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Our Children’s Economics

Jonathan B. Wight

What is the future of economics? Barry Eichengreen posted his ideas in "Our Children's Economics" in The Economist.

According to one view, the economics of 2030 will have marginal improvements, adding a bit of behavioral economics here, a spice of institutional theory there, perhaps even a re-writing of Adam Smith's ethics and a reinterpretation of the invisible hand that is not based on greed.

Eichengreen argues that the marginalist view is likely wrong. We are heading for major rifts and breakthroughs, similarly to the Keynesian revolution of the 1930s. What these are he cannot say.

My own pet theory is that economics will merge with biology to make BIO-ECONOMICS. Both fields try to understand survival and procreation in particular habitats with innovation and adaptation to changing environments.

Eichengreen notes that the mechanism by which knowledge is transferred from generation to generation will radically change. The old model is of a great authority who writes a definitive textbook that lasts for a generation: think of Smith and Wealth of Nations in late 18th century, Ricardo and his Principles in the 19th century, Marshall's great fusion at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, and Samuelson's great synthesis of Keynesian economics in the 1950s and on.

In the future, Eichengreen argues that textbooks will no longer be written by big-name authors, but through a wiki-process, electronically built from the bottom up. The result will be different to be sure:

"The outcome will be messy. But the economics profession will also become more diverse and dynamic – and our children's economics will be healthier as a result."

[Thanks to Pam Thomas for this link.]


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