Ask your economics professor this: If you support academic free inquiry, why don’t we have a pluralist economics curriculum? Why aren’t multiple schools of economic thought (Marxian, Post-Keynesian, Ecological and so forth) taught in our program instead of this dogmatic focus on the neoclassical canon?
That’s essentially the question that heterodox economics professor Julie Matthaei and I put to a lecturer from the infamous University of Chicago economics program and a libertarian professor from the Koch-funded George Mason University during a debate on Al Jazeera’s program The Stream yesterday. Their answer — that we in fact should open our economics programs and journals up to pluralist debate — might surprise you. Then again, it might not. After all, it’s hard to sound reasonable while arguing against intellectual openness, and its even harder to pose as a supporter of the “free market” when you oppose a free market of ideas in your very own classroom.
Of course without action it’s all empty rhetoric. So who’s down to help us make some real headway at these bastions of right-wing thought and bring the Battle for the Soul of Economics to Friedman and Koch territory?
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If economic growth is supposed supposed to make everyone better off, how do you explain the dramatic rise in income and wealth inequality over the last 30 years?
As, Thomas Piketty explains in a recent talk on his best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the orthodox response is to chalk the income problem up to shifts in “supply and demand for skills.” In other words, the rise in demand for higher-skilled labor in developed countries has left those without access to top-tier education to languish in economic limbo while skilled workers race further and further ahead. It’s nothing but the market at work.
But before you join the cohorts of those ready to swallow such blatant reductionism, you’d do well to listen to Piketty’s talk at the New School. In the talk as well as the book, Piketty draws on meticulously collected data to provide an unsurprisingly more complex explanation which places the inner workings of capitalism itself squarely in the crosshairs.
It’s hardly the standard textbook take on things. But as Piketty so wisely admonishes his audience, one should “be careful with economic textbooks.”