Monday, December 02, 2013

History of Economics

Paul Krugman makes the case for teaching economics by teaching economic history, because past experience is vital data, but also because a lot of old dead economists were pretty smart people whose insights should not be forgotten just because they are, you know, dead.
Furthermore, to temper your modeling with a sense of realism you need to know something about reality — and not just the statistical properties of U.S. time series since 1947. Economic history — global economic history — should be a core part of the curriculum. Nobody should be making pronouncements on macro without knowing a fair bit about the collapse of the gold standard in the 1930s, what actually happened in the stagflation of the 1970s, the Asian financial crisis of the 90s, and, looking forward, the euro crisis.
I’d put my oar in for history of thought, too. Watching highly trained economists reinvent old economic fallacies suggests to me that there would be real payoff to requiring that students have some idea how the current leading doctrines got to where they are.
But must we reconstruct all of economics? No. Most of what we need, at least for now, is in those old books.
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