Harvard — November 2, 2011 2:23 am

An Open Letter to Greg Mankiw

By

The following letter was sent to Greg Mankiw by the organizers of today’s Economics 10 walkout.

Wednesday November 2, 2011

Dear Professor Mankiw—

Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.

As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.

A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.

Care in presenting an unbiased perspective on economics is particularly important for an introductory course of 700 students that nominally provides a sound foundation for further study in economics. Many Harvard students do not have the ability to opt out of Economics 10. This class is required for Economics and Environmental Science and Public Policy concentrators, while Social Studies concentrators must take an introductory economics course—and the only other eligible class, Professor Steven Margolin’s class Critical Perspectives on Economics, is only offered every other year (and not this year).  Many other students simply desire an analytic understanding of economics as part of a quality liberal arts education. Furthermore, Economics 10 makes it difficult for subsequent economics courses to teach effectively as it offers only one heavily skewed perspective rather than a solid grounding on which other courses can expand. Students should not be expected to avoid this class—or the whole discipline of economics—as a method of expressing discontent.

Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.

We are walking out today to join a Boston-wide march protesting the corporatization of higher education as part of the global Occupy movement. Since the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America, we are walking out of your class today both to protest your inadequate discussion of basic economic theory and to lend our support to a movement that is changing American discourse on economic injustice. Professor Mankiw, we ask that you take our concerns and our walk-out seriously.

Sincerely,

Concerned students of Economics 10

  • Heterodox

    check out the heterodox economics newsletter http://www.heterodoxnews.com/HEN/home.html

    there’s a whole world of economics out there. fight the mainstream!

  • Heterodox

    congratulations from across the pond, SOAS, UK! 

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  • Adamsmith12

    People should walk out of Ec 10 not because of what it teaches, but because it is so horribly taught. Mankiw shows up 5 times a term, then a bunch of foreign TFs are left to instruct students three times each week by regurgitating the textbook in broken English.

  • Harvard ’14

    Having taken Ec10, I see no reason why these students should be walking out of a class that provides a holistic basis for further inquiry into economics and other social sciences.  This is the course that will equip students to fix the most important problems today, not continue making them.

    Let’s not forget that the “concerned students” have taken about a fourth of Ec10; it’s a year-long course.  The basis of Western economics lie in the free market principles of Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations.  Departing from that basis, other challenges arise that do involve swift government action to correct individual markets, like internalizing externalities by raising taxes and/or offering subsidies.These students will see that Keynesian economics, is the foundation for the second semester, macroeconomics portion of the course.  Throughout the course, students read excerpts from leading left and right leaning economists each week for problem sets.  Income inequality is a topic expressed at great length, especially in the second semester talks about the USA’s growing Gini coefficient.I don’t get it…the class is taught in a rigorous way that Mankiw tries to make as broad and welcoming as possible.  I just think that the concerned students hate the fact that one of Harvard’s best known faculty members is a conservative and is against the Occupy movement.  

  • http://twitter.com/deficitowl MMT Bloggers @ NEP

    Bravo students!  Since you’re searching for alternative perspectives (particularly those of the Keynesian persuasion), perhaps you’d like this blog, which was started by a collection of econ profs at the Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City.  It’s called New Economic Perspectives, and you can find all sorts of alternatives to the theoclassical (faith-based economics) school of thought that still dominates in departments like yours. 

    http://neweconomicperspectives.blogspot.com  

    -Professor Stephanie Kelton, UMKC

  • Nathan Tankus

    it would be nice if he actually taught based on what Adam Smith wrote. based on what you are saying, i doubt you would know anything about the wealth of nations if someone read it aloud to you. To wit:”When the regulation, therefore, is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters”- Adam Smith. that’s without talking about the book he liked more, the theory of moral sentiments. I think these kids would be more satisfied with a class that actually talked about what Adam Smith actually wrote.

  • jonathan

    you’re completely off it guys; it’s like anything, you start with the basics. You can’t learn how an economy functions if you don’t know how prices form and how demand shifts, cp. 

    as in the comment below, you probably disagree with your teacher’s views on whatever is going on right now, be it political or anything else; it’s a good thing you leave his class because learning economics requires you just to do not that.

  • Joe

    In the same paragraph we have,
     
    “As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory”
     
    and
     
    “Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.”
     
    So they want to take economics because they don’t yet know economics.  Still, they are quite sure that the economic system of today is ineficient and unequal.
     
    And then there is this:

    “There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.”
     
    Mankiw is a New Keynesian, fool.

  • Joe

    In the same paragraph we have,
     
    “As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory”
     
    and
     
    “Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.”
     
    So they want to take economics because they don’t yet know economics.  Still, they are quite sure that the economic system of today is ineficient and unequal.
     
    And then there is this:

    “There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.”
     
    Mankiw is a New Keynesian, fool.

  • Dan Bloomquist

    A major problem I see with modern economic theories is that the premise of bank created money is just that, an unchallenged premise.  Premises are not part of sound scientific theories. There is a powerful correlation between levels of aggregate debt and booms and busts. (Irving Fisher) Yet even Bernanke carries on like he doesn’t have a clue.

    Banking, with the banner of ‘legal tender’, creates our money and charges for the use of that money. Policies of banks are driven by a need to maximize profit and have produced hundreds of years of booms and bust through irresponsible practices. Modern economics never addresses this phenomena and in the stead creates other reasons to explain the mechanics.

    And here we are again:
    http://lakeweb.com/money/debt-trend-breakdown_thumb.jpg

    Best, Dan.
    pubdan3@lakeweb.net

  • http://www.earwicker.com Daniel Earwicker

    Some tips:

    - Contrary to popular belief, university education is not a form of brainwashing. You can attend a course without being tricked into believing everything you hear.

    - The first part of a course may not be representative of the entire course, e.g. a section on classical micro-economics might possibly be followed by a section on Keynesian macro-economics. You’d have to attend the whole thing to find out.

    - You are free to supplement your understanding by reading any texts you like, besides those recommended in a course. As Harvard students you have access to one of the best libraries in the world.

    - Every time the financial sector reaches a point of possible collapse, the US government bails it out. 2008 was not the first time, far from it. Is repeatedly bailing out a failing industry a good idea according to Adam Smith? If you attend the course, you might find out.

  • Jlb22230

    The only bias made apparent by this open letter is the anti-intellectual bias at Harvard, puncuated by the act of walking out of Dr. Mankiw’s class.

  • Adam P

    Yes, because the best way to critique something is by refusing to learn about it.

  • http://twitter.com/dafowc gaius marius

    the problem runs deeper than these students likely know — virtually all modern macro as taught is based on invalid precepts, which is in part why its explanations are so often silly on their face and forecasts are generally so poor.

    http://pragcap.com/harvard-the-mankiw-revolt
    among the notable exceptions, however, we might well count Prof. Kelton and her peers at UMKC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaronrosier Aaron Rosier

    Let Hayek win out in this new generations battle for a new macro economic paradigm!

  • http://twitter.com/SusieMadrak Susie Madrak

    Funny, how no one ever says that when they’re complaining about liberal professors. I wonder why.

  • http://twitter.com/SusieMadrak Susie Madrak

    Funny, how no one ever says that when they’re complaining about liberal professors. I wonder why.

  • Nick

    I think it’s fine to raise your concerns with your lecturer, however the way this letter has gone about it is a bit dramatic. 
    The second last point is a bit over the top also.

  • http://www.earwicker.com Daniel Earwicker

    I’ll say it, if a campaign by students against a liberal professor is ever brought to my attention.

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  • Anonymous

    For a heterodox view of economics see http://pragcap.com/
    and Steve Keen’s blog at   http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/about/    , Keen teaches economics at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

  • David Klemitz

    ‘A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical
    discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic
    simplifying models’  – compare and contrast the following

    http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/

  • wh10

    New Keynesian theory is a modern theory that integrates many other ideas than what Keynes originally had in mind.  And they’re talking about theoretical foundations.  Fool.

  • Andy Long

    “As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics.”  
    Why, is your internet connection down?  Is the library shut?    Take the course, read what ever other material you desire then develop your own opinions.

    I’ve never read such pompous, self important nonsense.

  • David Klemitz

    I don’t believe  David Hume, Adam Smith nor dare I say it Karl Marx considered the extent of economic destruction brought about by  Credit Default Swaps, the notional value of which for one so called Wall St investment bank know as JP Morgan is twice that of the whole world in GDP terms.  I would appreciate a reference to the assertion that Adam Smith conceived of these so called bail outs that are effectively an unprecedented transfer of broad interest inter-generational public sector wealth to the necessarily narrower interest private sector – in the current generation.

  • Andrey

    Oh boy.  These are supposed to be our future intellectuals and American elite.  “The biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America”  – bravo, what else can I say.  Maybe this should be modified to:  “The nature of Economics science itself contributes to economic inequality in America”?  This could serve as a new slogan for occupy “whatever” protests…..

    If you, students, do not like how the class is taught, why don’t you go to the library and read about whatever you are missing?  The education is about you educating yourself and Prof. Mankiw is there to help you.  However, he will not help you if all you want is for him to spoon feed you knowledge while you sit with your mouths opened.  All protests and walkouts in the world will never get you any closer to  real understanding of the subject.

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  • http://mmtwiki.org Hugo Heden

    Kelton rules!

  • David Klemitz

    I would guess that Ec10 does not consider the role of debt in society
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoaUTpr2SNo

  • circuit

    Greg Mankiw needs to understand that, from a central bank operations standpoint, fiscal deficits act to lower interest rates, not increase them, as he’s argued in his latest NYT article. For more, see my comment on Mankiw’s view here: http://fictionalbarking.blogspot.com/2011/10/deficit-myths-part-1-effect-of-budget.html

  • circuit

    Greg Mankiw needs to understand that, from a central bank operations standpoint, fiscal deficits act to lower interest rates, not increase them, as he’s argued in his latest NYT article. For more, see my comment on Mankiw’s view here: http://fictionalbarking.blogspot.com/2011/10/deficit-myths-part-1-effect-of-budget.html

  • David Klemitz

    Wall St’s destruction of the US domestic economy at the expense of the banking sector and driving millions of people into starvation by pushing the price of wheat up in commodities futures markets is a bit over the top.

  • David Klemitz

    Wall St’s destruction of the US domestic economy at the expense of the banking sector and driving millions of people into starvation by pushing the price of wheat up in commodities futures markets is a bit over the top.

  • David Klemitz
  • David Klemitz
  • Get out of here!

    Just get out.

  • Get out of here!

    Just get out.

  • Sarath

    Keynesian theory? LOL! Wow, you guys are really radical ;-P

  • Nick

    I don’t see how that’s in anyway linked to their introduction to economics module

  • http://www.earwicker.com Daniel Earwicker

    “I would appreciate a reference to the assertion that Adam Smith conceived of these so called bail outs”

    Not sure whether that is directed at me. If it is, you have misunderstood me. I’m pointing out that he didn’t conceive of such bail outs (or rather that his general advice would tend to strongly discourage them).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Ward/648762687 Joseph Ward

    As with the rest of the “occupy” movements, this is all over the place too.  The letter is addressed to Mankiw, but this is only half about him.  Half of this is about Harvard policies regarding whether or not you have to take ec 10, or if there are or should be alternative classes.  The half that does deal with Mankiw is pretty ridiculous.  Almost nobody uses alternative source material in their principles classes.  This is meant to give you a basic understanding so that once you begin reading academic journals you will understand them better, and get more out of them.  Learning the Solow growth model from one of Mankiw’s texts is much easier than understanding it from the original text.  Solow was not writing that for undergraduates, he was writing that for other economists.

