Surprising support for the Post-Crash Economics Society

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 31, 2013

Economics students from the University of Manchester have set up the Post-Crash Economics Society. The subtitle of their website summarizes their mission:

The world has changed, the syllabus hasn’t – is it time to do something about it?

I am probably getting old but in any case can’t suppress a déjà-vu feeling.

Paris June 2000.
Cambridge University June 2001.
The Kansas City Proposal August 2001.
Harvard University November 2011.

and there surely were more that I don’t recall.

Yet what’s interesting is that the Post-Crash group get strong support from a surprising corner. Is there someone out here/there who can tell us what an ‘early day motion’ in British Parliament precisely means, politically?



Chris Brooke 10.31.13 at 8:25 pm

Is there someone out here/there who can tell us what an ‘early day motion’ in British Parliament precisely means, politically?

Very little. They are like petitions for MPs to sign. Some like to sign lots of them, others make a point of never signing them. They don’t amount to much at all, and although what an EDM does is call for a matter to be debated in Parliament, in practice the parliamentary timetable gets drawn up without attention to the content of the EDMs that are floating around at the time.


Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.13 at 8:32 pm

Thanks Chris! That’s interesting to know.
As far as I know the earlier petitions or statements by economics students never drew any political attention in the UK or elsewhere (I mean political in the sense of political parties or political institutions), even though the critique is pretty much the same. But, of course, the times are very different…


ZM 10.31.13 at 8:50 pm

Apparently they’re called the blues up there.

John Hemming: This actually comes to the question of who uses the blues. Is it 99% Members and 1% outside Parliament—and this is the point of which I think the public are quite well aware, particularly those campaigning organisations, and that they get on the system on the net . To what extent to people actually use the blues outside Parliament?
Dr Jack: May I answer from another quotation from a Member in the debate on legislative process on 1 November, where Ann Coffey is saying that, “Thousands of early day motions are signed each year and few of them will have any influence at all. Nevertheless, the public understand what is meant by a asking a Member to sign an early day motion.” I think that there is quite a wide knowledge outside this place of what early day motions are.

From: Public Petitions and Early Day Motions: First Report of Session 2006-07
Great Britain:Parliament House of Commons: Procedure Committee


Substance McGravitas 10.31.13 at 8:52 pm

I wonder what competency-based degrees for economists will look like.


John Quiggin 11.01.13 at 4:34 am

One of my projects which will probably never get done is to design a mainstream econ course that takes account of the fact that the world has changed (or rather that the changes perceived as the Great Moderation etc turned out to be illusory).

The big change would be to teach less and question more, particularly as regards macro. I’d start that with an overview of the relevant economic history and history of thought, beginning with the classical economists, then Keynes (maybe also Fisher), then the postwar synthesis and the Phillips curve, then the Friedman-Lucas critique and RBC, then jump to the current crisis, making the point that there is no way that the development of macro can be seen as one of steady progress. Then I’d come back and give a critical exposition of the basic Keynesian IS-LM model, rational expectations and RBC, and the hybrid models that form the basis of inflation targeting. After that, the policy debate in the US and Europe, with a reasonably thorough treatment of recent economic history and of the main institutional actors. I think that could be done in two semesters, without much of a math requirement, and that the graduates would be better informed in most respects than those we are producing at present. I also think it would attract more students.

In micro, I’d focus much less on manipulating supply and demand and much more on the reasoning underlying competing views about the role of the state and the market. I’d start with opportunity costs and an informal exposition of the main welfare theorems for general equilibrium, then talk about market failure and the role of policy (I’m actually working on this bit, and may put up some work in progress soon). After that, I’d start talking about consumers and firms, covering both the logic of optimization, game theory, and some of the key findings of behavioral econ. The idea would be to produce graduates who could understand the way economists argue about public policy, at the expense of technical skills that are only really useful to professional economists.

The main drawback would be that this wouldn’t train people to enter the academic economics profession as it currently exists. But they are only a small minority of students. For those oriented that way, I’d recommend a stiff course in pure maths to go with the econ. That would let them get up to speed, in disciplinary terms, in grad school.

But most of that’s a couple of books away.


Tim Worstall 11.01.13 at 9:50 am

On EDMs….getting 7 signatures in 3 days or so is a very unsuccessful EDM as well.


John Whitfield 11.01.13 at 12:27 pm

Here’s an article by Diane Coyle on another effort to create economics teaching that reflects recent events: Economics teaching must catch up with the real world.


a different chris 11.01.13 at 12:39 pm

> the world has changed (or rather that the changes perceived as the Great Moderation etc turned out to be illusory).

This! Dean Baker, if he’s accomplished nothing else, has kept himself employed and apparently turned a decent profit on his residence over the past decade by, according to what he’s written, doing nothing but applying fundamental tools the every economist gets taught at the undergrad level.

Proving (or maybe confirming my view as a little cog in the wheels) that the world works the same as it ever did.

>setting 7 signatures in 3 days or so is a very unsuccessful EDM as well.

I admittedly never even heard of them until the post but my brief introduction makes me suspect that they are generally the equivalent of the US Congress’s occasional declarations of “what a wonderful horse the Quarter Horse is”…. that is, as far from this level of controversy as possible.


Metatone 11.01.13 at 3:33 pm

@John Quiggin

Could I put in a bid for some systems thinking somewhere as well?
There was a long discussion around simultaneity on Nick Rowe’s blog and it was clear to me that the economics curriculum as it stands just doesn’t give people either the concepts or the language to reason/discuss meaningfully in this area. It was like ships passing in the night.

(And of course, my hobby horse point, an economy is a system, not a natural phenomenon, so you aren’t dealing in “basic laws” and context always needs assessing.)


A guest 11.02.13 at 2:20 am

Harvard University November 2011.

Now that’s a fuckin’ rabbit hole.

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