By Antoine Cerisier & Marc Morgan

The 2014 London Conference on Rethinking Economics

The 2014 London Conference on Rethinking Economics

In the last weekend of June, we attended the Rethinking Economics Conference organised at UCL by the grassroots student association of the same name. Rethinking Economics is a global network of students that, together with other student associations from around the world, crafted the open letter that formed the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics in May 2014. The London conference brought together frustrated academics and students from numerous countries to debate the sorry state of the economics academic discipline. Adair Turner and Ha-Joon Chang made keynote addresses on either end of two days that sought on the one hand to rethink standard concepts and research methodologies, while on the other to introduce marginalised perspectives by largely heterodox-leaning economists. Curriculum reform, admitting pluralism, was the overarching objective of the conference, which clearly sought to displace neoclassical economics from the royal box of economic investigation.

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By Criminonymous

“I’m so discouraged when the papers say the future is hell…”
“But no! They just play on people’s fear because they know that it sells!”
“Well… I’m so discouraged when the government looks after itself…”
“But no! Their duplicity’s not forever a given!”
It’s just so easy to get discouraged by the world that we live in
So many breaches of trust result in feelings of pessimism
That’s why it’s crucial that we recognise civility and decency
In families, communities of people living peacefully
In history, we only ever learn about the minority at war
While harmony among nonviolent majorities is always ignored
And yet, for every act of cruelty that leads to a death
A million peaceful interactions go unnoticed, and yes
That’s why we should be positive!
Because belligerence just isn’t representative
We tolerate it now, but soon we’ll find a balance to suit us
It’s the aggressors, not the utopians, who are the most deluded
We’re on the verge of huge change in every part of our perspectives
In the past, we’ve not been sure enough to make our challenge effective
Now, for every policy taking us in the wrong direction
A thousand members of civil society have used reflective methods
To determine collectively how best to achieve ethical objectives
To work out the most direct ways to lessen the use of weapons
And improve social outcomes on virtually all metrics
Society is hectic
Time flies by, so unrelenting
Progress is not a given
Our generation has to work to make it
But when that opportunity comes
I’m encouraged that we’ll take it

By heterodox economicsMarc Morgan

Students of the economic science from now 30 countries are leading a much-awaited intellectual rebellion against the current teaching establishment. ‘The International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics’, of which I myself am a participant, has gained much international press coverage, and the support of notable academic economists, including Robert Skidelsky, Ha-Joon Chang, Thomas Piketty, James Galbraith and Steve Keen, among others. This grassroots student movement has a simple objective: to broaden the economics curriculum in terms of the theories and methodologies that are taught, so that students receive a ‘pluralist’ education in the discipline.

This hardly seems to be a matter of contention for an outside observer. It is self-evident that proper mastery of a subject should involve acquaintance with the multiple theories that have defined its existence. This should be especially the case for subjects with no linear progression in the explanation and thus prediction of its objects’ behavior (i.e. those subjects within the social sciences – economics, sociology, psychology, politics). In the sphere of the social sciences, there is no ‘creative destruction’ in the theoretical process, as there is in the natural sciences, where new theories build on from old theories, eventually replacing the old theories. This means that there should not be only one way to learn economics. Relying on just one theoretical lens from which to look at the world severely limits what can be observed, explained and hence anticipated. This is emphatically conveyed in the overwhelming majority of economists, trained exclusively in the neo-classical school of economic thought, who failed to foresee the latest financial crisis.

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Can we learn from the German example of civic engagement to strengthen our democracy?

Can we learn from the German example of civic engagement to strengthen our democracy?

By Sam Tomlin

While politicos clamour over the winners and losers of #Vote2014 in the national and local elections, it is clear in my mind that far from UKIP, Labour or Conservatives coming out on top, once again the winner was apathy. 65 per cent of the electorate did not vote on Thursday in local elections; as Jon Snow said, that is the real earthquake.

Using my borough in London as an example (for local elections), it is also clear that the areas of higher socio-economic deprivation had significantly lower turnout (in the lower 30s per cent, compared to pushing 50 per cent in the richer areas), strongly suggesting that it is people in poorer areas who feel more disenfranchised with what they are being offered by the political system as a whole.

The figures were not much better for the European elections with 64 per cent not voting. Not quite as bad as 76 per cent in 1999, but up again from 61 per cent in 2004. Not particularly inspiring reading. Read More

By Antoine Bouziat

Despite a glooming campaign for the European parliament elections, something is happening in French politics. A new party has gathered 8,000 citizens in six months around iconoclast economists and popular figures. As an alternative to European blind austerity and national right-wing populism, they promote common sense, participative democracy and social progress.

Pierre Larrouturou, economist and founder of the party

Pierre Larrouturou, economist and founder of the party

Politically speaking, two things seem highly symbolic of the French people to British eyes. The first one is their taste for public debate and democracy. Even if voter turnout in France is falling in a worrying manner, it still stays well above the level we observe in the United Kingdom, while the intensive use of leaflets, posters and rallies strongly contrasts with the usual apathy of British political campaigns. The second one is their passion for equality and social justice, deeply rooted in French history since the fall of the Bastille, the rise of the “Popular Front” in the 1930’s, and the project of the “National Counsel of the Resistance” after the second world war, which imagined under the name “Les Jours Heureux” (“The Happy Days”) most of the French welfare system we still know today.

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By Sam Tomlin

Greed“One more dollar.” – The answer John D. Rockerfeller reportedly gave to the question ‘How much is enough?’

The latest Rich List came out the other day with news that the number of Billionaires had surpassed 100 for the first time. According to Martin Vander Weyer of the right-leaning Spectator, this should be celebrated. The main thrust of the argument is that it is ‘not about money, it’s about success’: the younger generation, who may have the audacity to believe that they are ‘starting out at a massive debt-laden disadvantage compared to their parents, who have wrecked the economy while accumulating lavish entitlements that their offspring will have to fund’, should be inspired to ‘achieve’ like those who have climbed the fiscal cliff that is the Rich List. Read More

By Vanya Vaidehi Bhargav

Narendra_Modi_IES-WEF

Modi appeals to the middle-class

In a country as vast and diverse as India, it is difficult to analyse the various reasons why people are supporting Narendra Modi. Nevertheless, this article is an attempt to do so. The following observations are not based on detailed surveys ‘in the field’, but on conversations and debates with persons who can be seen as partially representing Modi’s urban, middle-class support base.

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