    Crawl before you walk.  Walk before you run.

  • Spike

    Steve Keen has read this open letter, and would like to offer the Concerned students of Economics 10 a free copy of his book Debunking Economics;
    http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/2011/11/03/harvard-starts-its-own-paecon-against-mankiw/

  • Anonymous

    “There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories
    as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.”

    The first semester is micro, the second is macro. You’ve been taking the class for 9 weeks and somehow don’t know that?

  • GraciousHost

    Why is it relevant that the TFs are foreign?  I know plenty of homegrown Americans who destroy the language “on the regular,” when it is their mother tongue.  Most foreigners can communicate and even think (the highest level of fluency) in multiple languages before they ever get to English.  Stop exposing yourself.

  • Fifi

    Not bad, but you could been more to the point.

    Dear Professor Mankiw—

    Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our dismay of enrolling what we thought would be an introductory class in social sciences and turned out to be a lecture in non-comparative and actually rather narrowly sectarian theology.

    We would happily return, next semester may be, provided you revise in the meantime your teaching material so it accounts, at least at some degree, for this big thing out there which, quoting the great Lewis Black, we like to call Reality.

    Sincerely,

  • David Klemitz

    Thanks for your reply. Is your course online ?

  • http://twitter.com/huber57 Doug Huber

    One day these children will look back on this day and realize how foolish they were.  This is all part of the college education experience.  They get to make ‘grown up’ decision and live with the consequences.

  • David Klemitz

    +1

  • Anonymous

    Congrats! You deserve better than the scam you are paying for.
    You might have read it already, but here it is:
    http://hir.harvard.edu/debt-deficits-and-modern-monetary-theory

  • Harvard

    Harvard kids.  So…Harvard.  Such…kids.

    Ha, ha.

  • Harvard

    Seriously, Professor Stephanie Kelton, UMKC?  Seriously?

    Pimping your blog here?  Seriously?

    Seriously, Professor Stephanie Kelton, UMKC?

    LOL.  Thank Goodness for tenure, right?

    Seriously, Professor Stephanie Kelton, UMKC…LOL.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously, Professor Greg Mankiw, Harvard?  Seriously?You are kidding, right?

  • Harvard

    I am not Greg Mankiw.

    Professor Stephanie Kelton, UMKC, logged on to this website to cheer on students who walked out of another professor’s class and to pimp her blog.

    Very professional.  And absolutely respect-worthy, no question.

    LOL.

  • Harvard

    I am not Greg Mankiw.

    Professor Stephanie Kelton, UMKC, logged on to this website to cheer on students who walked out of another professor’s class and to pimp her blog.

    Very professional.  And absolutely respect-worthy, no question.

    LOL.

  • Shekhar Karnik

    At some point you’ll realize that no economist really thinks the real world works according to the simplified models of an Econ 101 class (or Econ 10 in their case). If that were the case there wouldn’t exactly be much of an academic field in economics. That being said economics is taught best by taking an idealized simplified system, understanding it as a framework (the 101 class), and then working through all the deviations of how real life and systems don’t follow the simple models…. which assuming Harvard is like the University of Chicago (where I went) is something you won’t get to until your classes in the 200s and 300s (i.e. slightly after your third lecture freshman year). Criticizing the framework on day 1 massively hurts your ability to compare real life systems. Way to go Harvard freshman for looking to debate the merits of a system without trying to learn about it from an academic perspective first. Your attempts at seeking truth and intellectural freedom in a faux Dead Poets Society moment is really just a missed opportunity to get the most out of your high costing education – that’s the real sign that you failed economics.

  • Felix

    Great job! Harvard needs more of this. Ec 10 is an extremely biased course and the students are too afraid to admit it. 

  • Crimsonsucks

    Conservative bias is not a good reason to walk out. Being completely wrong about the field is. 

    To the student disrespecting Professor Kelton: you are an idiot. 

    A REAL LIFE HARVARD STUDENT

  • Crimsonsucks

    Professor Kelton knows far more about how the economy functions than Mankiw. Get up to speed. 

  • Tolkus

    Wow, that is fantastic. These students should be commended. When you are paying nearly $50 G per year for undergrad you  should be getting the best class there is. 

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me the students have made a valid point and the professor should provide the full overview of various theories and discuss the strengths and weaknesses. Why should they have to supplement the class to learn what should be taught in the class? I think that is the chief complaint.

  • Anonymous

    ” why don’t you go to the library and read about whatever you are missing?” – It seems to me that Harvard gets a rather high fee for the class and students shouldn’t have to augment the basic education they’re required to have by independent study at the library. Why does it seem unreasonable for the students to think certain economic theories are not being taught due to the professor’s personal position?

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  • Dan Abrams

    Prof. Mankiw,

    I am not a Harvard student, already have a bachelor’s degree and I live in NYC, not Boston, but I would very much like to take your class. I am slightly left of center, but admire you, and the science of economics very much.

    Dan Abrams

  • H07

    “Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.”

    This statement is beyond arrogant. Harvard grads have that much pull on the entire global financial system? Give me a break.

    Also, five years of data is not a very large sample size.

    Mankiw’s course gives you the tools to analyze what the effects of government policies are on the distribution of wealth, the trade-offs we make when we determine the size of the pie versus how much each person gets. He makes positive statements, not normative ones. Looks like someone didn’t understand some of his introductory chapters.

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  • Quit complaining

    ahh great, undergrad students who think they know more about the world economic system than a Harvard Professor or for that matter just about any university Professor.

    These are the last students in the world you’d want in a tutorial.

    Pull your heads in and do the work…then make your mind up.

  • Mountb

    So what evidence is presented here that the course is biased or that the focus is somehow different than any other Econ 101-style course? Entry-level Econ classes are about he basics of free market systems.

    Don’t worry little undergraduate person, the remainder of your Harvard education will be dominated by heavily left-biased professors.

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  • j

    Crimsonsucks, it is part of the propaganda framework around neoliberal economic fundamentalism to establish itself as the moderate norm. Referring to it as conservative economics shows particular lack of awareness. It is a radical social re-engineering project backed by those it most benefits. It presents itself in a puedo-scientific language that has clearly taken you in.

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  • Mike Meeropol

    My name is Mike Meeropol, I taught economics about 92 miles west of Harvard at Western New England College (now University) for 38 years up till 2008.

    Students of Greg Mankiw should be aware that not only does he privilege Adam Smith over John Maynard Keynes — but he privileges a FALSE version of Adam Smith over John Maynard Keynes. Smith was both a nationalist and a pro-employment economist —

    In Mankiw’s Principles text (at least the 1998 editon – p. 145) his mention of Adam Smith’s use of the concept of “the invisible hand” in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS borders on academic malpractice. Not only does Mankiw leave out Smith’s focus on investors preferring domestic investment to foreign investment as a prime example of the invisible hand at work, but he runs together the brief mention of the self interest of the butcher and grocer from BOOK I with the only reference to the “invisible hand” from BOOK IV.

    It would be interesting to see how Mankiw responds to the “real” Adam Smith on “the invisible hand.”

    ANyone interested can check out my detailed article from the PERI website –

    http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_51-100/WP79.pdf

    The key pages in the article are 5-6 — and check out footnote 12.

    There is a great article by Joseph Persky in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that spells this out excellently.

    It is entitled “Retrospectives: Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand” JEP (1989, no. 4): 195-201.

  • medusa

    If non-attendance of a class is a good form of protest, how much better would it be to participate in non-attendance of Harvard? Occupiers, the time for half measures is over!

  • Jeff Brisbane

    So if the students know what needs to be taught why are they in school? Greater, it seems like this letter is a childish demand for turning curriculum into cheer-leading for authoritarian collectivist causes.

    If anyone thinks that this is an organic protest, they would be mistaken. Weird how you haven’t seen walk-outs from any of the far left leaning social sciences classes? I don’t think you would ever catch a Conservative Professor organizing students to walk out.

    To the letter: Really? No basis for Adam Smith as fundamental over Keynesian? You are living in the results of Keynesian economics! “You” need to take a history class and compare the derivations from Adam Smith’s theory to problems in the US. Your support of Big Finance and Corporate Socialism really indicates that your words are not your own…

    I doubt that 99.9% of the students who walked out could even explain the basic fundamentals of how an economy works.

    Sociopathic Professors, especially those who come from authoritarian bents, should really be moved out of higher education. The female Professor behind this walkout (leaving her unnamed) is nothing but a “manipulative monster roaming the countryside.” She is the sociopath next door.

  • Jen

    Kudos to these students.
    It is wonderful to see students challenging the existing dogmatic approaches of economics departments.
    Lets hope others across in schools across the globe will do the same.

  • Benedict@Large

    “Conservative bias” is an EXCELLENT reason to walk out of an economics class. So too would be liberal bias. Economics is supposed to be a science, or at least is supposed to be trying to be one. As such, any political bias has no place in an economics classroom, and if Professor Mankiw cannot leave political biases out of his course presentations (or at least identify them as such when presented), he has no business teaching the subject, and certainly not at as elite an institution as Harvard. Students there pay far to much to receive political indoctrination instead of real course material.

  • RyanVMarkov

    Wow, my name, picture and post from yesterday disappeared. Here it is again:

    “Congrats! You deserve better than the scam you are paying for now. You might have already read it, but here it is:

    http://hir.harvard.edu/debt-deficits-and-modern-monetary-theory

  • Karl Marx

    I would just like to add that in addition to “Keynesian” economic approaches students should also be introduced to Marxian economics. I have found, in my experience, that most economics students have absolutely no understanding of Marx’s economic analyses. Instead, they have at best an extremely juvenile understanding of his approach that often rests on a systematic caricaturing by university professors.

  • Leonardo

    That is just pure wrong. Econ 101 is a course taught much like everywhere (except those Commie schools that only knows Karl Marx)

    It’s a course made of basic Econ knowledge, because the sophisticated part of Economics is just too much even for a few Economists. Mankiw has papers on much more complex models (like the one he made on top of Solow’s with Weil and the other guy) And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Economics need a extension to be fully grasped.

    Those guys are given TOOLS at Economics 101. It’s their problem if they don’t know how to use it, and don’t get the limitations of it. They probably are just lazy students who are just passing by.

    The problem with the world, is that many of those lazy guys, have wealthy families and get a job that they don’t deserve!

    So you are going to be a “world leader at something” without learning how to use the tools, just passing by your University, spend your time drinking and partying. You don’t get Econ 101, use it wrongfully because you are just worried about other things!

    I’m a Economics Undergrad, an i wish i could get my major at Harvard, i don’t have the money but certainly i know more about economics then those guys. You just don’t know how to use the formulas, you know what they can do and where they came from, because you study not just to get grades!

    Mankiw’s books are pretty detailed and EASY to make the calculations, not so trivial to understand it,

  • Rich Horton

    This is hysterical. I’d suggest all you would be revolutionaries take a moment and read Charles Sanders Peirce essay “The Fixation of Belief”, particularly the bit on what Peirce called the method of tenacity. If you do not see yourself reflected in those pages I would suggest you are blind.

