What's Love Got to Do with It? Action, Exchange, and Gifts in Economic Theory

Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 210-221, 2015

12 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2015

See all articles by Matthew McCaffrey

Matthew McCaffrey

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Some critics argue that economics is fatally flawed because it cannot account for charitable love between persons. It therefore lacks an explanation of gifts, and thus, of “final distribution.” This argument is especially important for Austrian economists because it draws on a shared heritage in the history of economic thought, namely, ideas from Scholastic political economy. In this article, I survey some of the major points that emerged from a debate on gift-giving in economics, and suggest additional criticisms of these arguments. First, love and gifts can be explained with reference to the exchange element in human action. Second, the notion of final distribution is based on a somewhat arbitrary classification of basic concepts, including a faulty conceptualization of distribution. Third, love, which critics claim economics must explain, can be accounted for through Ludwig von Mises’s notion of thymology. I close by posing some questions for future research, especially regarding the contributions of pre-classical schools to the history of economic thought.

Keywords: action, exchange, gifts, crime, love, distribution, praxeology, thymology, history of economic thought

JEL Classification: B11, D19, D30

Suggested Citation

McCaffrey, Matthew, What's Love Got to Do with It? Action, Exchange, and Gifts in Economic Theory (2015). Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 210-221, 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2652696

Matthew McCaffrey (Contact Author)

University of Manchester - Manchester Business School ( email )

United Kingdom

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