Wednesday, June 30, 2021

RIP Steve Horwitz

Steven G. Horwitz died the day before yesterday of lymphoma at age 57.  Probably most reading this do not know who he was, but he was somebody I knew quite well, even as I disagreed with him quite a lot about economics. He was arguably the leading monetary economist out of the group of neo-Austrian economists who came out of George Mason University and who have been closely linked to Peter Boettke who is there, arguably the leader of the Hayekian branch of modern Austrian economics. Probably his most influential work was a book he published in 1992, Mometary Evolution, Free Banking and Economic Order. While I have never been a supporter of free banking what I liked about this book was that he clearly based his arguments on Hayek's view of economic complexity and how this brought about the spontaneous emergence of economic order, with Steve one of the leaders of thinking in such terms among Austrian economists. I cited this book in my one that has just come out, Foundations and Applications of Complexity Economics.

There is perhaps another reason why I am making this post.  I interviewed Steve for a job, not me being hired, but him being possibly hired at JMU when he came out of George Mason as a fresh PhD in 1990.  It was one of those hotel room interviews, and he did not get invited onto campus as the others from JMU in the interview did not support him coming in. But I found him interesting, and I am not surprised that he came to be quite well known, even if he was not at high powered places. Most of his career he was St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, followed by being at Ball State University in Indiana, where he held a chaired professorship.  Anyway, it seems odd to have someone clearly quite a bit younger whom I interacted with as a more senior person dying.

As I noted, he and I disagreed quite a bit. But somehow we ran into each other here and there quite a bit over the years, and I did have him in to JMU to speak some years ago. We never coauthored, but he did coedit a book I had a paper in on spontaneous order and political economy.  I always enjoyed talking with him as he could always stand his ground and provide strong defenses for his positions.  He indeed was probably the best monetary theorist of his group.

Anyway, I shall miss him. RIP, Steve.

Barkley Rosser 


kevin quinn said...

Barkley: I saw this, too, and was saddened. Although I didn't know him well, I met him at a conference on pluralism in economics at UM-KC and then at a second conference along the same lines in Salt Lake City.

I recently had a piece on the history of economic thought as a liberalizing endeavor, based in part on my experience, coming out of American University's poltical economy program, in interacting over the years with, inter alia, GMU people. I would go to conferences and find that the people who tended to know the texts I spent my time with -- Smith's WN and TMS, Hume's Essays and History, and even Keynes' GT--were very often libertarians. It is also a memorial to a great intellectual friend, Don Lavoie, who also died way too young, in his fifties, and who I met when he was assigned to be a discussant on a paper I presented at the Easterns which was a critique of some of his work. Rather than eviscerate me, as I feared, he praised the paper and told me to send it to Critical Review, where it was published. We kept in touch: he had me present work on Smith at GMU (the lion's den, as it were, for me) and we found we had a common interest in Arendt and put together a panel on Arendt and Economics for the Easterns. Don read everything--his knowledge of Marx's work rivalled that of most Marxists!--and he was a model 0f open-mindedness and passionate engagement with the texts of our discipline. I miss him greatly -

kevin quinn said...

The paper, I meant to say, was in Econ Journal Watch, "Knowledge and Humanity: The History of Economic Thought as a Refined Liberal Art," -- in case anyone is interested.