  • https://twitter.com/vlamers Vanessa

    To H07, they are not being arrogant, studies exist into this, and it’s sadly (but very) true. Same for Yale.

    To the students – this is well written, respectable, and polite. I think you have both a right, and a responsibility, to have control of your own education.

    Best,
    Vanessa

  • Vladimir D. Micheletti

    Great! Just great! Go on and let us occupy Harvard.

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  • Tylerh

    Comforting to know that Harvard undergrads are still saturated with an inalienable sense of privilege.

  • Iman Azol

    I agree that if they already know everything, they should skip the class, and they should go all the way and boycott Harvard entirely.

    Of course, with action comes reaction, and the truly honest will accept their 0s and Fs with pride.

    Meanwhile, they’ve paid a lot of money to the Education Industrial Complex. Or more accurately, our tax dollars in the form of grants and loans have paid a lot of money. Perhaps someday they’ll protest that.

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  • Jim

    See:

    HARVARD & THE MANKIW REVOLT

    http://pragcap.com/harvard-the-mankiw-revolt

  • Karl Hallowell

    Looking at this letter I am troubled by a simple question. Suppose Professor Mankiw sincerely desires to address the issues of this letter. What corrective actions can he take?

    I see only one relatively concrete complaint, that he doesn’t give sufficient weight to economic inequality in society today. That’s it. Most of the letter is a rather pointless lecture on how bias is bad. And the final part is just some advertising for the Occupy Wallstreet thing.

    The letter doesn’t spell out any desired corrective actions. So even if we consider Professor Mankiw’s “bias” with respect to economic inequality to be sufficient justification in itself for walking out of class (which I don’t buy), the letter doesn’t give any guidance to Professor Mankiw to correct his behavior.

    As a result, this letter is useless.

    I do see a need for economics 10 here. If Harvard students are attending these Occupy protests (which is basically an economically clueless, “Take from the rich, give to the poor” thing), then they do need the guidance of someone like Professor Mankiw. They might also desperately need to analyze their reasons for going to Harvard. That’s an awful lot of money to borrow for someone who can’t figure out how to complain properly or be bothered to understand economics.

  • sams

    A bunch of spoiled brats.

  • Flight-ER-Doc

    Wonderful. Children who have never produced anything themselves, living off the effort of others, decide that they already know it all.

    Why bother with Harvard at all? Since these punks already know it all (at least wrt economics) just get those positions out there in the real world.

    Repeat after me: “Would you like fries with that?”

  • http://angrybearblog.com Howard Covitz

    I am so impressed with the students who have taken this upon themselves. There are many of us in the Economics academic community who have been railing against the current orthodoxy for many, many years. I feel a great sense of hope today.

  • Colleen Clark

    Bravo to the students. A Radcliffe friend R’65 and I, R’64, were talking last night about how our Harvard educations were not as good as they should have been, partly as a result of our being reluctant to challenge the professors and the professors often being arrogant and not really available. Students may know they are not getting the instruction they need. Presumably the complaining students already have some awareness of what’s going on from reading their news. Others in the class may be indifferent or clueless. And if Mankiw thinks his course is broad-based and is the best he can do in an introductory class he should be able to talk to the students about his own goals and address their concerns.

  • http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/ JohnD

    Debunking Economics – Revised and Expanded Edition
    by Steve Keen

    Debunking Economics exposes what many non-economists may have suspected and a minority of economists have long known: that economic theory is not only unpalatable, but also plain wrong. When the original Debunking was published back in 2001, the market economy seemed invincible, and conventional ‘neoclassical’ economic theory basked in the limelight. Steve Keen argued that economists deserved none of the credit for the economy’s performance, and that ‘the false confidence it has engendered in the stability of the market economy has encouraged policy-makers to dismantle some of the institutions which initially evolved to try to keep its instability within limits’. That instability exploded with the devastating financial crisis of 2007, and now haunts the global economy with the prospect of another Depression.

    In this radically updated and greatly expanded new edition, Keen builds on his scathing critique of conventional economic theory whilst explaining what mainstream economists cannot: why the crisis occurred, why it is proving to be intractable, and what needs to be done to end it.

    Essential for anyone who has ever doubted the advice or reasoning of economists, Debunking Economics provides a signpost to a better future.

    Steve Keen is Associate Professor of Economics & Finance at the University of Western Sydney. Steve predicted the financial crisis as long ago as December 2005, and warned that back in 1995 that a period of apparent stability could merely be ‘the calm before the storm’. His leading role as one of the tiny minority of economists to both foresee the crisis and warn of it was recognised by his peers when he received the Revere Award from the Real World Economics Review for being the economist who most cogently warned of the crisis, and whose work is most likely to prevent future crises.

  • Pingback: Qantas should be nationalised (again) | Bill Mitchell – billy blog

  • Osamas Pajamas

    What a load of phony baloney. Evidently these clowns “already know too much” to bother with an introductory class in economics — their current grasp of the subject permits them to haughtily lecture the lecturer. Keynes srikes me as a macroeconomic fool and Smith the foremost early exponent of microeconomic theory. These arrogant student blabbermouths need a thorough grounding in Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard, and a change of diapers.

  • Andrew Davidson

    What we currently have in economics is ideology, not science.

    Kudos to the students of Economics 10, really impressed. Don’t listen to all the naysayers, there’s always great resistance to change – even when it’s the positive kind.

  • Patrick

    Well done, students! Economics, especially at the survey level, is an incredibly political subject. Since classes like Mankiw’s are many students’ only exposure to economics, it’s all the more important that differing, challenging views are shown — from Smith, to Ricardo, to Marx, to Keynes, to Hayek.

    The last thing we should get from Intro to Econ is the sense that this is a value-free science (since it’s in reality neither “value-free” nor a “science”).

  • Mario the Plumber

    Do these students realize that Mankiw is considered a major figure in the new Keynesian school? Do they realize that it in an introductory, undergraduate econ course, starting with Adam Smith, largely considered the father of the field, to simply be part of the foundation building?

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  • http://path2prosperity4all.us/ Rob Burns

    To understand just a little of what your economies professors do not teach you, compare the policy proposals of Path to Prosperity for US All with their opportunistic and cleptocratic policy prescriptions (http://path2prosperity4all.us/).

  • Disinterested Party

    Never having taken Professor Mankiw’s course, I cannot speak fairly to its degree of “bias.” But one thing that may be worth pointing out is that virtually every assertion of this letter belies a consumerist attitude toward higher education. These undergraduates evidently think of Professor Mankiw as though he were in the hospitality business, ready and in fact having to calibrate his teaching to their every passing wish. (The students are not exceptional for all this: their attitude fits neatly with the widespread but incredibly problematic culture of “student evaluations” that has taken over higher ed.)

  • R. Michael

    A reply to Karl Hallowell’s comment that the Occupy protests are basically an economically clueless, “Take from the rich, give to the poor” thing…

    This is a bit of a misrepresentation. I agree that most of the protesters probably don’t know a lot about economics, but we do pay attention to the laws that are being passed, the cronyism that is rampant in our government, and the inequalities of our society in general.

    With all of the lobbying, deregulation, and political pats on the back that go on among the wealthy elite, it would be more accurate to call the protests a “Quit taking from the poor to give to the rich” thing.

  • Chris

    BRAVO!!!

    These “spoiled brats” are all highly educated and brilliant individuals, they would not have made it into Harvard if they weren’t. I would like to assume that this letter and walk-out was a last resort and that direct conversations with Prof. Mankiw did not bear any fruit. In any case, I would not belittle them as they will actually be part of the leadership of the future, and let’s not forget that a good deal of the technology we use today was invented by kids like them just a few years ago. Kids that, had they explained what they were after, would have most probably been belittled in a similar way years ago.

    Independently of all that, the truth is that what Prof. Mankiw explains as “Economic Theory” does not adjust to our fiat currency monetary reality. Try MMT for that.

  • Balázs Váradi

    If you do not like to study the foundations of mainstream Economics as taught by a giant of the field, don’t take the class. He wrote the textbooks, so you know what to expect. Take sociology or switch to a fringe school where the Econ intro class is not about the rudiments of the subject but about criticizing something you do not yet understand. My country has many such schools to go to. Tuition fees are lower, too :-) .

  • Tim C

    There is plenty of justification for Mankiw to present Smith over Keynes: Smith focused on what today is called micro econ, Keynes focused on Macro econ. Seeing how your Ec 10 course is a micro course, I’d say the choice was quite appropriate. If you people dont appreciate getting to take a class from one of America’s great economists, give up your seats for good. I’ll take the red line up to Harvard and take your place, any day.

  • SH

    The problem with these text books (Mankiw, Bernanke, even the old Samuelson) is they completely misrepresent Keynes. They argue the main issue between Keynesians and the (new)classicals is the extent to which prices and especially wages are flexible over time. This is not so. The main issue is whether wage and price flexibility can push economies towards full employment. In an uncertain world, the answer to that question is ‘No’. The presentation of Keynesian economics in Mankiw is consistent with Neo or newKeynesian perspectives (wage inflexibility or information asymmetry) but not consistent with Keynes’ own views or genuine Post-Keynesian economics. It basically misses Keynes’ main point and sets up a false Keynesian ‘straw man’ to lose a debate against a more consistent newclassical alternative. Read Paul Davidson’s ‘Post-Keynesain Macroeconomic Theory’ or Mark Lavoie’s ‘An Introduction to Post-Keynesian Economics’ for a proper treatment of the keynesian perspective. None of this gets into the standard first year texts. I could say the same thing about behavioural economics and ecological economics. All important elements in a new paradigm for economics which it is vital to teach to first year students as an alternative to the mainstream – it will be the economics mainstream in 50 years. We can no longer accept that people are able to maximise expected utility in the sense neoclassical economics takes as axiomatic, or that competitive markets (and especially labour markets) tend towards stable equilibrium. Even progressives like Krugman and Stiglitz are being very slow to realise this.

  • Roscoe

    BAHAHAHAHA! Mankiw is one of the scarce few — and truly great — profs at Harvard to offer a class with a rightward bent. These students in the spirit of openness and intellectual discovery… walk out. Bravo! You are well on your way to becoming full-grown open-minded liberals.

  • http://www.i-prestige,com/wpnew/ OhThisBloodyPC

    Well hats off to the young people who are brave enough to walk out of a lecture.

    That takes a lot of guts. They should stay on strike until Harvard promises everyone an equal grade

    Do it now. You won’t be able to strike when the chinese are running the world.

  • SH

    It doesn’t get into second year texts either!

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  • Mark Hubbard

    Perhaps it would be helpful to post the names of the geniuses (not) who have walked out without having a clue what they’re protesting about. I’d hate to think in some future year I’d employ one who was so lacking in the ability to think critically.

    ‘Do you think green will go with the protests, dear. No? Okay, I’ll wear the red one then. Have you got the joints?’

  • J Manley

    How is one supposed to understand Keynes, Marx, etc. if one is not firmly grounded in Smith?

  • Christopher Webb

    Fail the lot of them.

  • M. F.

    There is a heterodox school of economics that attempts to actually discover the true inner-workings of the capitalist mode of production. It started with Karl Marx and, unfortunately, is perverted by a technocratic movement that looks to make economics more ‘pseudoscientific’ than realistic.

