Austrian Economics and Predictions

Walter Block has an article on in which he lists all of the Austrian (free market) economists who predicted the housing bubble.  In it, he does give some interesting commentary about economics and making predictions.

Although I am not against making predictions, I always try to caution readers about them.  If I could predict the future with great accuracy, I would be richer than Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  If there is one thing that Austrian economics teaches us, it is that humans act.  Because of this, it actually is impossible to predict the future with certainty.  For anyone who says they are 100% sure that something is going to happen (economically speaking), you would be wise to proceed with caution and take what they say with a grain of salt.

Because humans act freely, anything can happen in the economy.  Ben Bernanke could wake up tomorrow morning and read Mises and decide that he needs to stop expanding the monetary base at once.  He could take all of the Fed's documents and turn them over to WikiLeaks.  Now of course this is highly unlikely and we can predict with a fair amount of certainty that this is not going to happen, but anything is possible.

We could be sure that interest rates will be going up in the next few months due to the fear of a depreciating dollar.  And while you may be correct that the dollar is depreciating, not everyone else will see things the same way.  There might be some rich investors who are waiting to buy bonds at the beginning of the new year because they think it is a sound investment.  There is no way for you to know this.

If Keynes got one thing right, it is when he said that the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.  This is so true.  Nothing is a sure bet when it comes to the economy.  The closest thing to a sure bet is that governments will be incompetent and corrupt, but there are even exceptions there at times.

This is important to remember when investing.  It is important to get a good education in free market economics and it can certainly help you in your investing strategy.  At the same time, human action always makes investing unpredictable at least to some degree.