Economics Students: Join Toxic Textbooks

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A new Face­book group ded­i­cat­ed to reform­ing eco­nom­ics tuition has just been estab­lished by Edward Full­brook, the coor­di­na­tor of PAECON, the Post-Autis­tic ECO­nom­ics Net­work.

Called Tox­ic Text­books,  its aim is to sup­port and coor­di­nate stu­dent protest against neo­clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics at uni­ver­si­ties and schools around the world. Its man­i­festo is:

Toxic textbooks helped cause the economic meltdown

The cur­rent eco­nom­ic melt­down is not the result of nat­ur­al caus­es or human con­spir­a­cy, but because soci­ety at all lev­els became infect­ed with false beliefs regard­ing the nature of eco­nom­ic real­i­ty. And the pri­ma­ry sources of this infec­tion are the “neo­clas­si­cal” or “main­stream” text­books long used in intro­duc­to­ry eco­nom­ics cours­es in uni­ver­si­ties through­out the world. 

Mass miseducation

Every year these “main­stream” books serve to indoc­tri­nate mil­lions of stu­dents in a quaint ide­ol­o­gy (per­fect ratio­nal­i­ty of eco­nom­ic agents, mar­ket effi­cien­cy, the invis­i­ble hand, etc.) cun­ning­ly dis­guised as sci­ence.  This mass mise­d­u­ca­tion deprives soci­ety of the moral and intel­lec­tu­al capac­i­ties it needs in order to design and main­tain the sup­port sys­tems required by mar­ket economies.  

We need new, non-toxic textbooks

More eco­nom­ic cat­a­stro­phes will befall us and our chil­dren if we do not replace these tox­ic text­books with non-tox­ic ones imme­di­ate­ly.  If decen­cy and good sense pre­vail in acad­e­mia, then affect­ing this reform will not be a prob­lem.  But text­book reform will dam­age many eco­nom­ic fac­ul­ties and tox­ic text­book authors. The for­mer will suf­fer loss­es to their rep­u­ta­tions, the lat­ter to their roy­al­ties, which in some cas­es run to mil­lions of dol­lars.  

Together, we can overcome these vested interests

Soci­ety can there­fore expect well-placed and rich­ly-fund­ed strate­gic resis­tance to doing the right and nec­es­sary thing.  This web­site and the asso­ci­at­ed Face­book group exist to help cit­i­zens, espe­cial­ly stu­dents, mobi­lize and orga­nize them­selves to over­come these vest­ed inter­ests.

Edward has also estab­lished a web­site, also called Tox­ic Text­books, , as an adjunct to the Face­book group.

As I have argued numer­ous times on this blog, though there is no doubt that most neo­clas­si­cal econ­o­mists are well-mean­ing and fer­vent­ly believe they make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to soci­ety, their under­ly­ing mod­el of the econ­o­my is delu­sion­al. Fol­low­ing a bad the­o­ry ulti­mate­ly leads to cat­a­stro­phe, and that is what we have today with the Glob­al Finan­cial Cri­sis.

Con­ven­tion­al eco­nom­ics not only com­plete­ly failed to antic­i­pate this calami­ty, but active­ly if uncon­scious­ly aid­ed its growth by pro­mot­ing dereg­u­la­tion of finance, by the devel­op­ment of finan­cial deriv­a­tives, and via res­cues of the finan­cial sys­tem that sim­ply encour­aged its Ponzi behav­iour to scale heights that poor old Charles Ponzi could only have dreamed of.

If eco­nom­ics were in any sense a sci­ence, this dra­mat­ic fail­ure would lead to a peri­od of soul search­ing and intel­lec­tu­al for­ment from which would emerge a more empir­i­cal­ly ground­ed vision. But with the essen­tial­ly unsci­en­tif­ic nature of eco­nom­ics, this devel­op­ment is unlike­ly unless enor­mous pres­sure is brought to bear on aca­d­e­m­ic eco­nom­ics depart­ments by their stu­dents, by busi­ness groups, unions, and com­mu­ni­ty groups–in short by any­one whose wel­fare is affect­ed by the econ­o­my.

The most imme­di­ate source of pres­sure will be stu­dents of eco­nom­ics, who can and should active­ly protest against being taught neo­clas­si­cal dog­ma as the glob­al econ­o­my goes into melt­down around them.

As an under­grad­u­ate, I led such a revolt at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Syd­ney in 1973. We had marked suc­cess in that bat­tle, but lost the war in that eco­nom­ics in gen­er­al came to be dom­i­nat­ed by the false vision of Mil­ton Fried­man, rather than by tru­ly sci­en­tif­ic, empir­i­cal­ly ground­ed analy­sis. In a very direct way, the finan­cial cri­sis is a direct con­se­quence of Fried­man’s intel­lec­tu­al vic­to­ry in the 1970s. Now that we can see the con­se­quences of that vic­to­ry, it is essen­tial to final­ly win the war to bring real­ism into eco­nom­ics.

The time has come for eco­nom­ics stu­dents to once again be revolt­ing. Edward Full­brook has estab­lished this group to pro­vide a New Media focus for such stu­dent action. I have proud­ly joined, and I encour­age all crit­i­cal eco­nom­ics aca­d­e­mics and stu­dents to do like­wise.

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