Yes, it's official! Brian MacLean (of Laurentian University) and Tony Myatt (University of New Brunswick) have signed a contract with Zed Books for The Macroeconomics Anti-Textbook: A Critical Thinker's Guide. The manuscript for the book should be finished next summer. It seems very likely that Tony and I will also be revising and updating The Economics Anti-Textbook, which will appear in a new edition.
When he heard the news, Robert Lucas scratched his head and muttered:
"The Macroeconomics Anti-Textbook?! What would that be about?!"
A nice review of The Economics Anti-Textbook by economist Mary Manning Cleveland in The Huffington Post, and reprinted widely on the web, it seems. Her blog is well worth a look.
I confess that I'm disappointed, but not too surprised, that no economics journal has reviewed the Anti-Textbook. Self-reflection is not our strong suit, it seems.
I find it a bit strange that most academic economists spend so much time on the teaching side of things, but so little time reflecting on it and discussing what we are doing with each other. Yes, quite a lot of time is spent collectively reviewing and 'fact-checking' the content of the textbooks, but (from my experience) almost all of that is done within the parameters that define what the conventional mainstream book will consist of. As well, the discussion that takes place is largely between the editors of large textbook companies and individual academics, not between academics themselves. It's not unusual or surprising to see large general conferences of academic economists without a single session devoted to what we are doing in the classroom or to the content of the texts the companies are producing.
While reading George Monbiot's column (published in today's Guardian), I followed his footnote to this great site that I hadn't seen before: The Story of Stuff Project. I watched their first 20 minute video of the same name -- thought provoking stuff! Perfect to show to my introductory economic class next term just after they've read the chapter on 'resource maintenance' and are doing the one on consumption and consumerism (in Microeconomics in Context, by Goodwin, Nelson, Ackerman, & Weisskopf).
There's a series of other videos, all with annotated transcripts freely available, where sources and more background information is given. A great resource!
A great talk by Joseph Stiglitz (@Google) about his new book The Price of Inequality. He points out the useless nature of marginal productivity theory in determining the huge rewards enjoyed by some, how there is no correspondence between 'contribution to society' and the large fortunes at the top, which, he contends, also have a good deal to do with plundering those lower down on the food chain. (OK, he phrases it more diplomatically, calling it 'rent seeking'.)
Compared to the wealth of information like this that is available to today's undergraduate economics students, I feel like I was living in the stone age when I was a student in the 1970s. I hope their instructors are helping them to find such gems. Perhaps it's one of the best contributions we can make to their education.
I read with interest Mariana Mazzucato's fine piece in today's Guardian. The title -- "Public money spent on 'digging ditches' won't stimulate the economy" -- initially put me off (after all, Keynes showed that was not true), but the subtitle -- "State spending to boost growth needs to go beyond mere investment – it must transform the economy" -- gets at the real subject of the article. (Nicholas Stern makes a similar argument regarding public investments in dealing with climate change, in particular in part 2 of this interview.)
Being lazy and also preparing for the start of classes this week, I wasn't going to write anything about Mazzucato's article, and my laziness paid off as Yanis Varoufakis wrote a much better piece about it than I would ever be able to, and it prompted me to add a link to his excellent blog in the list of blogs on this page.
By the way, I wrote earlier about Varoufakis's remarkable book Foundations of Economics: A Beginner's Companion. Check it out!
We (Rod Hill and Tony Myatt) are professors of economics at the University of New Brunswick and the authors of "The Economics Anti-Textbook: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Microeconomics" (Zed Books, London & New York; Fernwood Books, Halifax & Winnipeg, 2010). The 2011 Indian edition is published by Books for Change (Bangalore). A Chinese-language edition has been published by Shiwenbooks, Beijing. We'll use this blog as a place to post discussion with readers of our book. We'll also use it to write further about economics textbooks and their content, as well as about new books coming out that critique textbook economics.
Feel free to write to us at rodntony [AT] gmail.com.