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A perverse intellectual hierarchy

Ha-Joon Chang

In the sense that there now exists in the economics profession an implicit and perverse intellectual hierarchy which is premised on the understanding that the less of what you do is related to the real world, the cleverer you are.

So, if you are really clever, you would do mathematical modelling of a kind that has nothing to do with the real world.

You would do something on the Turing machine [a theoretical computing device] or on information cascade or some such. If you are a little less clever, you would do econometrics, and if you are not even that clever, you would work on monetary policy or development economics. And, if you are not even that good, you would do economic history. But if you are the worst, you would go around factories interviewing managers. So, the leader-ship of the profession is moving towards abstraction for the sake of abstraction.

This has resulted in the shutting down of courses like the history of economics, the history of economic thought, the philosophy of economics, and other such fields.

Basically, teaching economics has become like one of the other trades, like becoming a plumber or a bricklayer, as if it is about providing students with a set of skills which they can apply. There is no encouragement of critical thinking or teaching of real-world issues.


Real-World Econ Rev blog, 28 Feb 2015

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