Top Schools to Study Austrian Economics

Peter Boettke’s Top Schools to Study Austrian Economics

Peter Boettke is a professor of economics at George Mason University. A prolific author, he is widely known for advancing Austrian/free-market ideas. In the article below, he ranks the top programs in Austrian economics. SuperScholar is grateful for the time and effort he put into these rankings.

For good and bad, the vast majority of graduate programs in economics offer roughly the same policy emphasis. To be sure, they emphasize different fields of study (e.g., industrial organization, monetary economics, and public economics) and different methods (e.g., formal theory, applied econometrics, computational methods, and experimental to name a few). In most graduate programs, there will usually be a few faculty members who have very strong sentiments about the market as the main allocation mechanism and pessimism about the government in that role. They certainly would not dominate, but they will not be absent either. And this is true whether we are talking about the elite programs such as Harvard, Chicago, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford or run-of-the-mill programs such as Iowa or Michigan or Maryland. It is no longer like the 1960s, where free market economists were only found at Chicago and its satellites such as UVA, UCLA, Washington, and Rochester.

Are there programs that self-consciously promote a market orientation to public policy questions? For such programs, one would want to see three or more faculty in a cluster promoting that perspective. Accordingly, in the research and teaching emphasis of these faculty, one should see the Austrianism of F. A. Hayek (Nobel 1974), the monetarism of Milton Friedman (Nobel 1976), the regulatory economics of George Stigler (Nobel 1983), the public choice economics of James Buchanan (Nobel 1986), the law and economics of Ronald Coase (Nobel 1991), the economic approach to human behavior of Gary Becker (Nobel 1992), the new institutional economics of Douglass North (Nobel 1993), the New Classical Economics of Robert Lucas (Nobel 1995), the experimental economics and market theory of Vernon Smith (Nobel 2002), and the economics of governance from the work of Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom (Nobel 2009).

In short, such an approach to economics emphasizes the dynamic processes of exchange and the framework within which that exchange behavior takes place. It emphasizes the universality of the economic way of thinking and the dynamic force of competition and market adjustment through relative price signals and the lure of profit. Among the mix listed, there are many highly rated departments that teach the work of Friedman, Stigler, Becker, and Lucas; less but still many that focus on the work of Coase, Smith, and Williamson; less still that focus on Buchanan and North; and even less that emphasize Hayek and Ostrom. A passing reference isn’t what we are looking for here, but instead a focused attention that impacts the “DNA” of student economists. I would add here, as essential reading to any education of a market-oriented economist, Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz. And as an Austrian economist, I would also emphasize, besides Hayek, the work of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Israel Kirzner.

With that as background — and remember that I am ranking departments based on research and faculty clusters of three or more, with an explicit emphasis on teaching and encouraging research along market oriented lines — here is my list of top programs for studying Austrian economics. One other caveat: for the most part I am listing accredited programs only and limiting my analysis to the United States; I also provide a short list of some foreign possibilities. It’s convenient to break down my ranking in terms of Doctoral Programs (leading to a PhD), Graduate Programs (leading to an MA or MS), and Undergraduate Programs (leading to a BA or BS). Schools are listed alphabetically.

DOCTORAL PROGRAMS (leading to PhD)

Claremont Graduate School (CA)http://www.cgu.edu/pages/653.asp
Students can specialize in both Neuroeconomics/Behavioral Economics and Public choice/public finance. Interested students should contact Paul Zak.

Clemson University (SC)http://economics.clemson.edu
Students can specialize in public choice economics and property rights economics as faculty include Robert Tollison, Bruce Yandle and Dan Benjamin. Interested students should contact Skip Sauer.

Florida State University (FL)http://mailer.fsu.edu/~tzuehlke/doctoral
The DeVoe Moore Center at FSU (with Professors Benson, Gwartney and Holcombe) provides students interested in studying the role of government in the market economy with fellowships and research support. Interested students should contact Bruce Benson.

George Mason University (VA) http://economics.gmu.edu
George Mason is the home of ICES (experimental economics), CSPC (public choice economics), LEC (Law and economics), and Mercatus (Austrian economics). Students can specialize in these areas during their graduate students, as well as more traditional fields such as Industrial Organization, Public Finance and Monetary economics. Interested students should contact either Dan Houser or Richard Wagner.