    Harvard isn’t all bad; it produced a terrific scholar and, in my opinion, one of the best economists of all time — Paul Sweezy. A relic of his dissatisfaction with orthodox economic theory is the ‘Monthly Review.’ To this day I find this magazine a breath of fresh air in an academic culture that tries to fit a square peg into a round hole by assuming the round hole is in fact square. Not all economist are bad, the good ones are unfortunately ignored and, often times, considered not very ‘technical.’ Well, Keynes gets criticized as not being technical enough in the ‘General Theory’ but clearly those that criticize his revolutionary work are missing the point: there is no tool-kit in mathematics nor physics that attempts to alleviate the ‘fundamental uncertainty’ associated with REAL LIFE. Economic theory, as it is taught in every major University in the World, is merely a product of tautology! Oh, and to all those knuckle-heads that beg to differ, try actually reading some of the greats: Keynes, Kalecki, Marx, Sweezy, Schumpeter, Baran, etc. You might actually learn something.

  • SH

    It’s not Smith that Mankiw grounds them in – it’s Walras.

  • Fred Z

    Oh goody, we’ll be scratching in the dirt with sticks again with these retards in charge.

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  • B

    The funny part is that Mankiw is a Keynesian. There’s a huge section of his intro book that covers market failures(sticky wages/prices, externalities, etc.).

  • monximus

    If you do not like Bibles and we force you to pay $10,000 for a Bible are you:

    A) economically better off

    B) economically worse off

    C) economically indifferent

    D) both economically better off and economically worse off

    E) all of the above

  • GLR

    I cannot believe some of the comments here. “Does not provide any corrective action”. Let me understand: correcting the academic curriculum to include more economic perspectives into the discussion, including introductory textbooks and academic journals, assessing both the benefits as well as the criticisms of conventional economic theory in class, and including economic applications in a broader context of public policy, environmental science, etc. are not examples of corrective action? Even if they didn’t include “examples of corrective action”, it’s not their responsibility; the burden is on the institution to negotiate a curriculum that satisfies their students’ academic needs, not on the students. The alumni already did their part, which was openly voicing their discontent with their economics course.

    Then come the whiners, who blame them of “know-it-alls”: they know better than you, know-nothings. They are asking for unbiased education with a broader focus than a simple theory, and that’s thinking they know it all? It’s actually like they want to know MORE than JUST WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT, but the course LIMITS THEIR KNOWLEDGE.

    The Occupy Movement is a voice of public discontent with the economic discipline policymakers follow and reproduce in academia. Their reasons are not economic, they are ethical: they ask, “should we get progress at the expense of this economic regime?” Blaming them for being “uneconomic” is tautological, since they are arguing that economics is fundamentally flawed. The whiners are the ones crying “uneconomic” instead of researching economic theory and assessing their claims of INEQUALITY, INEQUITY and INEFFICIENCY in literature.

    Even if those claims were false, the analysis and public education brought because of their protest means they already won: economics, for the first time in modern history, has had to stand trial for its undesirable outcomes. And in idiot America, who bought into that discourse so deep, they put God inside a dollar!

    I guess people would say the same of the niggers who boycotted buses after Rosa Parks gave the example: “they’re just dumb unpolitical idiots”. It’s much harder to comprehend them, to look at economics through their eyes, and find why they find certain outcomes unpalatable. The ignorant critics would do well to research that before even starting to criticize… which is what the students, not me, are arguing.

  • Karl Hallowell

    GLR, a college student isn’t like a baby. They can’t just cry until Mommy figures out what’s wrong. They have both great responsibilities and skill at communication.

    If there is a problem (and I obviously don’t think there is here), then the letter should have spelled out what the problem is and either propose solutions or standards by which the letter writers would be satisfied. All we know is that they think economic inequality isn’t properly discussed. No means has been suggested to fix that.

    Second, ethics and economics are two different subjects. Ethics discusses how we should act, economics studies how we actually do act and the consequences of those actions. To confuse the two is to commit a serious intellectual error.

    There are two important lessons of economics, first, that nothing is truly without cost. Second, that consequences of actions, especially for large groups, can have surprising costs (the notorious “unintended consequences”). Economic policies tend to be a mixture of ethics and economics since they combine both fields of knowledge.

    So since the “Occupy” movement is mentioned in the letter, let’s analyze it from the point of view of ethics and economics. First, the primary demand is a wealth transfer from the “1%” of extreme wealthy to the “99%” who are not so wealthy. No demands for changes in behavior are made of anyone aside from the tax collecting agency.

    At best, you can say that they propose a bunch of policy changes, but not pure ethics. Nobody is being asked or demanded to change their behavior, be they a poor schmuck, a struggling college student, or an upper class snob. Economically, there’s a lot there such as the wealth transfer, end to bailouts, and some other things like debt forgiveness of student loans. There’s also the matter of incentives, policies that because of their existence encourage us to do certain things instead of other things.

    We also see many policies with unintended consequences. If it’s harder to terminate an employee or the cost of termination goes up, then the employer becomes far more reluctant to hire people. If taxes on the wealthy go up, then the wealthy tend to move their money to places where they don’t have to pay taxes. Or they don’t try as hard to earn money. If student loans can become forgivable, then there will be students who will exploit that and lenders (including the US government) who will become very reluctant to lend as a result.

    The accusation that the “Occupy movement” is economically ignorant is based on the many counterproductive and harmful policies they endorse. It’s not ethical to make the problem you’re trying to solve worse.

    I imagine also that most of the protesters voted for Obama despite the warning signs and are now experiencing the consequences of that choice. What insight will keep them from continuing to make that sort of mistake over and over again?

    Finally, I find your comparison to the old racism in the US to be bizarre. Surely, you can think of an example that is not half a century old and a legacy of a much older evil. History is great for providing examples, but it is also a trap. Be careful that you’re not solving the wrong century’s problems!

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  • http://geekyisgood.livejournal.com/ Harriet R

    It’s a great letter and well done for taking a principled stand. I’m a postgrad Economics student in the UK, intending to spend my career in economic research of one form or another and I fully agree with the concerns included in this letter.

    All around the world Intro to Economics courses include lessons on supply-and-demand, maybe even consumer choice theory, some basic game theory perhaps, a rudimentary model of the macroeconomy, and often Ricardo’s theory of trade. These are all useful concepts that, when taught well, can challenge preconceptions and teach students good analytical skills and understanding.

    HOWEVER the methodology of economics and its strengths and weaknesses are rarely discussed. It’s true that it’s hard to get a deep understanding of these things when you haven’t seen much economic theory and empirical research in action, but there should be some room for it.

    Any good intro course should start by talking about “normative” and “positive” statements and how those work in economics. Unfortunately many economists and economics students don’t notice that many positive statements rest on certain normative frameworks – and I think that is the key point of this letter. These frameworks need to be more explicit and more widely discussed.

  • Aussie Roy

    So many flawed theories so little time. If economics was physics we really would be living in caves.

    Walras law, what a joke. Markets are always in equillibrium, another joke. The list is long.

    As a career Ag and forex risk manager thank goodness I didn’t study economics at University. Because NONE of the supporting theories actually work.

    Anyone find it strange that very few economists saw the US or other global house price bubbles if their theories are so good. Put simply they didn’t see it coming because their theories say it can’t happen.

    About time we dragged economics into the 21st century. Current models that can’t explain the past are wrong and we should be working towards models which can be back tested and are shown to be correct.

    You could start by reading a little Minsky.

  • Sean Fernyough

    Concerned Students of Economics 10 – go for it: http://amzn.com/1848139926

  • Sean Fernyough

    “Mankiw is a Keynesian” In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

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  • http://www.examiner.com/nonpartisan-in-national/occupy-facts-federal-reserve-causes-unpayable-debt-unemployment-inflation-hi Carl Herman

    The 99% are seeing the “emperor has no clothes” facts of a criminal and rigged economy for a fraction of the 1%. I’m a Harvard graduate and have researched economic solutions since 1996. Here’s a short intro, “Occupy facts: Federal Reserve CAUSES unpayable debt, unemployment, inflation, and high interest rates”: http://www.examiner.com/nonpartisan-in-national/occupy-facts-federal-reserve-causes-unpayable-debt-unemployment-inflation-hi

  • JTFaraday

    I have a great idea for all you geniuses (not!) who think that these students “need a grounding in Adam Smith before they can understand subsequent theorists” etc etc.

    How ’bout these students actually READ Adam Smith instead of being offered up by the Harvard Corporation as a ready-made market (is that market “free”?) for Mankiw’s cheesy textbook?

    NO ONE actually reads Adam Smith any more, let alone placing what he says into its proper historical political context– rather than abstracting from it and raising it to the level of timeless, eternal general principle.

    That should be rectified immediately.

    Sorry for the snark, but apparently I need to stoop to your level to be regarded as a “very serious person.”

    Appalling!

  • http://neweconomicperspectives.blogspot.com Stephanie Kelton

    Professor Mankiw’s students say, “If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.”

    These students are clearly aware of the harm that economists can do when they’re employing faulty models that rest on faith-based (theoclassical) assumptions to dispense policy advice in the real world.

    See, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAH-o7oEiyY

    The students who drafted this letter understand that many of their cohorts will go on to hold influential positions as a policy advisors, and they’re asking for the kind of training that will help them avoid these kinds of harmful errors.

    The global financial crisis — which almost no mainstream economist was able to predict — dealt an embarrassing blow to the profession. It also exposed the incestuous and unethical relationship that exists between the corporate world and some of our most noted academics.

    See, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5msVl3oZl4U

    What about Professor Mankiw? Let me just quote from something he wrote in 1993:

    “it would be irrational for operators of the savings and loans not to loot …. an owner of a savings and loan who is taking excess risks, hoping that they pay off and make him rich. It is only prudent for him to loot as much as he can, because he knows that his gambles might not pay off.”

    And so, according to Professor Mankiw, if you have an incentive to defraud and you resist doing so you are not moral, but crazed.

    Perhaps this is what has some students so concerned.

    Full citation here: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/Programs/ES/BPEA/1993_2_bpea_papers/1993b_bpea_akerlof_romer_hall_mankiw.pdf

  • patricia clarkin

    nice, good point, but badly written – i would think harvard students could put together a better essay.

  • Jim Farmelant

    I suspect that the problems here are not necessarily peculiar to this particular professor and this particular class but are endemic to the discipline as a whole. I remember there were similar walkouts and protests in French universities around the same issues about a decade ago.

    http://www.altruists.org/static/files/The%20Post-Autistic%20Economics%20Movement%20(Edward%20Fullbrook).pdf

    http://www.paecon.net/Fullbrook/EconomicsandNeoliberalism.pdf

  • DavidHu

    @JTFaraday:
    First of all, a lot of intro economic theory taught in intro to microeconomics classes isn’t even strictly adam smithian. Saying people should have to read Adam smith, understanding him in historical context, etc. is one of the most ridiculous and downright inane comments I’ve ever seen. Greg Mankiw’s book is terrific. There are no “different perspectives” for the material in Ec. 10. It’s the same everywhere. But Ec 10 oversimplifies things — i don’t think it ever claims that it doesn’t do that at points. Different view points come in past Ec 10. Even Austrian vs. Keynsian economics that everyone likes to talk about is COMPLETELY irrelevant to introductory micreconomics. From Krugman to Mankiw to Ron Paul to Ben Bernanke, no one would see anything taught in Mankiw’s introductory econ class to be up for dispute.

