Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Irrational in Grave Error
On Mises.org today, Michael Rozeff uses von Mises to stop the Randians in their tracks with their ceaseless and absurd use of the word “irrational.” Within the Misesian praxeological framework, Rozeff explains how Mises pointed out that only an arbitrary judgment of value can deem an action “irrational,” otherwise man simply errs in selecting and applying means. This comes to mean that a faulty but reasonable attempt in selecting and applying means is merely ineffectual, but certainly not irrational. The person claiming irrationality – the RANDROID – is, in effect, imposing “some other external source of value.” Hence the abuse of the term is, er, not “irrational,” but rather, it is arbitrary and futile.
Seemingly irrational action is rational, that is, has an aim. To appraise it as irrational, the appraiser merely imposes some other external source of value. Mises writes (p. 104): “However one twists things, one will never succeed in formulating the notion of ‘irrational’ action whose ‘irrationality’ is not founded upon an arbitrary judgment of value.”
Nor does irrationality characterize the means selected to achieve ends. Erroneous judgments that involve badly chosen means are not irrational in Mises’ analysis: “When applied to the means chosen for the attainment of ends, the terms rational and irrational imply a judgment about the expediency and adequacy of the procedure employed