Op-Ed: Econ Majors Graduate With a Huge Knowledge Gap

What’s needed is a mandatory course on ethics and the limits of knowledge.

    Moral philosopher. 1723-1790

  – By Noah Smith.   Bloomberg View.   https://bloom.bg/2vue79V

Economics remains one of the most popular majors for college students. Most econ students, of course, don’t go on to become professional economists; instead, they fill the ranks of the U.S.’s vast pper-middle-class of business managers and professionals.

The models they learn in their college classes inform the way they think about the world, even if they don’t end up using them for quantitative purposes after final exams are over.

But there’s at least one gaping hole in the education most econ  majors receive. They learn plenty of models, but they aren’t often taught to think critically about what they learn. At best, they absorb a few ideas from offhand comments by their professors, or from the tone of their textbooks. As a result, many of them leave class with deep reservations over whether economics theories represent real science, or whether economists approach the world in a moral, socially responsible manner.

This problem can be addressed by making all U.S. econ majors take a philosophy-of-economics course, like the one offered at the London School of Economics. There would be two main parts of the course — epistemology and ethics.

* Full text of article  continues here: https://bloom.bg/2vue79V

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Conclusion:

Economics students rarely learn to think about such crucial issues in any systematic way. This causes many to be deeply uneasy about the morality of what they just learned, and to distrust the economics profession. There’s also a chance it might cause others to emerge from their classes as more selfish individuals. And it certainly doesn’t help voters, policy makers and businesspeople think about policy in an enlightened manner.

A mandatory philosophy-of-economics class wouldn’t make these thorny epistemological and ethical issues go away, but it would improve American educated elites’ ability to see nuance — something that’s too often missing from our national discourse.

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About the author: 

Noah Smith, Bloomberg View writer.  Studied at the University of Michigan and Oxford University (St. Catz), graduating magna cum laude with a degree in anthropology.  Journalist for Various Nat’l Outlets / TV Docuseries Producer. Previously worked in Israel as a foreign correspondent for multiple Digital First Media newspapers in the U.S.  He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion – @noahpinion.  . Elected “top neoliberal shill” of 2018. Occasionally posts anime gifs.

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton

View complete profile

 

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