Praxelogy: The Science of Human Action, Not How it Ought to Be

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” – Murray Rothbard

Praxeology – the study of human action and conduct as defined by Merriam Webster.

As a student of Austrian economics, I’ve understood the common sense principle of praxeology for years.  Just started reading in earnest Ludwig Von Mises landmark Human Action tome published in 1949 in which he establishes the science of praxeology among other fundamental principles of Austrian economics.  Thought I’d share some of von Mises timeless wisdom with a few excerpts:

“Economics is the youngest of all sciences.”

“They learned with stupefaction that there is another aspect from which human action might be viewed than that of good and bad, of fair and unfair, of just and unjust.  In the course of social events there prevails a regularity of phenomena to which man must adjust his action if he wishes to succeed. It is futile to approach social facts with the attitude of a censor who approves or disapproves from the point of view of quite arbitrary standards and subjective judgments of value.  One must study the laws of human action and social cooperation as the physicist studies the laws of nature. Human action and social cooperation seen as the object of a science of given relations, no longer as a normative discipline of things that ought to be.”

“Choosing determines all human decisions. In making his choice man chooses not only between various material things and services. All human values are offered for option.  All ends and all means, both material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which picks out one thing and sets aside another. Nothing that men aim at or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement into a unique scale of gradation and preference.  No treatment of economic problems proper can avoid starting from acts of choice; economics becomes a part, although the hitherto best elaborated part, of a more universal science, praxeology.”

“Praxeology consequently does not distinguish between “active” or energetic and “passive” or indolent man. For to do nothing and to be idle are also action, they too determine the course of events.  Action is not only doing but no less omitting to do what possibly could be done.”

“We call contentment or satisfaction that state of a human being which does not and cannot result in any action. Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness? A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things.  He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be perfectly happy. He would not act; he would simply live free from care.”

“But to make a man act, uneasiness and the image of a more satisfactory state alone are not sufficient. A third condition is required: the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness. In the absence of this condition no action is feasible. Man must yield to the inevitable. He must submit to destiny. “

“These are the general conditions of human action. Man is the being that lives under these conditions. … an acting being.”

Ludwig Von Mises – Human Action

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