What does Yanis Varoufakis want?

2 03 2015

That’s the title of a great blog post about Greece’s current finance minister.

By training, Varoufakis is not an economist, but a mathematical statistician. And similar to many academics who migrated from the ‘hard’ sciences to economics, Varoufakis has built a career on ridiculing economists’ inferior abilities in math and statistics. Also economists’ too simplistic belief in the miracles of the markets, their tendency only to see positive sides to technological progress, and the idea that to do economics is to build simple mathematical models, is derided by Varoufakis in witty and rhetorically gifted prose. At the same time, Varoufakis has been employed by economic faculties for some twenty-five years, in which he hence felt like an “atheist theologian ensconced in a Middle Ages monastery.”

The whole blog post is well worth reading, even if you are less fascinated by Yanis Varoufakis than I am.

The Historic Turn in Core Econ?

22 09 2014

Over the last few years, there has been growing evidence of a historic turn in management school teaching and research. Works that are historical in subject matter and, crucially, methodology are now starting to appear in top management journals. It is now widely recognized that there needs to be more history in business school research and teaching. Marcelo Bucheli and Dan Wadhwani have argued that the historic turn should involve more than research about the past (i.e., trips to the archive to gather data points for the testing of various social-scientific theories).They argue that the historic turn should involve the adoption of historical methods by management academics.



It appears as if a similar historic turn may be taking place in the undergraduate economics curriculum. Given the importance of economics in the present-day hierarchy of social sciences, these changes should interest all social scientists and management scholars. Core Econ is a movement to reform the undergraduate econ curriculum by incorporating newish research that shows that human beings are both less rational and less selfish than traditional economics textbooks would suggest. The Core Econ movement, which is associated with the Institute_for_New_Economic_Thinking, has achieved traction in part because of demand from students who want a more empirical,  policy-oriented curriculum.


How is CORE different?

Question motivated
Students learn tools to analyse growth, distribution, environment, policy.
Tool motivated
Students learn tools that are then illustrated by applications.
Empirically motivated and illustrated
Students learn economics to understand their economy and compare it to others.
Student learning is largely independent of empirical reference points.
New results are integral
We examine behavioural experiments, incomplete contracts, finance and bubbles.
New results are often just “add-ons” 
New thinking sits alone at the end of the course or text.
History, innovation and instability is essential to economic analysis.
History doesn’t matter – often because equilibria are assumed to be unique.
Central role of institutions
Property rights, bargaining power, varieties of price and wage setting central in both allocation (mutual gain) and distribution (conflicts).
Little attention to institutions 
Attention on markets through budget constraints and competition. Attention centred on mutual gain, distribution determined by fallbacks.


I’ve taken a look at the chapter summaries of newly-published Core Econ textbook and I’ve found that it includes a fair bit of economic history. In fact, the first chapter is all history.  That’s encouraging to me as I’m certain this textbook,  which is available for free online,  will go into widespread use for free.