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misesQue Mises es una de las fuentes de la teoría del “market process” vs. equilibrio, de Israel Kirzner, no hay duda. Pero, a la vez, si queremos avalar la famosa tesis de Kirzner sobre la toma de conciencia progresiva de la EA sobre sí misma, como “proceso vs. equilibrio”, hay cosas importantes que la avalan (no sólo el famoso final de “Investigations”…, de Menger, donde termina proponiendo un modelo de competencia perfecta para las “exact laws”).

Corría el año 1932. Mises era aún asesor de la Cámara de Comercio Vienés, y tiene un debate con Otto Conrad, donde este último le hace a Mises una típica crítica: que defiende una idea de “competencia irrestricta” que es irreal. “But all of this takes the idea of unrestrained competition as an assumption. The question arises as to whether or not competition in our economy is normally unrestricted, as Mises assumes, and therefore whether the customary, regular market price is the natural price, at which cost and price coincide” (1). El debate era interesantísimo, pues abarcaba temas como la función del empresario, el rol del equilibrio en los precios, el control de precios, monopolio, mercado laboral, etc. ¿Pero cómo responde Mises a esta crítica, a la que había antecedido la afirmación de que “Mises´s starting assumption is that the price that is formed on the unhampered market reflects a state of equilibrium in which price and cost coincide”(2)?

Estamos en 2014. Después del Austrial Revival de 1974, después de “Competition and Entrepreneurship”, “The Meaning of Market Process”; y “The Driving Force of the Market”, de Isreal Kirzner, todos contestaríamos de igual forma: que la competencia presupone proceso, no equilibrio, etc. ¿Pero cómo contestó Mises en 1932?

…One of Conrad´s fundamental errors lies in his views concerning the consequenses of restrictions on competition. Restrictions of any sort of competition –included among production-intervening policies, according to the terminology that I introduced- diminish the social product, but they do not disrupt the functioning of the market. If the government orders that only the beneficiaries of its special privileges may practice a certain profession, e.g., that women can not be employed for night work, or that foreign goods can either not be imported at all or only upon payment of a tariff, then no doubt all of this influences the concrete configuration taken on by the prices of the market. But the market brings supply and demand together through changes in prices. To use Conrad´s expression, no economic paralysis occurs.

Hence the widely held view that only under free competition can the market work as the regulator of production is completely false. Liberalism demands freedom of competition because it expects from it the greatest possible productivity from the labor of society. But the fact that antiliberal policies restrict competition is not a rational argument for further government intervention, with the word “rational” meaning the purposes in mind of the initiatiors of the government intervention. If competition has been restricted and if as s consequence prices have risen, then a price-interventionist policy that is meant to bring prices back down to where they were before will work no differently than they would have worked in reference to price that had been formed under free competition.

Only with regard to monopoly prices –using this term in its legitimate and strict catallactic meaning- the situation is different. The difference between the higher monopoly price and the lower competitive price is open to government for intervention. But in the overwhelming number of cases referred to by Conrad, monopoly does not exist in this meaning –the only logical meaning- of the term.

Conrad refers to the “large gap between wholesale and retail prices and between factory and consumer prices” in order to prove the success that entrepreneuer have had with their resistance to every reduction in their prices. But he seems to have forgotten that this resistance can only be successful where –as in Germany and most specially in Austria- a specific, middle-class-oriented government interventionist policy makes it successful(3).

Recalco que NO estoy diciendo que la respuesta de Mises sea incorrecta; simplemente hago notar, a efectos históricos, que no es la que daríamos hoy.

Referencias

  1. Ver Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises, Edited and with and Introduction by Richard Ebeling, Liberty Fund, 2002, Vol. II, p. 194.
  2. cit., p. 193.
  3. cit., pp. 205-206.