Review of 'The Econocracy'

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5 Apr 2017

Economics, both as an academic discipline and a profession, has attracted criticism of late. From the Queen asking LSE academics why they missed the Global Financial Crisis to the strident yet inaccurate predictions of post-referendum recession, economics and economists have come under attack from across the political spectrum. Critics of austerity who regard mainstream macroeconomics as neoliberal apologism have been joined by libertarian Brexiteers who appear to regard any recourse to logic or evidence as a breach of protocol.

Criticism that focuses narrowly on predictive failures is at least partly misdirected. Economic forecasting is difficult, imprecise and unreliable. But economists must take some of the blame for anger over predictive failures – official institutions and research organisations churn out detailed forecasts which purport to look years into the future with an apparent accuracy of multiple decimal places. The Treasury's claim that Brexit would cost £4300 per household by 2030 was a particularly egregious example. Excusing this behaviour on the basis that a forecast is nothing more than a probability distribution over a series rather misses the point. The standard models in use before the 2008 crisis not only failed to see it coming, but assumed it couldn’t happen. In summary, economists should be more circumspect about their powers of clairvoyance.

Letter to the Royal Economics Society

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1 Jul 2015

The growing movement for pluralism in economics has inspired a group of early-career academics in the UK to form a new network, Reteaching Economics (http://reteacheconomics.org/), committed to pluralism in the teaching of economics. The group aims to effect change in the economics curriculum through a combination of scholarly and institutional activity and activism. The group supports the UK student campaign for the introduction of theoretical and methodological pluralism in the teaching of economics, spearheaded by groups such as Rethinking Economics (www.rethinkeconomics.org/) and the Post-Crash Economics Society (www.post-crasheconomics.com/). The group currently has thirty-nine members drawn from academic institutions across the UK. It is open to all UK early-career academics who support the aims of the network.

RESPONSE TO TONY YATES’ CRITIQUE OF TEACHING ECONOMICS AFTER THE CRASH

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5 Jan 2015

Tony Yates has written a critical rejoinder to Aditya Chakrabortty’s Radio 4 documentary on student demands for changes to university teaching of economics. Yates’ contribution is welcome as a rare example of a mainstream economist publicly engaging with the issues raised by dissatisfied students. For too long, the response of the mainstream has been to ignore criticism. Yates’ willingness to enter into dialogue – even if motivated by unhappiness with the content of the programme – is encouraging. Further, it clarifies the view of (some) mainstream economists on the teaching debate.

Yates’ first complaint is that the programme is an opinion piece rather than a report in which equal space is given to each side. It is true that the bulk of the programme focused on the grievances raised by the student movement – this was after all the subject of the piece – and provided only brief slots for dissenting voices. Criticising the programme on this basis ignores the bigger picture of total dominance by mainstream economics – not only in academia but also in the media and public debate. The number of critical economists who appear regularly on television and radio can be counted on one hand. Chakrabortty’s programme and the student movement that pushed it onto the agenda are welcome, yet remain a drop in the ocean.

 

Teaching Economics After The Crash on Radio 4

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2 Dec 2014

At universities from Glasgow to Kolkata, economics students are fighting their tutors over how to teach the subject in the wake of the crash. The Guardian's senior economics commentator, Aditya Chakrabortty, reports from the frontline of this most unusual and important academic war.

The banking crash plunged economies around the world into crisis - but it also created questions for economics itself. Even the Queen asked why hardly any economists saw the meltdown coming. Yet economics graduates still roll out of exam halls and off to government departments or the City with much the same toolkit that, just five years ago, produced a massive crash.

Open Letter to Rethinking Economics

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1 Dec 2014

We are a diverse group of early career academics who are responding to the student campaign for greater pluralism in economics. To develop our response, we are setting up an open network and invite early career academics to join us by adding their details here.

Our objectives in our first few months are: 

  • To provide an open platform for early career academics via reteacheconomics.org
  • To publish regular news from our wider networks via our Twitter account @reteachecon
  • To suggest teaching resources via our website and Twitter feed
  • To encourage debate about emerging research from early career academics

Our next meeting will be in London on Saturday 10th January 2015. We are interested in collaborating with you and other student, research and practitioner groups and look forward to hearing from you.