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  • libertarian_adi

    Wow! What a bunch of blithering left-wing idiots. These students are no different from the fools who deny evolution and say: “teach the controversy!” Neoclassical economists have won more Nobel prizes than Keynesians. Your average business model incorporates neoclassical economics. If your Marxist worldview differs from the mainstream view about free markets, then you need to get your head examined. Get a life and get lost.

  • Chuck Willer

    Four economists, each of which would be highly critical toward neoclassical Mankiw, cautioned econophysics thinker Joe McCauley to not be too critical of the contributions of mainstream economics. McCauley’s response is of interest here because it sets the bar for just how deep the criticism can go of the Mankiw’s of the world. See McCauleys essay here:
    http://www.unifr.ch/econophysics/paper/show/w/mccauley/c/Papers/page/2/id/physics_0606002

    To understand how mainstream economics went so very wrong, start with Philip Mirowski’s book More Heat Than Light.

  • A. Psychologist

    Adam Smith is generally regarded as the world’s first economist, which should qualify his work to be considered “fundamental”, if that word has any meaning,

    It’s a sign of the times, probably, that most of what people believe they know about Smith is dead wrong and the result of Chicago-school propaganda, itself derived from misreading, misunderstanding, or outright invention-with-malice-aforethought.

    Few know that Smith wrote ‘”All for Ourselves and Nothing for other People” seems, in every Age of the World, to have been the vile Maxim of the Masters of Mankind’.

    Even fewer, probably, know that the world he considered ideal from an economic and human standpoint was nothing like the deformed world of 18th-c. Britain with its wealthy landowners, privileged mercantile corporations, and “masters” who used hunger and the law to coerce the labor of desperate workmen. His “Wealth of Nations” was descriptive, not prescriptive as Chicago-school devotees would have us believe.

  • alanstorm

    Here’s a shorter translation:

    “We, a small percentage of an introductory class, object to the perceived biases of the instructor and would like to substitute our own, and dictate how the class should be . Pay no attention to the fact that, by virtue of the fact that it’s an INTRODUCTORY class, we (by definition) know almost nothing of the subject.

    You’re welcome.

  • Eric Zencey

    Contrary to what “A. Psychologist” says, Adam Smith is not accorded the honor of being the first economist. That slot goes to a Frenchman, Francois Quesnay, whose work was an influence on Smith. Quesnay founded a school of thought called “physiocracy”–meaning, “the rule of nature.” The priority is of more than academic interest. Quesnay had a radically different understanding of how economic value is created. He thought it all comes from land–from the fertility of agriculture. (Henry George was a later, American adapter of Quesnay.) Modern physics says he was partly right and partly wrong. Agriculture is a great net by which an economy captures solar inflow–one of the sources of low entropy for an economy. All economic value is created through use of matter and energy–low entropy in a variety of forms. The tapping of antique solar income in the form of fossil fuels made Quesnay’s focus on agriculture look wrong and outdated. But the key insight (reworded to reflect the changes in our understanding in the past two and a half centuries) is that an economy is built on exploitation of low-entropy stocks and flows. That’s a sturdy insight that an introductory Economics course ought to cover, by communicating the work of Frederick Soddy, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Herman Daly, Joshua Farley, and others who have elaborated this insight into a full-fledged alternative economic model.

  • Scott

    I know. Heaven forbid there be a handful of professors in the world who lean to the right. It’s rather amusing to contemplate just how many of these juvenile agitators might one day be left-wing professors who get the vapors over anything which has even the faint aroma of an impingement on their academic freedom.

  • cathyf

    This is a joke, right?

    Let’s try that in some other disciplines:

    “There is no justification for presenting Galileo Galilei’s astronomy theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Geocentric theory.”

    “There is no justification for presenting Charles Darwin’s evolution theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Creation theory.”

    …c’mon, we can come up with lots more, right?

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  • http://www.carlpeterklapper.org Carl Peter Klapper

    What I find most sketchy in the economics of my OWS brethren is their adoption of the economically illiteracy of the Democrats. My lesson to them and to these Harvard undergraduates would be:

    1.”Income” is not “wealth”.
    2. Therefore “income inequality” is not “wealth inequality”, the top 1% of income is not the same group of people as the top 1% of wealth and an income tax can never be a “millionaire’s tax”.
    3. In fact, high incomes do not necessarily result in increased wealth. The classic examples are small farmers, whose incomes usually pay for high mortgage loans and debts for combines and other equipment, in addition to seed and a host of other expenses.
    4. Even if we consider income net of expenses, we would not want a punitive tax on high incomes because it would be indiscriminately applied to rich and poor alike. Indeed, income inequality is the main way that wealth inequality is rectified. This mechanism is called “upward mobility”.
    5. If one is interested in a tax to bring greater wealth equality, Huey Long’s “Share the Wealth” tax on the valuation of stock held merits consideration. Long’s proposal of 1934 attacks the concentration of controlling wealth and leaves the farmer, the shop keeper and the inventor alone. It could easily be extended to lenders, especially mortgage lenders. The effect would be, as Long so eloquently described, “that none would have too much… that none would have too little” and “that what any one person’s ownership [of public companies] would be limited… and that the rest of the ownership [of those companies] would be owned by the balance of the people”.
    6. The degree to which a tax is a wealth tax can be measured by the degree to which extraordinrily wealthy people complain about it and can’t abide it. If Warren Buffet doesn’t mind it, it can’t be a wealth tax.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/105109045923411807884/posts Andrea Terzi

    I really enjoyed reading the open letter. In my teaching of macro and money, I’m very careful in providing my students with a full spectrum of different theories, paradigms, and policy views.

    I encourage readers to consider the following: The question of how to change the way economics is taught is not leftist vs. liberal, nor micro vs. macro. It is “real-exchange economics” (that Mankiw teaches) and the fundamentally different paradigm of monetary economics (using Keynes, Lerner, Minsky, Davidson, Galbraith, Wray, and MMT). There is an alternative paradigm (that Mankiw won’t teach!)

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  • Wayne

    Two quotes from Churchill seam appropriate right now:

    First, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”

    Secondly, ““If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

    It’s nice to see that so many young people at Harvard have such big hearts. (Note, that sentance works best when read with a sarcastic tone)

    I am so very sad to learn that they are not getting a “fair and blanced” view of economics. (insert sad face her and more sarcastic tone).

    Since you missed your class this week, here’s a leasson that I’ll give you for free. Next week instead of going to EC 10, come to my house and mow my yard, clean my cutters, and wash my windows. And after your hard work, I’ll gladly donate $100 to the charity of my choice. This way you can feel the impact of working hard only to have your hard earned money taken out of your pocket and given to someone that you may or may not think deserving. End of leasson on the economic imact of the US tax code – “redistirbution of wealth”.

    Don’t like that idea, then let’s move to leasson 2. The impact of donations in America. This weak call your mommy and daddy and pay them the money back that they gave you to pay for EC 10 and ask that they donate that money to someone who would love to attend this class – even with a conservative slant. Then you can go sit in the snow with your brothers and sisters in arms and protest all week long. End of leasson 2 – “the right of US citizens to make donations of time and money”.

  • Maddie

    What a clear example of how to go about things the WRONG WAY! Do they really think that this will change anything, or are they simply attention seekers? (I’m guessing they are the latter.)

    Don’t tell me that in this age of technology and Google (instant education) these students cannot figure out how to find additional information and alternate economic theories than what is presented in class.

    For starters, I suggest: “Fear the Boom and Bust” a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk). It should be right up their remedial alley!

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  • http://www.mikeroeconomics.blogspot.com Mike Fladlien

    Maddie, I agree with you. When I hear a student say, “I didn’t learn much in that class”, I wonder why the student wasn’t proactive to research topics and enrich their learning by reading more. The fact is, many students want everything handed to them so they have more time to play on Facebook. Then they wonder why there “grade” disparity when other students do extra work outside of class. It is my opinion that students choose what they learn by their study habits and inherent productive characteristics.

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  • 19josh

    It’s striking how the comments criticizing the walkout are so angry and how many of them resort to ad hominem attacks and pejorative put-downs … much more so and more often than those supporting the walkout…

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  • Lakhwinder Singh

    This is the concern of all who wish to make economics discipline more inclusive and comprehend the real world problems rather than serving only ideology of the corporate world.

  • The Hat of the Three-Toed Man-Baby

    Amazing retards — you get to go to Harvard and you waste the opportunity whining that someone won’t teach you a bunch of incorrect economics. Grow up.

  • Jeff

    lol @ “There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.”

    You guys know the first semester is micro, right? And that Keynes had nothing to say about micro?

    You’re learning the foundations of economic analysis in Ec 10. Those are the same foundations used by neo-Keynesians (surprise for you! Mankiw is one) as well as by Krugman and Stiglitz and Akerlof and many other critics of mainstream economics. What the comment about wanting to learn more Keynes in the first semester reveals is that the people organizing the protest know far too little economics to begin to make reasonable judgments about what material should be taught in an introductory class. The class would look remarkably similar if it were taught by Krugman, only it would safely have the imprimatur of liberalism so nobody would object too much.

  • Jim Lacey

    If Professor Mankiw and Harvard possess even a bit of backbone they would inform each student that they are no longer invited back into that class and will each receive a failing grade.
    That actions have consequences is the best lesson these students can possibly learn.
    If our supposedly best and brightest can be this supremely idiotic, what hope is there for the Republic?

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  • Nick

    Try attending the Economics 10 with Professor Mankiw course before throwing stones.

  • Someone who’s actually read Adam Smith

    “It is but equity besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed, and lodged.” (Smith, 1776; p111)

  • http://chunkofwhat.com T.A.G.

    Keynes is a little too thick for most intro econ students to tackle on their own.

    For anyone who is interested, the second chapter of Macroeconomics by Galbraith and Darity is a brief, relatively simplistic explanation of Keynes’ theory of voluntary unemployment.

    You can find it here, on page 18: https://www.studon.nl/firstchap/9789065622235_h1.pdf

  • Maria Toll

    “The Hat of the Three-Toed Man-Baby November 7, 2011 10:05 am
    Amazing retards — you get to go to Harvard and you waste the opportunity whining that someone won’t teach you a bunch of incorrect economics. Grow up.”

    OMG I TOTES AGREE. U GO TO HARVURD CUM ON ERYBODY WANT TO GO THEIR BUT U WINE BC OF SUMBODY DONT TEACH YOU BALANCED ECON

    OMG WUT IS DIFF BETWEEN ADAMS SMITH AND CANESIAN NEWAY

    U ALL A BUNCH OF RETARDED RETARDS LOL

  • Maria Toll

    “Jim Lacey November 7, 2011 12:54 pm
    If Professor Mankiw and Harvard possess even a bit of backbone they would inform each student that they are no longer invited back into that class and will each receive a failing grade.
    That actions have consequences is the best lesson these students can possibly learn.
    If our supposedly best and brightest can be this supremely idiotic, what hope is there for the Republic?”

    You probably meant, “…they would inform each student that he/she is no longer invited back into that class and will receive a failing grade.”

    To learn more about subject-verb agreement, please consult those who you find to truly be the best and brightest.

