Core-econ: A new way to learn economics..

I had blogged about the Core-econ textbook – “The Economy” – a few days ago.

John Cassidy adds that it is not about textbook alone but a new approach to teaching economics:

With the new school year starting, there is good news for incoming students of economics—and anybody else who wants to learn about issues like inequality, globalization, and the most efficient ways to tackle climate change. A group of economists from both sides of the Atlantic, part of a project called core Econ, has put together a new introductory economics curriculum, one that is modern, comprehensive, and freely available online.

In this country, many colleges encourage Econ 101 students to buy (or rent) expensive textbooks, which can cost up to three hundred dollars, or even morefor some hardcover editions. The core curriculum includes a lengthy e-book titled “The Economy,” lecture slides, and quizzes to test understanding. Some of the material has already been used successfully at colleges like University College London and Sciences Po, in Paris.

The project is a collaborative effort that emerged after the world financial crisis of 2008–9, and the ensuing Great Recession, when many students (and teachers) complained that existing textbooks didn’t do a good job of explaining what was happening. In many countries, groups of students demanded an overhaul in how economics was taught, with less emphasis on free-market doctrines and more emphasis on real-world problems.

Traditional, wallet-busting introductory textbooks do cover topics like pollution, rising inequality, and speculative busts. But in many cases this material comes after lengthy explanations of more traditional topics: supply-and-demand curves, consumer preferences, the theory of the firm, gains from trade, and the efficiency properties of atomized, competitive markets. In his highly popular “Principles of Economics,” Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw begins by listing a set of ten basic principles, which include “Rational people think at the margin,” “Trade can make everybody better off,” and “Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity.”

The core approach isn’t particularly radical. (Students looking for expositions of Marxian economics or Modern Monetary Theory will have to look elsewhere.) But it treats perfectly competitive markets as special cases rather than the norm, trying to incorporate from the very beginning the progress economists have made during the past forty years or so in analyzing more complex situations: when firms have some monopoly power; people aren’t fully rational; a lot of key information is privately held; and the gains generated by trade, innovation, and finance are distributed very unevenly. The corecurriculum also takes economic history seriously.

Hmm..Thumbs up to taking economic history seriously. I did see the online course which is quite promising.

In another related post, The Gold Standard Blog reflects on Stan Fischer resignation from Federal Reserve and also writes about his disappointing book:

I am not too disappinted by his departure. He has a formidable reputation but he is not a central banker who disturbs the cozy consensus on monetary policy that has prevailed since the crisis of 2008. To me, that is disappointing. In a piece written in October 2016, Howard Davies points to the limits of Central Banking independence and correctly notes that independence goes hand in hand with accountability.

Professor Fischer’s text book co-authored with Dornbusch and Startz is something that I have been using for the macro-economics course I have been teaching at the Singapore Management University for the last four years. I find it somewhat disappointing. It is too ‘consensual’ and does not challenge the students to think for themselves. Its loyalty towards monetary policy – which is set by unaccountable (largely) and unelected technocrats – over fiscal policy which is set by democratically elected and accountable politicians is too obvious and glaring and disappointing too.

Recently, Larry White wrote on why economists have favored and rarely criticised central banks/monetary policy: it gives them jobs!

Mankiw has dominated the microeconomics/general economics textbook and Dornbusch & Fischer (and later  Sytartz) has done the same in macro courses. It is interesting how the crisis has challenged and rightly so, the dominance of these very textbooks. It is all these standardised idy..eas in these books which have led to this decline of thinking the very discipline. All so ironical really…


2 Responses to “Core-econ: A new way to learn economics..”

  1. A. Vasudevan Says:

    Congrats that you picked up the new way of teaching spearheaded by Samuel Bowles and a few others. The contents of the core book look promising.


  2. Prabhu Guptara Says:

    You may care to check out my comments here?:

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