This is the title of a recent debate hosted at voxeu.org.
First contribution comes from Diane Coyle of Enlightenment Economics. She looks at the issue of teaching econ in schools.
She says econs need introspection post-crisis:
If economics emerges from the Global Crisis unchanged, it will lose all credibility. That is certainly not the view of all economists, but many do think so. There are plenty of examples of criticism of our subject from within and without. Some are ill-informed rants, but others – such as the recent article ‘Economics in Denial’ by Howard Davies (2012), founding chairman of the Financial Services Authority – must be taken seriously.
However, it is not obvious what shape an effective response to even well-founded criticisms could take. After all, engaging in a professional debate about the content and methodology of economics, supported by research, will take years.
One starting point, identified at a conference organised by the Bank of England earlier this year, is the teaching of economics, beginning with the undergraduate level. Participants included both employers of economists (including the Bank and the Government Economic Service) and academic economists. A book with the pre-conference papers and papers by conference participants is published this month (What’s The Use of Economics: Teaching The Dismal Science After The Crisis, London Publishing Partnership).
She looks at three issues that emerged from the conference:
- Feedback from the employers of young economists: Despite being highly employable, most employers express dissatisfaction with econ grads. They have problems expressing their thoughts to non-econs, have little know-how of finance etc. And all this is happening amidst rise in demand for economics.
- Questions about methodology: strong consensus on the need to demote the role of theory and promote empiricism..
- Role of macroeconomics: Huge hurdles here..
In the end:
Economists are in the best position to understand the intellectual power and rigour of our subject, and its ability to contribute to tackling the enormous range of challenges in problems in today’s world, not least the continuing financial and economic crisis. Any intellectually honest economist will acknowledge that the length and severity of the crisis demand at least a certain amount of professional introspection and self-evaluation. Many will agree that economics does need to change. Surely the education of young economists is the best place to start?
A much needed debate. Hope something useful comes out of it..