Bad economics affects us all

12 May, 2014 at 15:38 | Posted in Economics | 3 Comments

Reform of economics teaching is resisted so strongly by mainstream economists because they find it threatening. It is like asking the medieval Catholic clergy to teach their new recruits different interpretations of Christianity, to stop teaching them exclusively in Latin and teach more in the local vernacular, and to encourage them to challenge the intellectual and the moral authority of the Holy See. No wonder it is so strongly resisted by most mainstream economists, even by those who claim to be interested in reform.

economistsBut what does this have to do with everyone outside the academic bubble? Why does it matter that those nerds doing economics degrees are made to jump through one set of hoops rather than another?

Reform of economics education is not just a matter for university economists. The current curriculum frustrates thousands of bright young students who started studying economics thinking that they would learn something useful for making the world a better place and find themselves learning an ersatz theory of “everything” instead. Cynicism about the purpose of economics leads some of the smartest students to careers in investment banking. For employers who recruit economists with first-class degrees, only to find that they possess very narrow skill sets, lack communication skills, and have little knowledge of real economies, the current curriculum hurts their bottom line.

Above all, the future of economics education is ultimately a matter for all of us, because what economists learn in their degree influences what they do later when they make important policy decisions that fundamentally affect our lives – financial deregulation, welfare cuts, gas prices, and healthcare reform. It is time that everyone gets involved in this debate.

Ha-Joon Chang & Jonathan Aldred

3 Comments

  1. Yes, but it’s exhausting having this debate….almost all economists below 40, or even older, have themselves been taught in this way…I had a (brief) discussion with an academic a few months ago, about recession tendancies in Europe, and he pooh poohed me , saying “that’s applied economics….we don’t do that”

  2. Reblogged this on MERCIAR BUSINESS CONSULTING.

  3. I come here for the cartoons.

    When software upgrades are released, people are sometimes slow to make use of the upgrades because the software we know is more powerful than the software we don’t know.

    Perhaps the reform of economics teaching is resisted for a similar reason: The economics you know makes a better presentation than the economics you don’t know. The economic theory you thought was good, is more trustworthy than the economic theory of monetary cranks.

    “The current curriculum frustrates thousands of bright young students who started studying economics thinking that they would learn something useful for making the world a better place and find themselves learning an ersatz theory of “everything” instead.”

    He wasn’t an economist, perhaps, but Steve Jobs comes to mind. From whom did he learn to invent the iPhone and the iPad? From no one. It came from Jobs himself.

    Today we have old Keynesians and new Keynesians and post Keynesians… but Keynes is dead. Why do living economists self-identify with dead economists? Go you I say and think too long alone.

    “It is time that everyone gets involved in this debate.”

    By “everyone” they probably didn’t mean me. I come here for the cartoons.


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