There's a series of other videos, all with annotated transcripts freely available, where sources and more background information is given. A great resource!
the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher-in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician. (p.322)
The teaching of economics needs to be changed from top to bottom. Students need to have a grounding in economic history, set in its social and political context. They need to learn some social psychology, drawing on insights from neuro-science and anthropology. They need training in social science research methods focussing heavily on areas which are often neglected in the training of economists – all the ethnographic methods. They need to think critically about selecting indicators; about the design of questionnaires; about the crucial importance of the assumptions when building models. They need to study the operation of current economic organisation set in its political context. And they need some understanding of the rich heritage of economic thought.RH
I entered San Francisco City College just before the birth of my son in fall 2008, and was fortunate enough to take a microeconomics class taught by Douglas Orr, who spent the first two class sessions warning students to critically challenge the models that we’d be learning. He gave an analogy:
“If you want to learn about an airplane, the cheapest way to do it is with a model airplane. Maybe you go out and get a build-n-paint F-16 from your local hobby shop. It’s a great way to get details about the appearance and dimensions of a real jet fighter. Or maybe you go out and get a little balsa-wood glider, which is a great way to get an intuition for basic aerodynamics. But every kid understands implicitly that F-16s are not built by snapping plastic chunks out of molded frames and gluing them together, just as every kid understands that you don’t go to the airport and get strapped onto a giant balsa wood trojan glidar and hurl [yourself] off a bridge.
"As you learn about mainstream economics you will be continuously urged by your textbook to apply the models you are learning to the real world, and you will be faced with constant reminders of the predictive power of these models. But the reason I’m standing here talking to you is to remind you, just as constantly, that every single morning, in offices from Wall Street to the IMF, economists are strapping entire populations to wooden planes and launching them off bridges, throwing up their hands in helpless befuddlement at the inevitable grisly results, cashing their checks, and heading out for the golf course by 2pm.”
I often visited him during office hours to turn in late work due to my son getting sick, or my hours at work overlapping with class time, and as far as I could tell he put in almost every second of his free time writing, consolidating, and refining instructional problems and examples in order to provide alternatives and context to the misleading shit in the text. It appeared to take monumental effort to do this while keeping it digestible enough that us community-college simpletons could still internalize the core concepts of economics. That he did it, year in and year out, and is still pulling it off, is amazing. Hopefully these texts and others like them will enable more of those economics professors like him, who are genuinely concerned with cultivating genuinely critical economic reasoning in future economists, to effectively revitalize the discipline.
Well if the idea is that we need an economics that actually describes the real world, why aren’t these guys working on the economics of kleptocracy? That is the real world. Instead we get this happy talk that there are a lot of exciting things going on in economics. But this simply isn’t true. Most of the “new” stuff is happening at the margins and strongly resisted by the profession. ....
I do not want to come across as too harsh but what Hill and Myatt are doing reminds me of a critique of Scholasticism by Scholastically trained critics. There is the same attention to evey nook and cranny with the concomitant loss of the big picture. And the big picture here is wealth inequality, kleptocracy, and class war. These are not peripheral issues, they are the issues.
My only significant critique of this book probably derives inherently from its basic structure as a topic-by-topic critique of simplistic neoclassical pedagogy. The extremes of neoclassical thought, especially in its stereotypical textbook incarnations, provide an easy target for piece-by-piece disassembly and refutation. The specific critiques catalogued so helpfully by Hill and Myatt are not, for the most part, new. Yet the edifice of Walrasian thought still dominates academic economics and (more importantly) real-world economic discourse and policy-making. In addition to highlighting the logical failures of specific neoclassical assumptions, models, and conclusions, there is also a way in which neoclassical analysis--rooted in a model of optimizing behaviour by atomistic agents who engage in equal, efficient exchange--fundamentally misportrays the essence of economic activity in real-world capitalism.
We therefore need to do more than just snipe around the edges of the neoclassical edifice--with critiques that ultimately accept the Walrasian portrait of the economy as a place where people exchange things through markets. (My former professor John Eatwell describes this class of criticisms as "imperfectionist" in nature, in the sense that if it were not for some flaw or imperfection in the market mechanism--be it imperfect information, limited rationality, "sticky prices," or whatever--then the assumed mutually beneficial equilibrium would finally come to pass.) That's where we need a textbook that presents a comprehensive and holistic alternative depiction of how the economy actually works. I can imagine one that would start by describing the reality of work, production, accumulation, and innovation under capitalism, highlighting the asymmetry and inequality between different stakeholders (in terms of power and agency, not just income and wealth), describing the core mechanism of production for profit that defines capitalism, explaining the history and institutional reality of money (which neoclassical microeconomic models still have not successfully incorporated), and exploring the dynamics of all these processes for growth, development, cycles, and distribution. This would not constitute an anti-textbook in the sense of refuting specific assumptions and predictions of the Walrasian system. It would, instead, erect a competing intellectual edifice.
There are places in this book, despite the incrementalist mission they set at the outset, where Hill and Myatt do verge on a more fundamentalist critique of neoclassical economics (moving beyond just challenging the formulations of its simplistic textbook variants). For example, in numerous locations in the book they discuss the role of power in shaping both production and exchange. That is not an imperfection or a market failure, it is a completely different dimension along which to understand human economic interactions. Their discussion of government and political-economy similarly reveals a more fundamental divergence from the core structures of neoclassical analysis. In this way, Hill and Myatt's catalogue of the many specific failures of neoclassical microeconomics should hopefully whet the appetite of critical thinking students to pursue completely different, heterodox explanations of how the economy actually works. While many references are provided to examples of this sort of work, Hill and Myatt could be more explicit, in my view, in connecting the dots and guiding the reader to those comprehensive alternative models.
Nevertheless, for students and others who possess a gut-level faith in the potential of economics to make the world a better place, but are constrained by stultifying introductory neoclassical curriculum, this anti-textbook will be invaluable in enhancing their capacity and their confidence to challenge orthodoxy--and ultimately to look beyond it.RH