  • Henry

    It is a disagreement about facts not ideology
    Posted on Monday, November 7, 2011 by bill

    In the wake of the decision by students at Harvard University to boycott an introductory economics lecture conducted by textbook writer Greg Mankiw, I thought this New York Times article (November 5, 2011) – Wanted: Worldly Philosophers – was interesting. It provides a much more reasoned assessment of what the issues might be than the response presented in the Harvard Crimson (the student daily) – Stay in School (November 3, 2011). The latter was signed “The Crimson Staff” and a link took us to a with an outlined photo of a “male” and the filename was entitled – noface_131x131.jpg. So no-one was even game to own up to the viewpoint. The male photo also suggests some inherent bias. I agree with the Crimson – walkouts should not be about ideology. But they are justified if a lecturer is offering material that is patently false and attempting to hold it out as the way the economy operates. That is why I would encourage students to walk out of mainstream macroeconomics lectures right around the globe. It is a disagreement about facts not ideology…

    Randy Wray succinctly noted that the Ec10 curriculum is akin to teaching bloodletting in a modern Medical school.

    If you read Mankiw’s textbook (and my presumption form your views of the way the economy works by studying Ec10 at Harvard) you will leave the course totally uneducated about how the modern monetary system actually works.

    For example, how is monetary policy implemented in a modern monetary economy? Mankiw’s students learn that monetary policy describes the processes by which the central bank determines “the total amount of money in existence or to alter that amount”.

    Read the rest here:

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=16796#more-16796

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  • Sue
  • Hak Choi

    The Harvard students are doing what the Paris students have done 11 years ago. Economics teachings in universities teach nothing, but wrong and unpractical theories. How wrong they are? Read my ebook: “Economics in Deep Trouble”.

  • Nina

    Bravo to the students, and let no professor take it for granted that they are silly, undereducated and can be manipulated by presenting inadequate view of economic discipline.

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  • SR

    Why is ecological economics marginalized by mainstream economists? Do they believe we live in fairy tale land where the Laws of Thermodynamics don’t exist?

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  • Howard

    These students should stay in classroom and learn. They simply do not have enough knowledge to criticize economics classes or the social movement. They are simply too ignorant to do anything right now about how and in what direction our society should move. Harvard is a place to produce idiots who think they are the top notch.

  • Al

    When I read people saying that the first semester of Econ 10 is microeconomics and students were complaining they weren’t studying Keynes, I thought perhaps the students were being unfairly characterized. I checked the syllabus – it IS a microeconomics class, and therefore wouldn’t cover Keynes. Apparently the students were paying so little attention to the class before they walked out they were, in fact, unaware of what class they were taking. Though none of this is as important as the fact that the students who sent this letter seem to hold the extremely illiberal view that they should only study subjects and viewpoints with which they agree.

  • NWwaterboy

    Maria Toll – Your understanding of grammar is outdated.

    “In fact, the use of plural pronouns to refer back to a singular subject isn’t new: it represents a revival of a practice dating from the 16th century. It’s increasingly common in current English and is now widely accepted both in speech and in writing.”

    http://oxforddictionaries.com/page/heshethey

  • Ting Liang

    The problem of economics is it tries to imitate a scientifically sound discipline but its root is founded on 19th century political economics, which is often intentionally corrupted by a small group of political elites to advance their own agendas for the purpose of controlling the rest of the population for their own benefit.

    Most of current economic teachings fails to distinguish stable efficiency from unstable efficiency. A ball resting on a flat table is unstable because any little disturbance would cause it to roll away. Ultimate economic efficiency at the pinnacle where supply meets demand are unstable configurations that are liable to hurt a lot of people with even a small amount of shock. Taxes and subsidies can purposefully introduce inefficiencies in the economy that actually stabilize the system over long periods of time because with inefficiency, policymaker can choose to counteract the ill effect of certain disturbances by adjusting/removing some tax/subsidies, where as if tax/subsidies didn’t exist in the first place then policymakers become inept to address any crisis. Another analogy can be found in engineering – most engineering projects are regulated with 30% additional inefficiencies in construction to ensure a bridge doesn’t fall due to 1 additional person standing on it – if civil engineers were to blindly seek ultimate efficiency in bridge construction cost in order to beat their competitor then no bridge can withstand the test of time. In other words without tax, regulation and subsidies, economy becomes brittle and would be filled with inferior goods produced by the ultimate greedy efficiency seeking producers and cannot withstand any change or disturbances in the status quo.

    Likewise automatic transfer payments in the form of welfare payments from government taxing the rich to benefit the poor is purposefully inefficient economically but provides a vital economic tool to ensure stability of the society. It does not automatically leads to the “free-riders” because most people measure their economic success comparatively to their social group, so even if universal safety net is provided, many people would want to rise above the bottom rung of the economic ladder even if their livelihood is assured.

  • Manu Oquendo

    A bad repeat of the same walkout in my university 42 years ago. I was the student delegate and the then University Rector asked me to meet with him and with the professor to explain ourselves. End of story. I’ve never saw that professor again and the new one was tougher and better in our view.

    In this case, the university should ask the students to explain themselves better than they have in the letter which sounds as written by a bunch of rich, poorly educated kids pretending to dictate matters in a childish, uninformed and opinionated manner.

    I’ve was incensed by the paragraph which attempts to see no difference between Adam Smith (the Great) and John Maynard (The Keynes).
    Let them go to China and try to get into university.

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  • marco guerzoni

    I am teaching Micro/Macro and i believe we have to teach mainstream theories because…the are mainstream. nearby we try hard to explain what it is a theory, we criticize together with students the main assumptions, suggest alternative as for instance Keynes and Schumpeter’s approach. it is not true that Keynes cannot be taught to first year students. Usually in macro we introduce the AD/AS model which is the Hicksian interpretation of Keynes… if you need a good laught google the video ” mankwin principles of economics explained”.
    ciao

  • GSW

    I wonder why Harvard always places last in all Economics..Mathematics domestic&international competitions; and for the kids enrolled in that class it is a lesson in self sustaining DECREASING MARGINAL benefits….

  • Maria Toll

    I walked out of Ec 10 because I needed to pee.

  • Aaron Dietrich

    Nevermind those who cannot see beyond thier own lack of awareness and imagination. They will not make this world a better place but will sit firmly in the ignorance of the st. The students are facing the realities of structiveflawed and

  • Aaron Dietrich

    Nevermind those who cannot see beyond thier own lack of awareness and imagination. They will not make this world a better place but will sit firmly in the ignorance of the past. The students are facing thee realities of a flawed and destructive ideology that this world can longer tolerate. We appreciate your courage and integrity.

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  • Jan Vranken

    It all depends on which Adam Smith Mankiw presents in his course: the reduced version of his thought as keenly used by extreme liberalism or the very rich and critical thoughts of the founder of political economy for whom even Marx expressed his admiration. A shift to the ‘second’ Smith would be a big step forward for your introductory course…

  • harvey

    amen… now if only a few (well, OK, a whole bunch) of the leaders at conflicted DC think tanks and in Wall Street investment banks were as observant and honest and selfless as these kids!

  • brgegio

    complete solidarity to the Harvard students from an Econ/Finance faculty at another US institution…I guess I’ll have to start buying into the notion that Harvard students are indeed smarter than average ;)

  • john heighes

    Inspiring to witness some integrity resurfacing in academia. It has been sorely missed. All power to you.

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  • http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/264373.html Jan H. Höffler

    To me it seems encouraging if students express a desire for primary sources and references to articles from academic journals in an introductory class. I am sure Prof. Mankiw will have no difficulty providing this. To my experience, many professors just do not want to deter bachelor students from taking their classes by referring to articles that are usually not easily accessible without a solid background in economics. I’d like to invite those who are really interested in primary sources and academic journals to join our efforts to investigate the replicability of empirical econometric findings with our project at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Keep up the good work and don’t waste your time with derogatory comments on the internet. Life is too short for that.

  • Pan Angelopoulos

    I’m surprised that nobody who is criticizing Mankiw’s course has referenced this article, which basically is a good articulate criticism of neoliberal economics.

    http://hpronline.org/campus/in-defence-of-the-students-who-walked-out/

  • Pan Angelopoulos

    Sorry for the spam! friend was on my account.

  • Rafael Balestr

    So why don’t you try to fix all the world problems with good ideas…?
    I suggest you, before speaking idiot things, try to understand and study all these theory you’re contesting and then try to write better arguments, not this kind of “cutty speach” which all the world is sick and tired about.

  • Ben

    It’s not even Mankiw’s fault. This is such a misguided effort. Harvard students should know better.

  • jim

    From above

    “…Harvard students are indeed smarter than average…”

    At least the subset of those who leave to complete their studies out in the world…

  • http://libertyrevival.wordpress.com Keith Gardner

    Comment posted by Scott Baker (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-baker)…

    Economics has become corrupted. I mean that literally. There is even a book by long-time economics professor Dr. Mason Gaffney, called “The Corruption of Economics.” In the book, Gaffney makes the case that neo-classical economics displaced classical economics over decades during the early part of the last century. Economics was a science before that, it hasn’t been one since then.
    Going back to first principles, J.B. Clark and others took the classical 3 factors of production: Land, Labor and Capital, and combined them into 2: Labor and Capital (Gaffney points out elsewhere that there is even a move to reduce the factors to just 1: Capital, as in Human Capital for Labor!).
    Land (classically defined as ALL the natural elements of the universe) is nearly the opposite of Capital:
    - Land is finite. Capital (goods) are only limited by Labor and Land availability.
    - Land typically appreciate over time and from population pressure. Capital depreciates over time and can be replaced.
    - Land was created by nature. Capital is created by humans.
    - Land is indispensable to life: without Land, you die…instantly. Capital is important, but not vital. You CAN, if pressed, get water and food with your bear hands, and live in the wild like our cave-dwelling ancestors did. It’s hard, but we did it throughout most of human history.

    Unless we understand First Principles, nothing else matters. It’s like trying to practice physics without accounting for gravity, or heat.

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  • David Wilkins

    Interesting. Will the protestors now march to the natural sciences departments and demand that theories critical to Darwinian evolution be taught? Wouldn’t that be a good idea as well?

  • Maddie

    At least they will be able to list “community organizing” on their very limited resumes, which they will need when their “drunken frat party” is over. (Should be just in time for Thanksgiving break.)

  • Robert

    First off. Nobody in economics studies Keynsian Theory because it is proven not to work (i.e. stagflation in early 70s). Why discuss theories proven not to work?

    Will these same students protest that only Darwin’s evolution is used in biology? What a bunch of morons or Harvard Halfwits as they are commonly referred to outside of Cambridge, MA.

  • Raw Toast

    I disagree with the idea that economics should be practice as a science.
    I also take issue with the unprofessional level of hostility neoclassical economists approach models they disagree with.

    These are two issues in which my opinion differs from the opinion of the neoclassical economist. In academia, these kinds of differences between students are common, if not expected. Each of these items taken separately, it does not shock me that someone would have an opinion which differs from mine.

    It is completely baffling to me, however, that someone could believe in both of these things simultaneously. There is nothing scientific about the apparently faith-based default rejection of theories which differ from the neo-classical model. Let me be clear: this adherence to the “mainstream” goes leaps and bounds beyond the practice of embracing a null hypothesis. A substantial proportion of the neo-classical rhetoric just in this comment thread is purely ideological.

    “Study this because it is the standard”.

