Thursday , June 27 2019
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The Trend of Economic Thinking Redux

Summary:
|Peter Boettke| Greg Mankiw will no longer be teaching Principles of Economics at Harvard and instead Raj Chetty will be. How fortunate are those students to be exposed to such a brilliant mind at the beginning of their education. And there is no doubt Chetty is brilliant.  But his plan is to change the style and more importantly the content of the course.   You can be brilliantly wrong, which is what I believe Chetty is in making this move. Economic theory, understood correctly, cannot be so easily dispensed with because it is not so easily learned either. Students have to be taught the economic way of thinking to make sense of the big data they are processing and asked to analyze. Theory is the set of eyeglasses through which we can ‘read’ the chaotic world and make sense of it.

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Greg Mankiw will no longer be teaching Principles of Economics at Harvard and instead Raj Chetty will be. How fortunate are those students to be exposed to such a brilliant mind at the beginning of their education. And there is no doubt Chetty is brilliant.  But his plan is to change the style and more importantly the content of the course.  

You can be brilliantly wrong, which is what I believe Chetty is in making this move. Economic theory, understood correctly, cannot be so easily dispensed with because it is not so easily learned either. Students have to be taught the economic way of thinking to make sense of the big data they are processing and asked to analyze. Theory is the set of eyeglasses through which we can ‘read’ the chaotic world and make sense of it.  Without it, we are ‘blind’ to the world we are studying with all its beautiful complexity and creativity.

Hayek’s inaugural lecture at the LSE back in 1933 faced down a similar challenge to the teaching of Economic theory, and Frank Knight addressed a similar concern in his 1950 AEA Presidential address. Everyone would do well to revisit those lectures in light of this development and contemplate what is at stake.  

It is high time for mainline economics to aggressively assert itself in the scientific and educational discourse against the trend of economic thinking in the mainstream.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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