There are many proposals to revamp education in economics, and to get economists to their right place in the public sphere—whatever that "right place" might turn out to be. The highly estimable Martin Wolf is here on the side of those who think that economics ought to focus on basic principles, arresting stories, and big data as a way of figuring out which store are in fact representative of broader trends. He is critic of over-mathematization and, more so, of over-theorization—I, at least, am reminded of Larry Meyer's take on Robert Lucas's brand of economics: "In our firm, we always thanked Robert Lucas for giving us a virtual monopoly. Because of Lucas and others, for two decades no graduate students are trained who were capable of competing with us by building econometric models that had a hope of explaining short-run output and price dynamics. [Academic economics Ph.D. programs] educated a lot of macroeconomists who were trained to do only two things--teach macroeconomics to graduate students, and publish in the journals...":

Martin Wolf: Expertise: "Michael Gove was wrong, in my view, about expertise applied in the Brexit debate. But he was not altogether wrong about the expertise of economists. If we were more humble and more honest, we might be better recognized as experts able to contribute to public debate.... At bottom, economics is a field of inquiry and a way of thinking. Among its valuable core concepts are: opportunity cost, marginal cost, rent, sunk costs, externalities, and effective demand. Economics also allows people to make at least some sense of debates on growth, taxation, monetary policy, economic development, inequality, and so forth. It is unnecessary to possess a vast technical apparatus to understand these ideas. Indeed the technical apparatus can get in the way.... The teaching of economics to undergraduates must focus on core ideas, essential questions, and actual realities. Such a curriculum might not be the best way to produce candidates for PhD programs. So be it. The study of economics at university must not be seen through so narrow a lens. Its purpose is to produce people with a broad economic enlightenment. That is what the public debate needs. It is what education has to provide...


#noted #2019-12-04

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