What Would We Like to See on the Curriculum?

A recent post by blogger Tony Yates presents an opportunity for us to give a brief clarification of what we would like to see on the economics curriculum, and to debunk some common myths that seem to circulate among mainstream economists about campaigns like ours. This will only be a whistle-stop tour of the kind of stuff we’d like to see taught; over time, we hope to develop a more comprehensive outline of a post-crash curriculum. Anti-Maths? Critics of economics are often thought to be anti-maths (with the underlying implication that they are simply not clever enough to understand maths or economics). However, although we believe mathematics on its own does not lend a theory credibility – and that contemporary economic models seem to have sacrificed too much relevance in the name of mathematical tractability – we are not at all anti-mathematics. In fact, a lot of the mathematics taught on undergraduate and even graduate economics courses is quite dated and simplistic (eg linear equations; stochastic, normally distributed shocks). This is the kind of stuff natural scientists abandoned when they realised how complex and unpredictable the world can be (see Phillip Mirowski on this). This is why we would strongly endorse a link up with our mathematics department to teach ordinary differential equations – as well as models which utilise them, such as Richard Goodwin’s model of class struggle – to economics students so that they may gain a better understanding of dynamic systems, rather than simply using comparative statics with unique equilibrium solutions. Economics students could also be taught basic programming packages such as MATLAB – mathematics and engineering students currently are – so...