Adriám Ravier: what can you tell us about Ludwig Lachmann?
Lachmann was more than a teacher of economics. He was a scholar of incredible breadth and depth, and a gentleman in the old style. A man of impeccable integrity and learning, with a prodigious memory. He spoke German, French and English fluently. He also cared deeply for the students who showed any interest in the subject. He was, however, impatient with the mass of students who were just there to fulfill the economics requirement. He made no compromises in quality.
His lectures were works of art, mastery in prose and logic. I have to admit I was an immature student. I was awed by him, but I did not fully comprehend the substance of his lectures until much later in my life. Still, I was a diligent student and did well and I retained a memory of those lectures so that the message matured as I did.
Lachmann was a passionate soldier of the Austrian school. He believed strongly that neoclassical economics was methodologically bankrupt. He believed that the Austrians, particularly Menger, had it essentially right (not in every respect, but overwhelmingly so) and he was pursuing a dual mission – to advance the cause of Austrian economics and to extend and develop Austrian economics to fulfill the project implied, but not yet completed, by Menger’s foundational work.
Menger made a huge advance in perceiving the subjective nature of value. The logical and compelling next step was to investigate as fully as possible what this meant for expectations, which are an essential part of the valuation process and of actions based on it. So he believed that Mises and especially Hayek had not gone far enough along the road of subjectivism. This became the leitmotif of his life from the late 1940’s (at the London School of Economics) when his work on capital led him to think deeply about expectations (provoked also by the challenging influence of Keynes). Most importantly, it was the implications for the concept of equilibrium that preoccupied him.