I think it bears mention that this is less about the actual merits of Austrian economics and more about a complete failure of due diligence on the part of a professed intellectual. Murphy was admittedly responding to an argument that Graeber wasn’t making. The question of whether Murphy’s response is coherent in light of the argument he was responding to is a different question entirely from whether his response to Graeber was misinformed with respect opinions Graeber actually holds.
Well you make a good point, one that I believe Dave addresses in some detail, however his reply to Murphy ends with the following,
At this point, it’s easier to understand why economists feel so defensive about challenges to the Myth of Barter, and why they keep telling the same old story even though most of them know it isn’t true. If what they are really describing is not how we ‘naturally’ behave but rather how we are taught to behave by the market—well who, nowadays, is doing most of the actual teaching? Primarily, economists. The question of barter cuts to the heart of not only what an economy is—most economists still insist that an economy is essentially a vast barter system, with money a mere tool (a position all the more peculiar now that the majority of economic transactions in the world have come to consist of playing around with money in one form or another) —but also, the very status of economics: is it a science that describes of how humans actually behave, or prescriptive, a way of informing them how they should? (Remember, sciences generate hypothesis about the world that can be tested against the evidence and changed or abandoned if they don’t prove to predict what’s empirically there.)
Or is economics instead a technique of operating within a world that economists themselves have largely created? Or is it, as it appears for so many of the Austrians, a kind of faith, a revealed Truth embodied in the words of great prophets (such as Von Mises) who must, by definition be correct, and whose theories must be defended whatever empirical reality throws at them—even to the extent of generating imaginary unknown periods of history where something like what was originally described ‘must have’ taken place?
The emphasis is mine.
Edit: In my experience, Murphy’s lack of due dilligence is quite common at Mises (with a steady stream of people ready to parrot and discredit an entire person’s work because of slander or imaginary arguments made in one post.)