    If economics were truly a science, though I still do not believe it is (yet would hope you would behave this way anyway), it would be the neo-classical economist’s main priority to treat each critique of capitalism seriously and with dignity.

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  • Brendan O’Brien

    I heard 5-10% of the class waled out. I would have gladly taken their place to learn from an economist as great as Mankiw. I was taught by many more liberal economists including the late David Aschauer. I took the time to look at alternative sources on my own time in the library and online. Intro econ barely scratches the surface anyways and mostly covers supply and demand theories, if you are looking for theories critical of basic economic principles you need to either check the loony bin or perhaps switch your major to Political “Science” or History.

    I guess Harvard should look at it’s admission standards to identify such students who are too lazy to self-study and will only take what the professor gives them. Isn’t that how Harvard used to be or is that just MIT?

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgvgHQMV6Mc JR E

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgvgHQMV6Mc

    Chris Hedges, alum of Harvard divinity, “If you graduate from an ivy-league school …. The poster child for the idiocy of this system is a man named Lawrence Summers, youngest tenured professor at Harvard in economics who carried out under the Clinton Administration most of the deregulations including ripping down the firewalls between the banks that created our financial crisis. And a figure like Summers knows only one thing,and that is how to serve a dead system, that’s all they’re trained to do. They have this narrow analytical intelligence, and teh emotional maturity of a 12-year old. All they know is how to loot, steal money from taxpayers, from the Treasury, and the Fed to pump these systems back up. In essence they’ve never been taught how to think. And that’s what the corporate state wants; it doesn’t teach you how to think, which is something radically different..”

  • L McDonald

    Oh, Please. Spare me the ethics of your walk out. Very little access to alternative approaches?!?! Did Harvard close their library? Is the Wifi down? You ire is misplaced.

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  • Tony Drew

    So we get this:

    “As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory…”

    and this:

    “Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.”

    in the same paragraph!

    They acknowlege that they don’t yet have even an introductory knowledge of economic theory. Yet they believe in their economic worldview strongly enough to walk out of class.

  • Fred McDermott

    Well, let’s try this out for you Wizards of Smart. Socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried. Keynesianism is an utter, catastrophic failure that is occuring as we speak (and which you are going to pay for). And the Western welfare state is also a bankrupt failure (which you will also be paying for). Even the Chinese Communists are now capitalists. What part of “leftist ideology is a miserable failure” do you not understand?

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  • Ari S

    Wow, I wish I’d known in college that I could walk out of any class I took that conflicted with my political beliefs. I’m a conservative – I would have never had to step foot in a classroom!

    Seriously, hearing something you don’t like won’t kill you, guys, it might just broaden your perspective (perish the thought, I know).

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  • Brendan Marshall

    Dear Professor Stumblebum,

    We are walking out of your astrophysics class today in protest at the biased and entirely limited view which you give of the solar system. There is no justification for presenting a solely heliocentric view of the solar system, while totally ignoring the geocentric model. It is clear from current trends in climatic change that the sun’s place at the center of the solar system is no longer……blah, blah, blah (insert your own pretentious, self-righteous twaddle here)………

  • http://www.imaginezambia.org Steven Putter

    Brilliant, you are my heroes for ever, it is this statement that needs to be done by people like yourself, you have given me hope for the future of my children, this is the best thing that could have happened in the world on this day of ones 111111

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  • Ao

    It seems to me that students are missing the forest for the trees here. While it’s great they walked out on a lecture of free-market ideology, teaching Keynesian theory doesn’t make things all better.

    There’s a more fundamental problem with economics, and it’s something that economists like Herman Daly and E.F. Schumacher have written about extensively. To all those econ students who walked out, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Daly’s ‘Steady-State Economics’ and/or E.F. Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’. Their perspectives are an essential counterpoint to the standard economics you’ll be taught in courses like Mankiw’s.

  • http://educationwg.wordpress.com/about Edward Mokurai Cherlin

    I agree with the Harvard students that the economics curriculum is broken, just as it was when I took introductory economics at Yale 45 years ago.

    The issue is not Smith vs. Keynes. Both are excellent. Smith is not the apostle of laissez-faire that the Market Fundamentalists make him out to be.

    “Everything for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to be the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”–Wealth of Nations

    The issue is to be found in these particularly egregious works:

    * F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (but see Why I am Not a Conservative)

    * Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

    * Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

    * Arthur Laffer, Supply Side Economics: Financial Decision-Making for the 80s

    and in “Freshwater” economics of the Chicago school more generally. Their biggest errors are conflating Social Democracy and Communist central planning, and claiming that their equations are to be believed in preference to facts.

    A large part of the problem is that economics is not a science, and that most of the math does not apply most of the time. Unfortunately, it is in the financial interest of the rich, and for those who work for them also, to lie about this (perverse incentives). There is a reason why the field used to be called “Political Economy”, because the biggest variable in the equations is people.

    For other important perspectives, I recommend Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, and Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom.

    There are Working Groups forming around educational issues in some of the Occupy Wall Street branches. See http://educationwg.wordpress.com for pointers, including a book list that we invite people to add to.

  • http://educationwg.wordpress.com/about Edward Mokurai Cherlin

    Last week, Harvard students of Ec 10 staged a walkout to draw attention to the bias they detect in the course, and sent an open letter to Professor Greg Mankiw, beginning

    Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.

    I posted the following comment.

    I agree with the Harvard students that the economics curriculum is broken, just as it was when I took introductory economics at Yale 45 years ago.

    The issue is not Smith vs. Keynes. Both are excellent. Smith is not the apostle of laissez-faire that the Market Fundamentalists make him out to be.

    “Everything for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”–Wealth of Nations

    The issue is to be found in these particularly egregious works:

    * F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (but see Why I am Not a Conservative)

    * Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

    * Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

    * Arthur Laffer, Supply Side Economics: Financial Decision-Making for the 80s

    and in “Freshwater” economics of the Chicago Market Fundamentalist school more generally. Their biggest errors are conflating Social Democracy and Communist central planning, and claiming that their equations are to be believed in preference to facts.

    A large part of the problem is that economics is not a science, and that most of the math does not apply most of the time. Unfortunately, it is in the financial interest of the rich, and for those who work for them also, to lie about this (perverse incentives). There is a reason why the field used to be called “Political Economy”, because the biggest variable in the equations is people.

    For other important perspectives, I recommend

    * Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class

    * Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom

    * Joseph Stiglitz, The Roaring Nineties, and Globalization and Its Discontents

    There are Working Groups forming around educational issues in some of the Occupy Wall Street branches. See http://educationwg.wordpress.com for pointers, including a book list that we invite people to add to.

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  • http://www.thewallstreetshuffle.com Naresh Vissa

    Hi,

    I would like to get one or two students who walked out of the course on my radio show. It’s on CNN Radio, Dallas-Fort Worth. Must be engaging, have opinions, and be able to defend your positions.

    Please contact me at naresh at thewallstreetshuffle dot com.

    Thanks.

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  • http://www.progress.org David Chester

    The search for a suitable text book for undergraduates and a lecture series to follow and explain it starts now! May I suggest that what is vital is the lack of bias and explicit scientific nature of such a text. Never-the-less, these are the ancillary aims along with the chief purpose: to better explain how our social system works.

    I have been working on such a text for a number of years. As a retired engineer whose efforts were theoretical as well as practical, I claim that the bias and non-scientific problems of many other works are non-existant here.

    In the idealistic interests of providing good knowledge and a better understanding about the functioning of our system, I will be glad to send any serious teacher of this subject a copy of what I have written.

    David Chester, chesterdh@hotmail.com

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  • James

    In walking out in protest at being presented with the economic LAW that is supply and demand in relation to the negative impact on employment levels of minimum wages laws, these ignorant students bring upon themselves the unfavourable comparison with Bible belt fundermentalist’s who cling to the nonsensical notion of a 6,000 year old Earth being confronted with Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    Just as physics have pretty much settled the case for water not being able to run up hill so has economics with the desperate leftist claim that pricing labour above its market level somehow doesn’t reduce the demand for it…

  • Eric K

    It seems to me that they are protesting for a viable demand – a broad-based education. This is good. What is not good, is the idea that keynesian philosophical and economical arguments make any sense whatsoever to continue to believe. We are living bloated keynesianism today, drastically overspending and promising only increases in it later. “Spender of last resort” is an ignorant point of view, for reasons including the complete lack of acknowledgement in the fractional reserve banking system. If the bank has your unspent capital, interest rates go down for the actual ‘market,’ because there is more capital to lend. It doesn’t simply lower everyone’s standard of living. Not to mention avoiding that 52″ big screen tv you would use to replace your one year old 42″, you are probably saving money you could use for actual emergencies (ie – preparing for the future.) Instead of demanding society’s assistance because you spent your cash ‘improving society’ you are taking care of yourself, and therefore society as a whole, since you will not need their assistance (and the immense overhead cost associated with it.)

  • Stephen

    What will this accomplish again? I hope he flunks them. I think I’m going to write an open letter to my teachers informing them that due to the unfair schedule of class and my frequent hangovers, I and like 2-5 other students in next Monday’s class will be asleep at home. I hope you take my open letter seriously.

    It is obvious that these brats eagerly signed up for econ not to learn, but simply to pick up ammo to bolster their preexisting ideology. I love how they threw in Keynesianism, but softened it with a “for example.” Oh you know, something other than Adam Smith – like, uh, oh i dunno, Keynesianism….for example. Nevermind the fact that Keynes’ theories would belong in (and pervade) Macroecon courses, not micro.

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  • Josh S

    Someone who walked out of class halfway into introductory econ with one of the most famous, well-known, respected economists in the field (one who, I might add, is also known for being an all-around respectful, nice guy), whose textbook is used at schools across America, is probably not qualified to judge how “skewed” the class is.

    An example of the freshman-level ignorance on display in this walkout is trying to pit Keynes vs Mankiw (who is himself a neo-Keynesian) on minimum wage. Clearly, whoever wrote this has never read Keynes, because Keynes argued rather consistently that wage rigidity (his term was “sticky wages”) is a cause of unemployment. To quote Paul Samuelson (probably the best example of mid-20th C Keynesianism):

    “What good does it do a black youth to know that an employer must pay him $2.00 an hour if the fact that he must be paid that amount is what keeps him from getting a job?”

    The problem with these kids is that they picked up somewhere that the political left is Keynesian and that therefore, anything anyone on the political left happens to think must come from Keynes, when half the time they’re just channeling Marx.

    Get over yourselves. Harvard students used to have a reputation for their love of learning, not for getting offended and walking out of 100-level courses because they thought they already knew it all.

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  • Pat

    Good! Flunk them all -don’t give them any chances. Just flunk them. That will go well on their resume and give us a chance to get the jobs that these idiots don’t want. Harvard students have dominated a field for too long. Let the rest us, the students of community collages to get a chance at those jobs. You sneeze. You lose. Thanks for the walkout, idiots.

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  • Robert Masters

    These young geniuses who claim to already know what they should learn demand petulently that they be taught macroeconomic theory (Keynes) in a microeconomic class.

    Wow.

  • Ray

    Hey geniuses: Mankiw (who is a devotee of John Keynes), relies in this class far more on Al Marshal than Adam Smith. And as the commenter Robert Masters points out above, Keynesian economics are macro, not micro.

