Home > Uncategorized > Economics education needs a revolution

Economics education needs a revolution

from Lars Syll

mummyYou ask me what all idiosyncrasy is in philosophers? … For instance their lack of the historical sense, their hatred even of the idea of Becoming, their Egyptianism. They imagine that they do honour to a thing by divorcing it from history sub specie æterni—when they make a mummy of it.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nowadays there is almost no place whatsoever in economics education for courses in the history of economic thought and economic methodology. This is deeply worrying. History and methodology matter! A science that doesn’t self-reflect on its own history and asks important methodological and science-theoretical questions about the own activity, is a science in dire straits.

How did we end up in this sad state?

Already back in 1991, a commission chaired by Anne Krueger and including people like Kenneth Arrow, Edward Leamer, and Joseph Stiglitz, reported from own experience “that it is an underemphasis on the ‘linkages’ between tools, both theory and econometrics, and ‘real world problems’ that is the weakness of graduate education in economics,” and that both students and faculty sensed “the absence of facts, institutional information, data, real-world issues, applications, and policy problems.” And in conclusion, they wrote that “graduate programs may be turning out a generation with too many idiot savants skilled in technique but innocent of real economic issues.”

Not much is different today. Economics — and economics education — is still in dire need of a remake.

rethink

More and more young economics students want to see a real change in economics and the way it’s taught. They want something other than the same old mainstream catechism. They don’t want to be force-fed with useless mainstream theories and models.

  1. Yoshinori Shiozawa
    October 13, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    In a blog post by Simon Wren-Lewis on 8 July 2012, he cites a comment by Diane Coyle in her book review of Steve Keen’s wonderful book Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor Dethroned:

    I have a lot of sympathy with the details of Professor Keen’s project, but not its ultimate ambition. For in the end I think the Naked Emperor needs to be reclothed rather than dethroned.

    Criticizing mainstream economics cannot replaces constructing a new economics. Lars Syll’s posts in this blog are full of mainstream economics, but few constructive words for an alternative economics. What do you teach in your methodology course? Do you intend to drive young able students away from economics? It would be disastrous in the long run. We do not need mainstream economics but we need economics.

    • Mr.T
      October 13, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      Hi Yoshinori Shiozawa ,

      you wrote: “Do you intend to drive young able students away from economics? It would be disastrous in the long run.

      That’s exactly what’s happening. Students of economics move to sociology, political science, etc. Some new pluralist professorships are being established outside the economics departments. Beyond that, I don’t see where, for example, the economic history of ideas mentioned by Lars Syll is being promoted and practised.

      Finally, pluralist economics is also dominated by heterodox thinking collectives working in a more formal-mathematical way, which leave little room for what was originally demanded by students of the Pluralist Economics Movement. Originally, students demanded an economics that was less mathematical, less working with models etc.; they wanted more history of ideas, more theories, more methods, more interdisciplinarity, more economic ethics, more epistemology etc. And what do students today get for a Plural Economy? Post-Keynesianism, complexity economics, agent-based modelling… This reinforces the above-mentioned trend that some students prefer to change disciplines: Because they simply realise that even in the pluralist economic scene no significant progress is being made. Sad but true.

      • Meta Capitalism
        October 14, 2020 at 1:54 am

        Finally, pluralist economics is also dominated by heterodox thinking collectives working in a more formal-mathematical way, which leave little room for what was originally demanded by students of the Pluralist Economics Movement. Originally, students demanded an economics that was less mathematical, less working with models etc.; they wanted more history of ideas, more theories, more methods, more interdisciplinarity, more economic ethics, more epistemology etc. And what do students today get for a Plural Economy? Post-Keynesianism, complexity economics, agent-based modelling… This reinforces the above-mentioned trend that some students prefer to change disciplines: Because they simply realise that even in the pluralist economic scene no significant progress is being made. ~ Mr. T

        .
        Thank you for this insight. Can you shed light why the “heterodox thinking collectives” appear to be repeating more of the same?

      • Craig
        October 14, 2020 at 3:00 am

        “Because they simply realise that even in the pluralist economic scene no significant progress is being made. Sad but true.”

        True. And why might that be?

        I would suggest that to a great degree it is the lack of any studies of the signatures of historical paradigm changes and hence virtually no analysis on that level at all. And such failure leaves them with only piecemeal, palliative reforms with only facile or no policy suggestions at all.

        The leading economists and economic pundits know that the problem lies in money, banks and debt, but they apparently don’t know what the definition of a paradigm actually is (a singular concept that is such a deep simplicity that it describes a current pattern, and such new concept applied, transforms the entire current/old pattern).

        Hence they can’t perceive that the current paradigm is the monopoly concept of Debt Only, and they don’t know that conceptual opposition and integration of the particles of truth in seeming opposites via a new insight and/or tool to the point of thirdness greater oneness are major signatures of historical paradigm changes….and so Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting fits and fulfills as the new monetary and financial paradigm.

    • Yoshinori Shiozawa
      October 14, 2020 at 2:21 am

      Errata in my post on October 13, 2020 at 4:34 pm.

      replaces > replace

      :full of mainstream economics > full of criticisms of mainstream economics

    • Meta Capitalism
      October 14, 2020 at 2:29 am

      Do you intend to drive young able students away from economics? It would be disastrous in the long run. ~ Shiozawa Yoshinori
      .
      On campus after campus, we will chase you old goats out of power. Then, in the months and years that follow, we will begin the work of reprogramming your doomsday machine. ~ Kickitover Manifesto
      .
      That’s exactly what’s happening. Students of economics move to sociology, political science, etc. Some new pluralist professorships are being established outside the economics departments. ~ Mr. T

      .
      Imagine a workd where “young able students” walk away from economic departments filled with old goats and by their able and wise decisions refuse to support or sit silent any longer or to participate or further such destructive theories rooted in antiquated scientism that such deaf, dumb, and blind literature-only old goats push as economic science while the world burns, inequalities grow, and the world suffers from their ideological stanglehold upon popular culture.
      .
      When there are no more students leaft to teach then real the real science of economics can progress on funeral at a time.

