Econ4’s Gerald Friedman laments the blindness of orthodox economics:
When I conducted an assessment of Senator Bernie Sanders’ economic proposals and found that they could produce robust growth, the negative reaction among powerful liberal economists was swift and vehement. How much, I wondered, did this reflect personal disappointment being rationalized into a political economy of despair? Professional economists tend to embrace an economic theory that government can do little more than fuss around the edges. From that stance, what do they have to offer ordinary people for whom the economy is not working? Not a whole lot.
Read Friedman’s full piece here.
Engineers think water flows downhill. Economists think it flows to money. We think they’re right, and it’s wrong. Read what’s happening in California here:
APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — Outside her two-story tract home in this working-class town, Debbie Alberts, a part-time food service worker, has torn out most of the lawn. She has given up daily showers and cut her family’s water use nearly in half, to just 178 gallons per person each day.
A little more than 100 miles west, a resident of the fashionable Los Angeles hills has been labeled “the Wet Prince of Bel Air” after drinking up more than 30,000 gallons of water each day — the equivalent of 400 toilet flushes each hour with two showers running constantly, with enough water left over to keep the lawn perfectly green.
Only one of them has been fined for excessive water use: Ms. Alberts.
In his column in the business pages of the New York Times, Eduardo Porter writes that discredited notions still guide policy on aid to the poor:
Actual experience, from the richest country in the world to some of the poorest places on the planet, suggests that cash assistance can be of enormous help for the poor. And freeing them from what President Ronald Reagan memorably termed the “spider’s web of dependency” — also known as forcing the poor to swim or sink — is not the cure-all for social ills its supporters claim….
Abhijit Banerjee, a director of the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, released a paper with three colleagues last week that carefully assessed the effects of seven cash-transfer programs in Mexico, Morocco, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Indonesia. It found “no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.”
A World Bank report from 2014 examined cash assistance programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America and found, contrary to popular stereotype, the money was not typically squandered on things like alcohol and tobacco.
Still, Professor Banerjee observed, in many countries, “we encounter the idea that handouts will make people lazy.”
Professor Banerjee suggests the spread of welfare aversion around the world might be an American confection. “Many governments have economic advisers with degrees from the United States who share the same ideology,” he said. “Ideology is much more pervasive than the facts.”
Read more here.
The “It’s Our Economy” project works for economic democracy:
It’s Our Economy is dedicated to changing the dynamic of the current economy designed for the wealthiest to an economy built on principles of equity, cooperation, and sustainability. An economy that puts people and the planet before profits would reduce the wealth divide while giving people more control over their economic lives. We believe that a more just, modern, and restorative economy would involve the people in economic decision-making in both their communities and the nation more broadly.
This basic idea is economic democracy.
Check out their website here.
From an open letter signed by student associations from across the world:
It is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes the societies we live in. We, over 65 associations of economics students from over 30 different countries, believe it is time to reconsider the way economics is taught.
Read more here.
The author of Economics: A User’s Guide breaks down the scientific aspirations – or pretensions – of neoclassical economics:
Here’s an introductory textbook – written by Econ4’s Jerry Friedman – that not only covers the usual micro topics but goes beyond, putting the economic behavior of consumers and firms into its social context:
This unique textbook covers all the standard topics of an introductory microeconomics course, including the profit-maximizing firm, the utility-maximizing consumer, supply and demand, price and income elasticities, factors of production and their marginal products, and so on. But this book does much more: it offers both an alternative vision of microeconomics—placing individual decision-making in the context of social norms and institutions—and cogent criticism of neoclassical theory. Students using this book will get more than just an introduction to mainstream microeconomics—they will gain a deeper and more critical understanding of it.
Read more about Microeconomics: Individual Choice in Communities here.
Read more about other economics textbooks from Dollars and Sense here.
From the Economist:
“I DON’T care who writes a nation’s laws, or crafts its advanced treatises, if I can write its economics textbooks.” So said Paul Samuelson, an American economist who more than achieved his aim by producing a bestseller. But debate swirls around the teaching of the dismal science—nowhere more so than in Britain.
Read more here.
Econ4’s James Boyce writes in the Los Angeles Times:
In the years ahead, climate change will confront the world with hard choices: whether to protect as many dollars as possible, or to protect as many people as we can.
Read more here.
Free access to the beta version of a remarkable new textbook that aims to change economics education:
For a review by Econ4’s David Bollier, see here.