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On Indifference in Austrian Economics

From: IW
Sent: Saturday, February 04, 2017 4:13 AM
To: Walter Block
Subject: indifference and same good problem.
Dear Professor, I read your rejoinder to O’Neil and I feel like I’m re-born. That paper was killing! Now I cannot imagine how I could take ‘praxeological indifference’ seriously?! Of course the action is about binary distribution – things done, and things foregone- simple as that. Of course indifference cannot be demonstrated! It is logical impossibility or metaphysical one…in no possible world would it work. And I fully embrace your point that the law of marginal utility operates in the realm of praxeology though the same supply must be perceived thymologically.

Yet, one problem arises. it follows that one cannot demonstrate that something is the same good for him or the equally valuable unit of a commodity. How then to define a good or a supply of it? After all, we must remain subjective and a scarce resource must be perceived as satisfying some needs. Then I thought about defining a good as a three-fold relation. G (x,y,z,) where x is a scarce resource, y an individual valuing it and z is the need it can satisfy. But then it strangely follow that in ONE scare resource there are several goods (it is in relation of good to several needs it serves). So perhaps, I thought, maybe we should take homogeneity – this in turn would imply the same good even if the subject is unaware of many of some uses he can put the scare resource to use. On the other hand, can we for example treat CDs and DVDs as part of the same supply when a subject BELIEVES they serve the same and only the same purposes?! Sorry for such a lengthy e-mail but those elementary concepts are always the darkest and most interesting ones. With kind regards! IW

Dear IW: Thanks for your very kind remarks about my rejoinder to O’Neill on indifference (he is a brilliant scholar, but he and I disagree on this topic.) I attach, below, all of my publications on indifference, plus my debate with Hans Hoppe on this subject (a brilliant scholar, perhaps the leading libertarian theoretician now actively writing, but he and I disagree on this topic). Please take a peek at my paper on Nozick in this regard, in which I try to wrestle with the issue of, if we can’t be indifferent between different apples (for example), how can there ever be any such thing as a supply of apples, or a supply curve for them, which there most certainly can be.

Debate between Walter Block and Hans-Hermann Hoppe on Nozick’s methodology and indifference::

1. Block, Walter E. 1980. “On Robert Nozick’s ‘On Austrian Methodology’.” Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 4, Fall, pp. 397-444; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/on_robert_nozick.pdf;
http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/on_robert_nozick.pdf; Spanish translation, Libertas, Vol. 14, No. 26, May 1997, pp. 71-131

2. Hoppe, Hans Hermann. 2005. “Must Austrians Embrace Indifference?” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 8 (4): 87–91; online at: http://www.Mises.org/story/2003.

3. Block, Walter E. 2009. “Rejoinder to Hoppe on indifference” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics; Vol. 12, No. 1: 52–59; http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae12_1_4.pdf

4, Hans-Hermann Hoppe. 2009. “Further Notes on Preference and Indifference: Rejoinder to Block,” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 12, no. 1, pp. 60-64, http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae12_1_5.pdf.

5. Block, Walter E. with William Barnett II. 2010. “Rejoinder to Hoppe on indifference, once again.” Reason Papers, Vol. 32, pp. 141-154; http://reasonpapers.com/pdf/32/rp_32_9.pdf

“Perhaps these divisions amongst scholars who might be expected to agree are due to the fact that we are all imperfect human beings. Perhaps some young scholar(s) will one day come along and definitively solve all of these disputes in such a way that all present parties to them will agree to the solution. Until that time, the most we can do, I think, is to do our best—to publish our ideas, imperfect as they are, in the hope that the process of public debate itself will shed some light on these vexing issues. Two heads are better than one, and all of the professionals who read this journal, plus the two of us (Hoppe and the two present authors), are better than just the three of us alone.”

Block, Walter E. 2012. “Response to Ben O’Neill on indifference.” Dialogue; Issue No. 2, pp. 76-93; https://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog_old/2012/2.12.7.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2009. “Rejoinder to Machaj on Indifference,” New Perspectives on Political Economy, Volume 5, Number 1, pp. 65-71; http://pcpe.libinst.cz/nppe/5_1/nppe5_1_5.pdf

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