Advice on Economic Careers

Dear D: You ask, “… is it really worth all the trouble for me to play the university’s games and get a degree?”

My friend Tom Woods has asked me to respond to this letter of yours. First, let me say that I share your admiration for Tom. If there were a Tom Woods fan club, I’d join, with alacrity. I, too, have learned, and greatly so, from him.

Now to answer your question.

Is it worth it? It all depends upon your goal, and your taste for risk. If want to be a college professor and have a low taste for risk, then it is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that  you play the academic game: get your bacheolor’s degree, and then the phd.

You will not be able to get a job teaching at a university without a phd. Yes, you will have a hard row to hoe at your present university. I imagine that none of your econ professors have even heard of Austrian economics; on the rare occasion they have, either they think it has something to do with the economics of that country in Europe, or they hate and revile it, dismissing it as a cult. But, the glass is always half full. There is benefit in learning mainstream economics. If you want to criticize it from an Austrian point of view, you must, first, learn it. (Also, I suggest you stay in the Austrian closet for as long as you can bear it; most neoclassical profs will not be tickled pink hearing devastating critiques of their views from the praxeological perspective.) Happily, though, now, you can get your phd in economic with a strong Austrian flavor at several universities. When you get to that stage, do get back to me for further suggestions.

On the other hand, if you have a high taste for risk, and want to earn a living as an Austrian economist (not as a university professor!), you could quit school right now, and try to do so. I don’t recommend that at all. It will be a long uphill struggle (not that getting a phd is a piece of cake). You might have to support yourself as a waitor, or barrista, as do many would-be actors, while you continue writing from an Autrian point of view and try to pick up some consultancies, or via a blog, like Tom. I really, really recommend against this course of action.

Also, do not turn up your nose at “biotech or astronomy.” My undergrad degree, at Brooklyn College, also had a liberal arts program. I was forced to take physics, chemistry, biology, history, literature, etc., etc. Tom Woods is not a narrow economist. His interest range widely over history (his phd), economics of course, but also, philosophy, politics, law, science, etc. Tom’s and my mentor, Murray Rothbard, was if anything, even more wide ranging. There was scarcely a field about which Murray was ignorant.

If you find this response insufficient, please feel free to get back to me. Also, you may want to peruse this material:

July 24-30, 2011 Auburn, AL, Mises University; Debate with Gary North on higher education; http://mises.org/events/110;http://media.mises.org/mp3/MU2011/10_MisesU_20110726_Block.mp3http://media.mises.org/mp3/MU2011/27_MisesU_20110727_Block.mp3;http://media.mises.org/mp3/MU2011/16_MisesU_20110726_Block-North_Debate.mp3; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/93031.html; http://www.garynorth.com/public/9121.cfm

Block, Walter E. 2008. “Attention Students: Should You Get Your Ph.D. and Become a Professor?” June 28; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/block/block104.html (contra Gary North)

Block, Walter E. 2012. “Contra Gary North,” June 1; https://archive.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/113384.html

Block, Walter E. 2012. “Contra Gary North,” June 1; (normative-positive; grad school) https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/contra-gary-north/

Careers in Austrian Economics

From: Thomas Woods [mailto:tom@tomwoods.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 12:36 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Fwd: Is it worth it?

Walter, perhaps this would make good blog post?

Name:

D

Email:

Subject:

Is it worth it?

Message:

Dear Tom,

I have recently stumbled upon your podcast and have inevitably fallen into the Austrian Economics rabbit hole. I visit the Mises Institute page daily and listen to your podcast as often as I’m allowed the time to do so along with other libertarian/austrian voices. The knowledge I’ve gained from all of you has changed my life more than any other education I recall having received. I’m now passionate about austrian economics and libertarianism and will even be attempting to start my own podcast with my brother because I believe these things so deeply.

I’m really writing to you though because I’m in great need of advice. I’m currently (and unfortunately) a college student at my local university, XYZ University. I want to study economics but because I simply cannot afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to somewhere like George Mason University, I’m stuck with my state colleges that obviously do not teach proper economics. I feel as though I’m stuck because I want to have a career as an austrian economist but am lead to believe that the only way I can get a career is by following the nonsensical college education system that requires me to take general education courses like “careers in biotech” or “astronomy” or whatever thing that has absolutely no relevance to what I desire to study.

 

My question is: Is it possible for me to get to where you are without having to waste my time playing the game of college education or is it really worth all the trouble for me to play the university’s games and get a degree? I am member of your liberty classroom and have been trying to study there and love it, but because I have to focus on college assignments and a part-time job I’m left with little time to actually do so. Even if it were the case that I was able to get all the education out of your program, I don’t think businesses or employers would really care that much about it because they don’t see it as an established university.

I appreciate all that you do and the knowledge you continue to spread.

-D

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3:15 pm on May 23, 2019