New York University (NY)http://econ.as.nyu.edu/page/home
NYU is the highest ranked program in economics that is strong in Austrian/free market economics. This is the intellectual home of Ludwig von Mises (1945-1969) and Israel Kirzner (1956-) and interested students should contact either Mario Rizzo or David Harper.

Suffolk University (Mass)http://www.suffolk.edu/college/4408.html
The Beacon Hill Institute provides a strong public policy focus, and the specialization in public choice/public finance is a very strong track. Interested students should contact Ben Powell.

West Virginia University (WV)http://www.be.wvu.edu/phd_economics/
Very strong in the fields of public finance and public choice. Interested students should contact Russ Sobel.

GRADUATE PROGRAMS (MA/MS)

San Jose State University (CA)http://www.sjsu.edu/economics/graduate_students/ma_econ/index.htm
Program has been developed over the past decade and has been an excellent feeder program to PhD programs. Interested students should contact Edward Lopez

Loyola University in New Orleans (LA)http://www.business.loyno.edu/bba/economics
Walter Block and his colleagues have built a strong program and are investigating establishing a graduate program that will be an outstanding feeder program for PhD programs. Interested students should contact either Walter Block or Dan D’Amico

UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS

Beloit College (Wis) http://www.beloit.edu
Emily Chamlee-Wright has built a very strong educational program for free market students. Also on the faculty is Josh Hall.

Grove City College (PA)http://www.gcc.edu
Very strong emphasis on Austrian/free market economics. Faculty include Jeff Herbener and Shawn Ritenour.

Hillsdale College (MI)http://www.hillsdale.edu
Very strong emphasis on Austrian/free market economics. Faculty include Charles Steele, Ivan Pongracic, and Nicolai Wenzel.

Hampden-Sydney College (VA)http://www.hsc.edu
Very strong emphasis on Austrian/Virginia Political Economy/free market economics. Faculty include Tony Carilli, Greg Dempster, and Jennifer Dirmeyer.

Rhoades College (TN)http://www.rhodes.edu
Strong academic program with very good faculty in economics. Contact Art Carden for information.

Troy University (AL)http://www.troy.edu
A newly established economic program under the direction of Scott Beaulier. Scott is building the program quickly and Troy promises to be one of the best options for students interested in free market economics to pursue.

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Let me stress again, I have limited my ranking to those schools that have three or more faculty sharing an interest in free-market ideas. Among all the schools with an Austrian emphasis that I have listed, George Mason (my own institution) possesses more market oriented faculty and provides more options to students at the undergraduate, MA and PhD level than any other school world-wide. But it is important that there be alternatives to GMU in the free market community of researchers and students.

I have not mentioned great individual teachers committed to free-market ideas that are doing an outstanding job educating students even though they are not part of a program such as those listed above. Here I include Steve Horwitz (St. Lawrence University), David Prychitko (Northern Michigan), and Peter Klein (University of Missouri).

Outside of the U.S., I am less familiar with the programs, though I have served on dissertation committees for the University of Paris, the University of Aix-en-Provence, the Stockholm School of Economics, and University Francisco Marroquin. There is also a very solid program at the Prague University of Economics, as well as opportunities in Spain with Jesus Huerta de Soto and in France with Guido Huelsman. Students interested in pursuing advanced study in Austrian economics should consider those programs.

But the general rule still applies: You should go to the best school you can get into that will pay your full way. To be competitive in economics, you need to have a strong math background in your education, have a GPA between 3.6-4.0, score between 760-800 on the GRE quantitative section, and, if you are interested in the verbal reasoning of Austrian economics and much of New Institutional economics, you should probably score over 600 on the GRE verbal section.

If you are interested in History of Economic Ideas, Duke University and the Center for History of Political Economy under the direction of Bruce Caldwell might be the best option.

New free-market programs are being established almost each year, and young students intent on studying Austrian economics should do their homework. Look especially at the BB&T programs that have been established across the U.S. and consider those schools as potential places to pursue your education at both the undergraduate and graduate level (BB&T = Branch Banking & Trust has, for instance, given $3Million to establish the Program of Free Enterprise at Florida State University). Students interested in pursuing their graduate degree should ask not only about fellowships and research opportunities but also about the placement record for recent graduates.

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