Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Walkout On Mankiw's Blather

Apparently, some Harvard students are planning on an organized walkout on Mankiw's introductory economics class today. This action is planned in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Stephen Marglin is one Harvard economist I respect. I find the Harvard Crimson has been, with difficulty*, scanning back issues. Apparently, they rewrote the same article about Marglin every few years for a while there: 1975, 1980, 1982, 2009. Here's a 2009 article about his controversial introductory economics class.

Update: CNN and the Crimson report on the results. An open letter to Greg Mankiw, from one of the organizers, explains the action. Some Harvard student has a response at the same site.

* Substituting "Mary" for "Marx" is probably a scanning error.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, their letter defending the walkout is not particularly well informed. They seem to think they have been getting straight Adam Smith (presumably they buy the popular representation of Smith as a free-market ideologue), when that's far from the case.

Robert Vienneau said...

Yes, I agree.

Those who tear out the people's eyes complain that they are blind. Somehow I think that economists not predisposed to agree with the left will see the walkout in line with my view.

CNN quotes Mankiw as saying, "Adam Smith is pretty non-controversial among economists. But it can seem pretty conservative the first time you hear it." The first sentence is definitely false. The second sentence suggests that indeed Mankiw neither teaches, nor acknowledges the existence of the range of views among economists on his topics.

It would be nice if somebody associated with this action was clear in stating that the objection is not that Mankiw advised Bush. I have not look at Krugman and Wells. But I doubt I would find it an acceptable introductory textbook either.

Robert Vienneau said...

Should be: "Somehow I don't think that economists not predisposed to agree with the left will see the walkout in line with my view."

Matías Vernengo said...

Krugman's textbook is terrible (not just the intro, the international one with Obstfeld too). He said in his The Conscience of a Liberal (the book not the blog) that the 101 textbook should be re-written, but has not done so. Adam Smith as much the rest of history of thought has been hijacked by conservatives, and any discussion avoided. Any news on what happened Wednesday?

Anonymous said...

According to Mankiw, at least, the walkout was pretty small-scale:

On the one hand, you have Mankiw stating that Adam Smith "can seem pretty conservative". On the other, you have the Rothbardians who denounce Smith as the proto-Marx. I would say that there are several serious problems with positing Smith as a forerunner of modern neoclassical economics (I believe that the late Milton Friedman was responsible for this rhetorical tactic, but it may well have been someone more obscure):

-Smith is clearly interested in looking beyond the superficial workings of supply and demand to find a deeper explanation of relative prices -- he sees subjective preference as an unsatisfactory explanation

-Smith recognizes that businessmen will often combine to subvert the public interest

-Smith recognizes that combinations of workers are beneficial, and there are too few of them

-Smith explicitly justifies financial regulation, public education, and progressive taxation

Matias is right that you wouldn't like Krugman and Wells's text (which is what I read in econ 101, incidentally). Compared to other texts I've seen, though, it's not so bad. It includes a number of standard doctrines that the real-time Krugman seems not to regard as true (e.g., minimum wage laws increase unemployment).