Burn the Heretics?

Arnold Kling has taken the "Are you an Austrian?" quiz, and has written an article about it on TCS, the title of which seems to echo my quibble.

Arnold is worried that the nature of the quiz (such that it makes the anarcho-capitalist position the comprehensive doctrine) means that the Austrian school is more of a 'sect' than a 'church'- interested mainly in doctrinal purity than spreading the good word.

Arnold explains his 78% rating and introduces his concern thus:

[...] For example, I subscribe to the quaint notion of national defense. When tyrants and would-be tyrants ask about our President, as Stalin once asked Churchill about the Pope, "How many divisions does he have?" I would like the answer to be "more than enough to smash you!" The Austrian School thinks that you do not need a government to provide national defense. The Mises.org weblog is as eager as any Dean Democrat to see the U.S. fail in Iraq.

I found it interesting that the "Are you an Austrian?" quiz does not distinguish between knowledge of doctrine and belief in doctrine. To me, this is symptomatic of a sect, which focuses on doctrinal purity above all else. For a sect, to know is to believe, and to believe is to know.

I share Arnold's concern about sects and doctrinal purity and the urge to purge and burn the heretics from one's midst. However, I think he is jumping the gun a bit. The Mises Institute is an important and highly valuable resource in disseminating Austrian theory, thought, and analysis. But it is not the Vatican; its members do not speak ex cathedra on matters of "doctrine" and it is not so that anyone who wants to be "Austrian" must follow their dictates.

Indeed, even on Catallarchy, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs on certain subjects, but we're all within the same umbrella and basic axioms (individualism, nonviolence, property, civil society & free exchange, etc). The same is true for those who accept the basic axioms of the Austrian school.

Arnold closes his thoughts thusly:

The future of Austrianism is uncertain. As a sect, insisting on adherence to all of its beliefs, the Austrian school will remain a committed but eccentric group.

The real need today is for an Austrianism that is more like a church. This would be a movement of economists that shares many beliefs but differs on others. I believe that information-age economics with many Austrian features will emerge. I am not sure whether today's Austrian sect will be pleased or put off by that result.

Perhaps, but I think what Arnold needs to realize is that there are multiple "schools within the school", or perhaps the word is 'traditions' or 'camps'- given that Hayek's views are significantly different than Rothbard, despite the fact that both were Mises' students. A number of other Austrian academics abound that, ala Catallarchy, hold to the core tradition but disagree on some of the specifics. The tent is big; the church is open, and I invite Arnold to come on in.
Update: more here and here.

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I too share Kling's

I too share Kling's admiration and concern for Austrian economics. I'm especially interested in the information problem and the role that competition plays as an efficient solution to dispersed knowledge. As for neo-classical economics, I only adopt the micro side, as I don't think anyone has gotten the macro right yet. There is definitely a role for Austrian criticism of central banking, but currently I think the criticism is too strong and turns people off who would otherwise be willing to listen.

"I found it interesting that

"I found it interesting that the "Are you an Austrian?" quiz does not distinguish between knowledge of doctrine and belief in doctrine."

What can he be talking about? Knowledge of Austrian economics would not make one an Austrian. The test was designed to determine how compatible one's economic views are with Austrianism.

Kling apparently thinks he did something they weren't expecting by answering according to his own positions rather than what he know the Austrian positions to be, but in fact he did what the test asked him to do.

I have been reading quite a

I have been reading quite a bit of Arnold, and think he is often misunderstood. The Austrian position would not appear so Sectarian, if they provided a responsible representation of the Keynesian, Chicago neoclassical, Socialist, and Monetarist positions. I got a 60 on the Quiz, finding there were at least 11 questions where I was opposed to all answers; simply taking the least offensive. lgl