Post-Crash economics clashes with ‘econ tribe’
What is it all about?
The PCES report provides a concise overview of the systematically narrow and outdated teaching approach in economics, which unfortunately simply reflects the mainstream practice of economics. It highlights how the economics profession, and economic teaching, has seen a ‘great narrowing’ over the past two decades, all but redefining the discipline away from the study of economic phenomena, to the study of a particular family of equilibrium marginal models.
At a practical level the report offers guidance for improving teaching, and a wholeheartedly agree with the points made, which I summarise as follows (emphasis is quoted text)
- Economics education should begin with the study of economic problems, where economic phenomena are outlined and the student is given a toolkit and must evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of how different theories explain different phenomena.
- Introduce pluralism so that students understand that different models and theories can be applied or are most useful in different situations. Students should be able to consider a variety of theories before forming judgements. This is important because economic theory is not universally applicable and much depends much on institutional, historical and social contexts.
- Include the study of institutional power structures and politics. In doing so, students should be aware of the ethics of being an economist and a consideration of the ethical consequences of economic theory.
- Ensure that the philosophy of economics, or the more generally the philosophy of science, forms a core part of the curriculum. Student should be able to understandwhich assumptions are justified in a scientific theory and how rigorous must the ability to falsify a theory must be.
- Finally, provide students an understanding of the historical development of a particular model or economic paradigm in order to contextualise the approach and provide insight into the problems it was designed to solve and how context influenced its formation.