Textbooks and competing economics narratives

The Informed Reader on the Wall Street Journal points out to two recent contributions on the debate of which kind of economics narrative should be taught in textbooks.

Stefan Theil on Foreign Policy in the article Europe’s Philosophy of Failure argues: “In France and Germany, students are being forced to undergo a dangerous indoctrination. Taught that economic principles such as capitalism, free markets, and entrepreneurship are savage, unhealthy, and immoral, these children are raised on a diet of prejudice and bias. Rooting it out may determine whether Europe’s economies prosper or continue to be left behind.

On Adbusters Gilles Raveaud also complains about indoctrination but of a opposite kind. In Economic Indoctrination he warns the reader: “You might not have heard of N. Gregory Mankiw. The Harvard economics professor and former adviser to George W. Bush is one of the most gifted economists of our generation. He is also one of the most effective and talented propagandists of our times. His target: young economics students. His field of operation: the world’s universities. His weapon: the best selling textbook in the world. ” and adds “Mankiw’s text … oversimplifies economic theory and leaves out the ways in which markets can degrade human well-being, undermine societies, and threaten the planet.

Crooked Timber criticizes Theils’s contribution: “I don’t have any experience whatsoever in the French educational system. It may quite possibly be that ‘countless’ French students who want to get into Sciences-Po ‘memorize’ a set of texts describing capitalism as “brutal,” “savage,” “neoliberal,” and “American.” It equally may be that Mr. Thiel is engaging in a bit of cherry-picking. The precise relationship between the particular texts that Mr. Thiel dwells on in most loving detail, and the actual official curricula in France and Germany is sometimes rather harder to discern from the piece than it should be.”  Several interesting comments follow the post.

Pointer to the Informed Reader by Grew Mankiw.

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