We were pleasantly surprised to see a piece criticising our movement Rethinking Economics in Thursday’s Times. If the saying is right that ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’ then we are at the fighting stage.
The authors’ claim that we want to ‘dumb down’ academic economics is highly inaccurate, and is a result of their conflation of our two campaigns.
Our first campaign is to reform the economics curriculum to make it broader, more real-world and more critical. This would better prepare the economists, business-leaders and policy makers of tomorrow to deal with society’s greatest challenges. And we are in no way against mathematics. We simply want students to have the space to recognise, critique and adjust the assumptions that lie behind calculations, and understand that it takes more than just maths to understand how an economy works.
We ask academics to demand more, not less, from their students, to engage their critical faculties in trying to understand the world. This goes far beyond the current trend of asking students only to memorise and regurgitate theory for a multiple choice exam.
Our second campaign aims to reduce the use of economic jargon in the public sphere, so people can understand the economics that affects their everyday life. Incidentally, this isn’t ‘dumbing down’ either; it is democratising a subject that matters to us all. The Bank of England and the Government Economics Service seem to agree, and are working with us on a number of initiatives.
We look forward to engaging in some reasoned debate with Anthony Yates and Richard Barwell that goes beyond straw-manning our arguments. For that is the only way to achieve a truly ‘rigorous economics’.