18 April 2023

Austrian vs. Keynesian Economics: The Battle of Economic Theories

Learn about the key differences between Austrian and Keynesian economics in this expert-style blog post. Discover how Bitcoin fits into these economic theories and its potential to challenge conventional economic thinking.

Austrian vs. Keynesian Economics: The Battle of Economic Theories


    Origins and Key Figures
    Foundational Principles
    Policy Implications
    Critiques and Debates
    How Does Bitcoin Fit In?
    Key Takeaways

The 20th and 21st centuries have been the battleground for the two most influential schools of economic thought: Austrian and Keynesian economics. While both theories are grounded in the desire to understand the economy and promote growth, they diverge significantly in terms of their underlying principles, policy recommendations, and the role of the government. This blog post will dissect the differences between Austrian and Keynesian economics, shedding light on their unique perspectives.

Origins and Key Figures

Austrian Economics finds its roots in the late 19th century, founded by Carl Menger, an Austrian economist. Other prominent figures include Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard. The Austrian School emphasizes individualism, free markets, and the importance of subjective value in economic analysis.

On the other hand, Keynesian Economics is named after the British economist John Maynard Keynes. Emerging in the 1930s as a response to the Great Depression, Keynes's ideas revolutionized economic thinking by advocating for government intervention to stimulate demand and prevent future depressions. Prominent Keynesian economists include Paul Samuelson, John Hicks, and Paul Krugman.

Foundational Principles

The Austrian School of Economics believes that value is subjective, with individuals assigning different values to goods and services based on personal preferences. This school also argues that the value of a good or service is determined by its marginal utility – the satisfaction derived from consuming an additional unit of the good or service. With minimal government intervention, Austrian economists believe that free markets generate an organic and efficient allocation of resources through the price system.

In contrast, Keynesian economics focuses on the importance of aggregate demand – the total demand for goods and services within an economy – in determining economic growth and stability. Keynesians argue that prices and wages do not adjust immediately in response to changes in demand, leading to market inefficiencies and potential economic downturns. As a result, they assert that government intervention, through fiscal and monetary policy, is necessary to stabilize the economy during recessions and depressions.

Policy Implications

Austrian economists advocate for limited government involvement in the economy, arguing that free markets are better suited to allocate resources efficiently. They emphasize the importance of a stable monetary system, often endorsing a gold standard or other commodity-based currencies to prevent inflation. Additionally, Austrian economists argue that deregulating markets and industries fosters competition, innovation, and overall economic growth.

Keynesian economists, conversely, promote the use of government spending and taxation to influence aggregate demand, aiming to stabilize the economy during periods of recession or inflation. In addition, they support central bank intervention to manage interest rates and the money supply, influencing borrowing, saving, and investment behaviors. Furthermore, Keynesian economists endorse counter-cyclical policies, advocating increased government spending during recessions and decreased spending during economic expansions to stabilize the business cycle.

Critiques and Debates

Austrian economists critique Keynesian economics on several fronts. They argue that government intervention distorts market signals, leading to malinvestment and an inefficient allocation of resources. They also assert that Keynesian monetary policy, particularly quantitative easing, can generate inflation and reduce the purchasing power of money. Finally, Austrian economists claim that Keynesian policies promote unsustainable growth, which can contribute to economic crises.

In response, Keynesians criticize Austrian economics for its strict adherence to laissez-faire principles, arguing that it ignores market failures and the potential for recessions. They contend that when appropriately executed, government intervention can stabilize the economy and prevent the severe consequences of economic downturns. Additionally, Keynesians argue that Austrian policies may lead to deflation, exacerbating economic downturns and prolonging recovery periods.

How Does Bitcoin Fit In?

The compatibility of Bitcoin with prevailing economic theories has been the subject of a heated debate among economists and policymakers. However, most agree that Bitcoin aligns more closely with the principles of Austrian economics than with Keynesian economics. Here's how:

Limited Supply and Decentralization

At the core of Austrian economics is the principle of sound money, which emphasizes the importance of limiting the money supply to prevent inflationary pressures. Bitcoin's limited supply of 21 million coins aligns with this principle, making it a potential store of value that central authorities cannot manipulate. Moreover, the cryptocurrency's decentralized nature also ensures that it is resistant to pressures that could arise from excessive money printing. Conversely, Keynesian economics advocates for government intervention in the economy, including monetary policies that can result in the inflation of fiat currencies.

Individual Sovereignty

Another fundamental aspect of Austrian economics is the principle of individual sovereignty, which prioritizes individualism and personal autonomy. Bitcoin aligns with this principle by enabling individuals to transact with one another without the need for intermediaries such as banks or governments. This aspect of Bitcoin's design ensures that individuals have greater control over their financial lives, an essential aspect of Austrian economics. In contrast, Keynesian economics emphasizes the role of the government in regulating and managing the money supply.

Innovation and Competition

Austrian economics emphasizes the importance of innovation and competition, which Bitcoin's decentralized nature facilitates. Decentralization allows for greater competition and innovation in the financial sector, a fundamental aspect of Austrian economics. The ability for individuals to transact without intermediaries also fosters greater competition. Conversely, Keynesian economics may favor regulation and protectionism to manage the economy and prevent economic downturns.

Challenging Keynesian Economics

Bitcoin's disruptive potential lies in its ability to challenge the conventional economic thinking of Keynesian economics by furthering the notion that government intervention in the economy is only sometimes necessary or desirable. The cryptocurrency's decentralized nature undermines central authorities' absolute control over the economy to forestall economic downturns. Unlike Keynesian economics, Bitcoin's limited supply and deflationary nature position it as a potential bulwark against inflation, offering a compelling alternative to the traditional approach of managing the economy through inflationary monetary policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Austrian and Keynesian economics are two influential schools of thought in economics.
  • Austrian economics emphasizes individualism, free markets, and subjective value, while Keynesian economics focuses on aggregate demand and the importance of government intervention in the economy.
  • Austrian economists advocate for limited government involvement, stable monetary systems, and deregulation, while Keynesians support government spending, taxation, and counter-cyclical policies.
  • Critiques of Austrian economics include ignoring market failures and potential recessions, while critiques of Keynesian economics include government intervention distorting market signals and promoting unsustainable growth.
  • Bitcoin aligns more closely with Austrian economics, as its limited supply and decentralized nature align with sound money principles and individual sovereignty. Its potential for fostering competition and innovation also aligns with Austrian economics, challenging Keynesian policies of government intervention and inflationary monetary policy.
Please be aware that: Cryptocurrencies are unregulated in the UK; Cryptocurrencies are not protected under Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS); Profits may be subject to capital gains tax; The value of investments can go down as well as up.

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