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Article posted Oct 15 2012, 2:01 AM Category: Economy Source: Print

Austrian Influence: China and the WSJ

By John P. Cochran

More signs that the writings of Hayek, Mises, and modern Austrian economists are beginning to have some influence even in places where it might be least expected despite the efforts of Professors  DeLong and Krugman to discredit these ideas.

Today's Wall Street Journal  "Weekend Interview", "Zhang Weiying: China’s Anti-Keynesian Insurgent" highlights the work of this Chinese economist's explicit application of work of Hayek and the Austrian School to the criticize and illustrate the ineffectiveness Keynesian based economic policy in China.

Some highlights:
Zhang Weiying’s warnings that stimulus spending would lead to malinvestment were once ignored. Now official ministries invite the follower of Hayek to speak.

The economic slowdown, he calmly says over tea, is actually good news that “makes the government think we need to change”--toward reform and away from priming the pump. We aren’t all Keynesians now in China, he insists.

Then a top administrator at Peking University, where he now teaches economics, he argued that since the financial crisis was caused by easy money, it couldn’t be solved by the same. “The current economy is like a drug addict, and the prescription from the doctor is morphine, so the final result will be much worse,” he said. He invoked the ideas of the late Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek and the Austrian School of Economics to argue that if the economy weren’t allowed to adjust on its own, China’s minor bust would be followed by a bigger one [Emphasis mine].

Ultimately, Beijing’s stimulus fed a false investment boom that stoked asset bubbles--then the morphine wore off while the government tightened. Officials claim the economy grew at 7.6% year-on-year between April and June this year. Skeptics think the real number is closer to 4%. (One London research house says 1%.) Meanwhile, industries dominated or favored by the state, such as steel or solar power, are idling from overcapacity. Countless sheets of copper are reportedly stacked in warehouses, blocking doorways and exemplifying Hayek’s notion of “malinvestment [emphasis mine].”

He says that when he recently wrote an article praising the late Austrian economist Murray Rothbard, the Communist Party secretary of Shanghai--a fairly high-level apparatchik--told him he liked it.

We human beings always seek happiness,” says Mr. Zhang. “Now there are two ways. You make yourself happy by making other people unhappy--I call that the logic of robbery. The other way, you make yourself happy by making other people happy--that’s the logic of the market. Which way do you prefer?”
Better would be a day when the interview featured a Joe Salerno, a Roger Garrison, a Richard Ebeling, or a Pete Boettke, just to name a few possibilities, on the failure of Keynesianism and socialism in the people's republic of the U. S. or an Adrian Ravier on the impact of Austrian economics in Latin America. Even more relevant for today's economic conditions would be a feature on Robert Higgs explaining how regime uncertainty retards investment and real entrepreneurial planning slowing recovery or triggering a recession.

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