Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Economists of Tomorrow

Freeman, Alan (2009): The Economists of Tomorrow.

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Abstract

This paper is a prepublication version of a submission to the International Review of Economics Education.

It outlines a code of conduct for economics, in the form of a pluralist benchmark for Quality Assurance in economics education. This is a necessary corrective to the publicly-recognised failure of economics in the face of the 2008 crisis, which Colander et al (2009 term its “systemic failure”. This systemic failure is analysed as a consequence of the regulatory capture of the academic profession of economics, arising from and institutionalised by its present peer ranking procedures.

Pluralism is the necessary antidote. It affords two decisive benefits: it produces good economics and better economists.

The paper is part of a broad consultation on teaching in economics, organised by the UK-based Association for Heterodox Economists (AHE). It argues that a pluralist subject benchmark, derived from a pluralist code of conduct, is a prerequisite for the reform of the profession. Critical, pluralistic and independent thinking should be the primary requirement good economic practice, and pecific provisions should be made to recognise, promote, defend and guarantee this good practice in teaching and assessment alike.

Systemic failure requires a systemic solution. The paper explains how the built-in tendency of the economic profession to select for conformity has led to its regulatory capture. Existing UK benchmarks have substituted peer-ranking – the appointment of judges selected for comformity – for collaborative peer review – the pluralistic integration of the strengths of the academic community.

This past practice has become institutionalised at every level. The profoundly non-scientific practice of simply reproducing a politically acceptable consensus has thereby replaced the independent and critical pursuit of knowledge as the primary peer-recognised hallmark of quality.

Tomorrow’s economists need to be defended against the systemic failure of the economics of today. This requires a conscious regulatory intervention – benchmarking for pluralism.

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