Thursday, September 14, 2017

Responding to the critics of economics without pandering to them

John Cassidy explains in The New Yorker the details of the CORE project to teach introductory economics at the undergraduate level in a way that responds to the critics without pandering to them. That is, the economists of this project have listened carefully to critical students that raised their voices especially after the last global financial crisis, and accordingly they have developed a new method and new materials to teach economics in a reformed but rigorous way. The new materials promise to be much better than the traditional textbooks. For example, in my introduction to economics for sociologists I use the book by Krugman, Wells and Graddy. Although its last edition covers the global financial crisis, some of the topics in the rest of the book (e.g., minimum wages) are covered in a way that is contradicted by what Krugman himself says in his blog. According to Cassidy, "The CORE approach isn’t particularly radical. (Students looking for expositions of Marxian economics or Modern Monetary Theory will have to look elsewhere.) But it treats perfectly competitive markets as special cases rather than the norm, trying to incorporate from the very beginning the progress economists have made during the past forty years or so in analyzing more complex situations: when firms have some monopoly power; people aren’t fully rational; a lot of key information is privately held; and the gains generated by trade, innovation, and finance are distributed very unevenly. The CORE curriculum also takes economic history seriously." Samuel Bowles and Wendy Carlin, two of the promoters of the project, explain in Vox that the new method (which can be downloaded for free) introduces politics and empirical evidence in a much more substantial way than traditional materials. Good work, economists everywhere should use it.

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