Occupy economics

Nancy Folbre writes: The Occupy Wall Street movement, displaced from some key geographic locations, now enjoys a small but significant encampment among economists.

Concerns about the impact of growing economic inequality fit neatly into a larger critique of mainstream economic theory and its deep faith in the efficiency of markets.

Many unbelievers (including me) insist that we inhabit a global capitalist system rather than an efficient market. Willingness to use the C-word (capitalism) often signals concerns about a concentration of economic power that unfairly limits individual choices, undermines political democracy, generates financial and ecological crises and limits access to alternative economic ideas.

We can’t address these concerns effectively without a wider discussion of them.

Seventy Harvard students dramatized dissatisfaction with the economics profession when they walked out of Prof. Gregory Mankiw’s introductory economics class on Nov. 2, protesting, in an open letter to their instructor, that the course “espouses a specific — and limited — view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.” (Professor Mankiw, a periodic contributor to the Economic View column in the Sunday Business section of The New York Times, discussed the protest in an interview with National Public Radio.)

The event prompted online discussion of conservative bias in introductory economics textbooks, including an anti-Mankiw blog set up by Daniel MacDonald, a graduate student in my own department. Prof. John Davis of the University of Amsterdam and Marquette University posted a video arguing that economic researchers, like fish, engage in herd behavior in order to minimize individual risk.

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One thought on “Occupy economics

  1. Norman

    This is the problem here in the U.S. with Professors teaching the young, the corrupt ideas of a system that has failed its society. This is not to condemn those who don’t practice said flawed subject[s], but to teach a subject that’s 20 years behind reality as gospel, is itself inexcusable. Today, we find that what is relevant, becomes irrelevant by tomorrow, because of the ability of communications. The courses being taught, are from the 20th century, not the 21st as they should be. Time to end this thing called tenure this so called professors enjoy. They should have to undergo re-evaluation, rigorous re-evaluation every 5 years to prove that they are qualified to teach.

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