Tuesday, April 20, 2010

more reactions on anti-mankiw and some motivating principles of a critique

There is a lot to be said about all of the reaction to Anti-Mankiw over the last few days. Initial hurdles have been identified and existing attempts have been noted. The biggest intellectual challenge, to me, is to find a unifying framework in which to make the critique. Practically speaking, this is unnecessary. My thoughts are that we don't necessarily need such a unifying framework -- indeed, in Linder's Anti-Samuelson, several alternative methodologies are employed in making his arguments. The ideal Anti-Mankiw would, for every chapter of the book, raise the philosophical, behavioral, and/or historical criticisms of his approach. This isn't that hard to do. The hardest part is in keeping each chapter on a coherent argument. One person should write each chapter or a group of chapters -- say, part II on "How Markets Work" should be written by a behavioral specialist and possibly littered with a few historical and philosophical examples to back up these points.

In the future posts, I will discuss an outline of Anti-Mankiw and I will be eager to hear your thoughts.

Here is some more recent coverage and my thoughts on the points made:

Crooked Timber post

This post nicely describes some of the contradictions inherent in the mainstream approach to economics education -- the difference between what is taught and what is experienced. The mainstream identifies efficiency as the goal of free markets, when in reality markets are distorted consistently through, as the Crooked Timber post notes, "monopolistic rent-seeking and regulatory collusion". Garth Brazelton has a nice discussion of this principle. In the comments section of that post, I note that students won't understand the alternative paradigm until they see it in action. Recent discussions over decommodifying healthcare is one such example. The brief period in Spring 2009 when nationalization of banks was on the table, is another. In other words, relationship between the real world and the text is one of the most important motivations behind our work.

At any rate, stay tuned for some more in-depth issues in the next few days! Comments are very welcome.

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