Studying Economics at UWS

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I gave the talk below last Sun­day at UWS’s Open Day, as an into­duc­tion to eco­nom­ics for prospec­tive uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents. Prepar­ing it made me reflect on the great good for­tune I had to be appoint­ed to UWS.

This might evoke a “Huh?” response from the usu­al sus­pects on such issues–why be pleased about being appoint­ed to a sec­ond-rate Uni­ver­si­ty (and in an out-of-the-way place like Syd­ney to boot)? It’s because the Eco­nom­ics & Finance pro­gram at UWS has been almost unique amongst eco­nom­ics depart­ments around the world in delib­er­ate­ly pur­su­ing a “plu­ral­ist” approach to eco­nom­ics.

We decid­ed a decade ago to teach a wide range of approach­es to eco­nom­ics in the one depart­ment. So we have core sub­jects in Micro and Macro eco­nom­ics that teach the stan­dard Neo­clas­si­cal canon,  sub­jects like Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my and my own major sub­ject Behav­iour­al Finance that pro­vide a dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent analy­sis, the foun­da­tion­al sub­ject His­to­ry of Eco­nom­ic Thought (which I believe is vital for a prop­er under­stand­ing of eco­nom­ics today–and a major rea­son why so few econ­o­mists real­ly under­stand eco­nom­ic the­o­ry is that this sub­ject has been abol­ished at almost all oth­er uni­ver­si­ties around the world), and a range of sub­jects such as Gov­ern­ment and the Econ­o­my where a non-stan­dard approach is pre­sent­ed, along with con­ven­tion­al Neo­clas­si­cal thought on the top­ic.

This could nev­er have hap­pened at an “Ivy League” Uni­ver­si­ty: the gate­keep­ers of the sub­ject would have fought vig­or­ous­ly to under­mine the pro­gram, which they would have seen as unprofessional–a top­ic cov­ered at length in a (yes, I’m seri­ous) Play­boy arti­cle recent­ly. That’s why places like UWS and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri Kansas City (UMKC) are where non-Neo­clas­si­cal work flour­ished over the last 20 years–the main­stream ignored us.

For me, it gave me an envi­ron­ment in which I could work on my dynam­ic approach to eco­nom­ics, and apply that knowl­edge in my lec­tures, with the back­ing of my Head of School. In oth­er uni­ver­si­ties, I would not have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty. I doubt that I could have been as suc­cess­ful in devel­op­ing my alter­na­tive approach if I had­n’t had four con­sec­u­tive sup­port­ive Heads of School, and many col­leagues who were also out­side the main­stream them­selves.

This is an impor­tant point here for stu­dents con­sid­er­ing where they might study eco­nom­ics. Nor­mal­ly, the bet­ter the Uni­ver­si­ty, the bet­ter its aca­d­e­m­ic pro­grams will be. But in eco­nom­ics, often the bet­ter the Uni­ver­si­ty, the worse the eco­nom­ics pro­gram will be because it will teach Neo­clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics to the exclu­sion of all oth­er approach­es.

Before the world hit the eco­nom­ic wall in 2007, only rene­gade econ­o­mists like myself  were aware of this, and stu­dents would hap­pi­ly sign up to “Ivy League” Uni­ver­si­ties in pref­er­ence to out-of-the-way places like UWS and UMKC. Now that the glob­al econ­o­my has fall­en into the debt cri­sis that Hyman Min­sky warned could hap­pen in a dereg­u­lat­ed econ­o­my, the gam­ble that our Depart­ments took to not fol­low the beat­en path is pay­ing dividends–both to the aca­d­e­mics and their stu­dents. You’ll get a broad­er, bet­ter edu­ca­tion off the beat­en track than you’ll get on it–and your instruc­tors will include peo­ple like me who saw the finan­cial cri­sis com­ing.

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About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.