30. “A Comparison of the Utility Theory of Rothbard and Kirzner”

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Abstract: In this article we consider the theories of utility developed by Rothbard and Kirzner in their respective treatises on economic theory (Man Economy and State, and Market Theory and the Price System). We argue that while both authors were strongly influenced by Mises’ ordinalist conception of utility and in fact both authors affirm this conception in their initial expositions of utility theory, their subsequent developments diverge quite sharply. In particular, Kirzner adopts an approach that is neoclassicist in its essentials, and we discuss how this approach conflicts with the approach developed by Mises (and continued by Rothbard). We thus give further support to Salerno’s (2011) contention that there exists a tension within Austrian price theory today, falling between two camps: Rothbard’s furtherance of the Mengerian “causal-realist” tradition, and Kirzner’s “dynamic” version of the standard Hicksian indifference-based framework.

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