their apparent age and quality may override my desire for the greater weight.  The scale simply supplies a quantitative input to my value judgment, the basis for every choice I make.

If the statement were instead, "personal value judgments in the context of economic calculations," I would be in complete agreement.  I suspect that Dr. Hülsmann would change the phrasing himself if asked about this seeming separation of value judgments and economic calculation.

Update: Further on,  Dr. Hülsmann does, indeed, seem to come more into alignment with my understanding of the Austrian view.
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