I find reading economist Brad DeLong interesting since, even though I don’t always agree with him on economics, he approaches his subject with the humility that scientific disciplines brutally instill in their faithful practitioners. This was an interesting notion regarding the future of economics education:
It is the scale of the catastrophe that astonishes me. But what astonishes me even more is the apparent failure of academic economics to take steps to prepare itself for the future. “We need to change our hiring patterns,” I expected to hear economics departments around the world say in the wake of the crisis.
The fact is that we need fewer efficient-markets theorists and more people who work on microstructure, limits to arbitrage, and cognitive biases. We need fewer equilibrium business-cycle theorists and more old-fashioned Keynesians and monetarists. We need more monetary historians and historians of economic thought and fewer model-builders. We need more Eichengreens, Shillers, Akerlofs, Reinharts, and Rogoffs – not to mention a Kindleberger, Minsky, or Bagehot.
Yet that is not what economics departments are saying nowadays.
DeLong then warns:
Perhaps academic economics departments will lose mindshare and influence to others – from business schools and public-policy programs to political science, psychology, and sociology departments. As university chancellors and students demand relevance and utility, perhaps these colleagues will take over teaching how the economy works and leave academic economists in a rump discipline that merely teaches the theory of logical choice.
I hate to say it, but disciplines can toddle on for a very long time in bizarre directions without being relevant. Since economics isn’t heavily dependent on external funding (although that could conceivably change if it became a more data- and natural history-driven discipline), the only external impetus I can foresee would be the need for governments to have reality-based economists.
And that last sentence definitely opens a can of worms (not to mention opportunities for snark).