  2. Yoshinori Shiozawa
    October 14, 2020 at 4:13 am

    Thank you, Meta, for suggesting economics students’ Kickitover movement. In one of articles there (posted on January 27, 2015 by Keith Harrington), I found an interesting but awful fact:

    This narcissistic exceptionalism and dogmatic thought-policing not only severs cross-disciplinary connections to other social sciences but stifles debate within the profession itself. That’s the finding of the other recent study by Welsh researcher Joe Francis. Francis tracked the incidence of debate over a ninety-year period between scholars in the “big five” economic journals – two of which are American Economic Association publications. Using search terms such as “comment” “reply” or “rejoinder,” Francis found that the number of articles containing such terms declined dramatically since the 1960s – from over 20% in 1968 to just 2% in 2010. Unsurprisingly, Francis traces this decline to the marginalization Marxian and Keynesian thought by the mainstream during the neoclassical and neoliberal counterrevolution of the 1970s.

    What happened after 2015?

    But, I cannot support Meta’s Après moi, le déluge attitude. The real science of economics cannot emerge at once.

    • Meta Capitalism
      October 14, 2020 at 5:47 am

      Au contraire, pas de déluge juste le printemps et une vraie science sociale avec l’humanité!

    • Robert Locke
      October 14, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Communism failed, my Polish-Russian wife says (and she lived decades in Russia and Poland) because under it “people felt they were living in a big jail.” The yearning for freedom brought it down, inexperiene with democracy and nationalism, let the finance capitalists take over.

      • Meta Capitalism
        October 14, 2020 at 9:12 am

        Communism failed, my Polish-Russian wife says (and she lived decades in Russia and Poland) because under it “people felt they were living in a big jail.” The yearning for freedom brought it down, inexperiene with democracy and nationalism, let the finance capitalists take over. ~ Robert Locke

        .
        Today we are witnessing in America the failure of capitalism and its corrosive impact on democracy and representative government which may well end the American experiment in self-rule.
        .
        I don’t think communism (nor do I think it is the right solution) has any chance of success in America. The real questions is can we humanize and socialize and democratize capitalism (i.e., democratic socialism with modified and regulated capitalism as we see in the Nordic countries). Right now capitalism as practiced by Trump and ilk and GOP is a race to the bottom and tearing the social fabric asunder. We will soon see if America has enough basic human decency to revers this slide into the abyss of anti-science and religious-market fundamentalisms.
        .
        I think we need to re-think the Enlightenment, bring back the humanities and history, re-center social theory in a human context, and create a new version of Enlightenment 2.0 for political and economic philosophy and practice.

      • Meta Capitalism
        October 14, 2020 at 9:14 am

        I include Germany and your research and knowledge Robert as part of the answer for moving foreword.

  3. Ikonoclast
    October 14, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Any real science of economics cannot emerge until capitalism fails or is overthrown. The essence of capitalism is that it is anti-science, anti-humanity and anti-ecology. It’s a machine of destruction and extinction.

    • Craig
      October 14, 2020 at 7:43 am

      Ikonoclast,

      You’re right except it has been failing for a long time now. Socialism came along and it has failed also, not because it didn’t have good intentions and not because it wasn’t a more humane concept, but because it didn’t deal with the one thing, namely the monetary and financial paradigm, that will enable us to move on from capitalism to Direct Monetary Distributism. You’re Australian, right? You must be aware of him, and he has said for quite sometime that neo-classicism’s biggest problem is it ignores money, debt and banks.

      An American political advisor for Bill Clinton coined the phrase in 1992, “It’s the economy stupid!” as the guiding slogan that won Clinton the presidency. Well, “It’s the monetary and financial paradigm, stupid!” is exactly what is necessary focus on in order to transcend capitalism and socialism by integrating the particles of truth in both in a way that will create the thirdness greater oneness of Direct Monetary Distributism.

      • Craig
        October 14, 2020 at 7:44 am

        That is you must be aware of Steve Keen.

  4. Mr.T
    October 14, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Hi Meta,

    >> Thank you for this insight. Can you shed light why the “heterodox thinking collectives” appear to be repeating more of the same?<<

    The problem, in my opinion, is simply the different proportions of the 'plural' schools of thought and a lack of true plurality: there are simply still enough Keynesians etc.; more recent, more mathematical approaches (agent-based modelling etc.) are simply more compatible with a mathematically working mainstream. And these 'schools' seem to me to be better institutionalised and represented in the pluralist economic scene – at least in the German-speaking area – than, say, feminist economics or social economics. Finally, approaches that are methodologically not quite so far removed from the mainstream face the same problems for which the mainstream is criticised: there is simply little room for alternative approaches, methods and considerations. What is seen and reproduced is what is institutionalised and visible.

    Finally, there are still 'old' paradigm warriors, who in turn fight their old warfare from the 1970s. This also explains why we still criticise a 'neoclassical' mainstream, which, with the New Institutional Economics, for example, differs significantly from the neoclassical. In this way, old criticism etc. is simply reproduced.

    • Meta Capitalism
      October 14, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Thank you Mr. T. Much appreciated. If you would share a few resources that I might pursue on New Institutional Economics (NIE), Social Economics (SE), and Feminist Economics (FE) it would be appreciated. It seems we must change the institutional inertia that leads to stagnation. This takes time and a steady awaking of the younger generation to the dead wood in the “institutionalised” ‘old’ paradigm warriors.

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