Act

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A Rothbardian redefinition, also for the term ACTION.

"Praxeology rests on the fundamental axiom that individual human beings act, that is, on the primordial fact that individuals engage in conscious actions toward chosen goals. This concept of action contrasts to purely reflexive, or knee-jerk, behavior, which is not directed toward goals."
Praxeology: The Methodology of Austrian Economics

This dog-whistle term from Austrian Economics differs from standard English usage by:

  • the requirement for the actor to be an individual
  • ignoring the fact that many goals are sought unconsciously
  • excluding reflexive behavior which may be directed towards goals
  • excluding conscious action which is not for chosen goals, perhaps in error, perhaps at whim
  • presuming goals are chosen by the actor when they may be dictated to him
  • excluding the ideas of institutions and agents
  • excluding group decision making

Because this is a codeword, conversations with Austrians are difficult.

This redefinition is one of the ways Austrians systematically exclude numerous real-world factors and much modern psychological science. It also has the ideological benefit of excluding most other economic thought, which contributes to maintaining the isolation of the believers.

When criticized for such redefinitions, a common defense is to provide caveats that allow indefinitely extended (and thus inconclusive) argument. Here is an example from Mises' Human Action: "The fact that an action is in the regular course of affairs performed spontaneously, as it were, does not mean that it is not due to a conscious volition and to a deliberate choice. Indulgence in a routine which possibly could be changed is action." These caveats remove all the logical strength of the original definition, and make any particular case a matter of authority about whether or not the term applies.