Why economics needs economic history..

Another request from an econ to consider teaching economic history as part of economics pedagogy. This one is from Kevin H O’Rourke, Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford.

The current economic and financial crisis has given rise to a vigorous debate about the state of economics, and the training which graduate and undergraduates economics students are receiving. Importantly, among those arguing most strongly for a change in the way that young economists are trained are the ultimate employers of these students, in both the private and the public sector. Employers are increasingly complaining that young economists don’t understand how the financial system actually works, and are ill-prepared to think about appropriate policies at a time of crisis.

Strikingly, many employers and policymakers are also arguing that knowledge of economic history might be particularly useful.

He points to following benefits of teaching econ history:

  • Knowledge of economic and financial history is crucial in thinking about the economy in several ways.
  • A second, related point is that economic history teaches students the importance of context.
  • Third, economic history is an unapologetically empirical field, exclusively dedicated to understanding the real world
  • Fourth, economic history is a rich source of informal theorising about the real world, which can help motivate more formal theoretical work later on (Wren-Lewis 2013).
  • Fifth, even once the current economic and financial crisis has passed, the major long run challenges facing the world will still remain.
  • Sixth, economic theory itself has been emphasising – for well over 20 years now – that path dependence is ubiquitous (David 1985).
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly from the perspective of an undergraduate economics instructor, economic history is a great way of convincing undergraduates that the theory they are learning in their micro and macro classes is useful in helping them make sense of the real world.

I just don’t understand how curriculums can skip teaching econ history..

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