    Get back down there with the ignorant and unwashed protestors, where you belong.

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  • NinKenDo

    My Face When students demand to be taught Keynsian macroeconomics as part of a Microeconomics class… And then claim that to not be taught about a particular macroeconomic school of thought in said microeconomics class is a sign of “bias”… The stupid is storng with these ones…

  • proy

    I would like to read Prof Mankiw’s replies, if at all. Understandable that feelings of biasness is not un natural because seldom is economics taught and read in a contradictory way it should be. If there are attacks, there are counter attacks for every view in this social science, but not to forget here it is referred to the person who’s books are studied across the world at every level.A lot more respect than a walkout is expected when it comes to him. Discussions or debates are better and more positive way to induce unbiasedness rather than something radical like a walkout.

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  • Ryan

    Skip economics, and explore political economy. Structures, power and institutions exist in economic life.

    Core classic readings are Smith, Marx, Keynes, Schumpeter and Polanyi.

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  • Jon Rockle

    Economics 10 is a year-long course at Harvard that covers both microeconomics and macroeconomics.

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  • Charles Martel

    It’s typical that today some clueless 18-year-olds would presume to know what should be taught in an introduction to economics course.

  • Chelele

    i suppose the letter says Keynesian theory just to represent the no including of critical discussion, it could be Chewbacca`s Theory or whatever you like. It`s just an example.

    sorry for my bad english, but i think you´ll get my point

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  • http://sinapsismedular.blogspot.com/ Nicolás J. Vivanco

    I applaud the pupils of harvard, for question models who must not define us.
    The new economy must begin for reaching to the social challenges and achieving an equality that allows to see the world from another optics.

    From Chile, I congratulate them.

    Nicolás J. Vivanco

  • Pablo Müller Ferrés

    I Find a some that students think they know better than professor.
    And more hard to believe that they compare Keynes with Smith, when they are incredible similar, remarking that they don’t have a clue of what they say, perhaps Keynes with Hayek or with Hazlitt.
    Anyhow, this only shows that there are something that economist where not agile to explain to common people, and this is because most us relies to much in equation than in real life, perhaps a von Bawerk approach could help in this

    My suport to Professor Mankiw

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  • http://www.walterrojas.mx Walter Rojas

    Beyond the theories and approaches is people dying of starvation. Go away from this commfortables and empty positions and go deeper in the significance of value and money. Students hopefully now what is worth to know: they know that something’s wrong.

  • http://karldenninger.com Karl Donglicker

    To quote Mankiw’s boyfriend, Newt Gingrich: Take a bath and Get a Job.

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  • David

    Undergraduates walked out of an undergraduate Economics course because the curriculum was not to their liking? Very shameful and disrespectful.

    Also, socialism is a complete failure. Sadly, these Harvard students will continue to run this country into the ground as we become more like Greece, Italy, and the UK…On the road to serfdom.

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  • http://carlos9900.wordpress.com carlos

    In two weeks I will defend my PhD thesis in Economic Geography. I will start by addressing these students. I will talk about alternative theories to understand economics and economic development. In 1998, in my first years of economics at the university we used Mankiw’s textbooks. I have been struggling with economics since then. I believe Mankiw and Mankiw’s disciples approach is good, but too narrow for today. I understand the students. I almost did that in 1998.

  • http://losnuevoseconomistas.blogspot.com/ Jorge
  • Some economist

    SMD, bunch of punks! If you know that much why do you attend a university anyway?

    You’re not showing any respect whatsoever for your carrier.

    You think you’re the heroes of the day, but you’re only willing stooges for the real mean interests. Instead of this cheap theatre, you should read at least the last paragraph of the General Theory. And by the same token, before making a tantrum around Adam Smith you could read a couple of pages of the Wealth of Nations. Maybe so, you could understand a little about economics.

    And prof. Mankiw, you MF haven’t behaved better. Instead of defending sound theory, you agreed in playing a yellowbelly role in this comedy theatre.

    Harvard faculty of economics sucks!

  • Jata

    The forms of expression that says a lot of writing here. It is interesting and important that everyone express interest in local and global needs, it is also amazing that behind the concept of development expressed in the current system, these expressions (first mentioned) confirm that the lack of integration in addition to a deep abyss of economic indifference, also the constant aversion to the integral has been a development useful to talk in those terms. To label some people as in some countries with aberrant names, is a very subtle way of saying I have no compelling reasons why the scare with a particular nomination to discriminate in society. More than cleverness that is vivid. (In disorder) Students congratulations for generating diverse source of thought not cloistered, but keep in mind that any theory brought harm than good is important to continue studying, to have bases and recognize the flaws in arguments. Good luck with everything.

  • Bar b Gantt

    This activity is imperative to change! Where do you suppose the “ideas” for outsourcing came from? Perhaps MBA programs in US universities.

  • NQ Chou

    It might be postulated at first that those guys are more interested in, say the Austrian School than the orthodox approach so that they see a “bias” in this course.
    But this conjecture proves to be a fallacy because they couldn’t even distinguish the theory of Smith’s from that of Keynes’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-science/308113079205757 Dr Andrej Poleev

    A facebook discussion group about interrelationship between science and pseudoscience. We try to clarify following questions:
    • Are science and pseudoscience indistinguishable?
    • What part of science is pseudoscience?
    • How pseudoscience can be revealed and differentiated from science?
    • Waht is difference between reliable and unreliable knowledge?
    • How distinguish lie from truth?
    • What is trueness and how does it differ from falsity?
    • How the truth content of science can be rated?
    • and many more…

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  • Nikolay

    Fully support the position taken by the students. I graduated from the faculty of economics and understand the defectiveness of the modern economic model. So keep guys!!

  • Josh

    “Incidentally, the authors of this letter are in for a treat: there’s plenty of Keynesian theory to come in the second semester of Ec 10. In fact, Mankiw is a great Keynes admirer, and once wrote, “If you were going to turn to only one economist to understand the problems facing the economy, there’s little doubt that that economist would be John Maynard Keynes.” The only reason that these students have not yet studied the father of modern macroeconomics in Ec 10, of course, is that the first semester of the class is devoted to microeconomics.”

    Be grateful that you have the opportunity to attend such a great University. However, it pleases my mind that I can comprehend the understanding the structure of a typical Economics class. Plus, many of my classes use his text books. I’m all for Occupy, but if this is the future of our country, god help us.

  • http://www.e-apbe.ru ПЕТР

    Построение экономического знания на принципе сосуществования конкурирующих концепций означает доказательство фрагментарности. В этом правы не только студенты. Это показал М. Блауг.
    Для того, чтобы построить экономическую науку на принципах Целостности, необходимо естественно-научное знание. Но знанием физики, геометрии, высшей математики, нелинейной динамики будущих экономистов, в отличие от будущих инженеров не обременяют.
    На тему конструирования теории, пригодной для описания экономики знаний, есть книга на русском языке: Общая теоретическая экономика.
    http://ecsocman.hse.ru/text/35874426/
    Кто сможет – почитайте.

  • http://www.e-apbe.ru ПЕТР

    General theoretical economy: the hypothesis, tools, models
    The hypothesis
    The modern economic science is fragmentary owing to its being based on concepts competition principle, with these concepts being true within the limits of local postulates. In the author’s judgment the analytical formation stage for economy
    as a holistic science is over: the solitary economic subjects have been described, and
    the fundamental solitary kinematic laws of motion have been discovered, namely the
    equilibrium (Main stream) and non-equilibrium (the evolutionary economics) processes
    of the economic development. Synthesis of these processes is the basis for an operation
    metrics in the knowledge-based economy.
    Formation of the General theoretical economy (GTE) is underlain by
    systematization based on a holistic approach. A similar problem was solved in the biology
    by Bauer in his work «Theoretical Biology». The essence of the hypothesis lies in the
    classification of GTE theories by the subjects of investigation as is shown in the table
    below. Finalistic (kinematics)
    Causal (dynamics) Empirical The single forms and their aggregation Synthesis of solitary processes
    based on the stable non-equilibrium principle.
    Maneuvering of the single forms
    in the community Theoretical Integrity of intrerconnected aggregations Maneuvering of aggregations in their integrity Widening research tools: the economic geometry.
    Since a choice of coordinate systems is up to the researcher, there are only coordinate axes which are subject to transformatin in General theoretical economy;
    proven economic laws are not rejected turning into particular cases of General theoretical
    economics.
    Scales: geometric transformations are carried out from the «a point moving along
    a path»-type model toward the «dynamics of the unsteady form plastic body with degrees
    of freedom»-type model by the transformation of coordinate axes: from two-dimensional
    plain models based on the Euclid’s and Dekart’s geometry toward the spherical Riemann‘s
    geometry, Lobachevsky’s geometry and the Poincare’s topology.
    The arrangements: the transition from the linear plane industrial unit of measure
    «man-hour» toward the spatial unit of measure: «man-thought» enabling using a ball
    (sphere) as a topological unit of a dimension.
    The holographic (holo – «whole», graph – «write») model describing the socioeconomic
    system dynamics is created which enables forecast of economic changes from the
    two self-organization types’ point of view:
    – «by Prigogine», under the external influence (the theoretical basis for the
    institutionalism);
    – as a result of an internal structural deformation «by Bauer» by adoption of the
    accumulated potential energy of the system, under the stable non-equilibrium principle (the
    theoretical basis for the active innovation policy).
    Source models: the Walras’s, Marshall’s, Samuelson’s equilibrium models, the
    Majewsky‘s non-equilibrium model and the long-wave kinematic regularities.
    Ways of practical use: a potential for a transition from the cost-based industrial
    budgeting principle toward the dynamic design approach for the innovative economy forms
    the basis for the holographic model.

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  • Matt

    Outrageous. This is a course in standard economics, and it is not meant to please students who would rather take courses of their own design. My advice to the students would be to simply pass the exams (why not, right?) and save your energy for something productive. But really, you should go ahead and just grow up, jackasses.. because even I won’t support you.

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  • http://www.psychopathiceconomics.com Davos

    Funny, I just wrote about this – it was published on Zero Hedge. “Psychopathic Economics 101″.

    You kids did the right thing. I emailed your prof. way back when about his teaching others.

    I’ll look it up and post it here.

  • http://www.psychopathiceconomics.com Davos
  • http://www.psychopathiceconomics.com Davos

    On May 9, 2011 I emailed Mankiw after reading this NY Times article.

    I was that disgusted.

    The email was not as kind as your fine open letter, but the point was the same.

    You can read my “I wouldn’t let my dog take an economic class from you.” email at http://www.psychopathiceconomics.com/DavosEconomicForum/2011/12/05/scholarly-economic-capture/

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  • http://cfaille.blogspot.com Christopher Faille

    They’re students at Harvard, yet they can’t express themselves better than this? I’m dismayed. Here’s a simple stylistic point: “basic” and “fundamental,” in the sense in which those terms are both used in the final sentence of the third graph, are synonyms. To use both with a disjunctive, “more fundamental or basic,” is just bizaare or eerie. [See what I did there?]

    Far more important, there IS of course a reason why Adam Smith’s work should be taken as more “fundamental or basic” than Keynes’. It is in point of historical fact more basic. Keynes, whether you agree with him or not, was building on a century and a half of prior work. Keynes and Smith are not competitors any more than Einstein and Newton are competitors. In each pairing, the work of the former would simply have been inconceivable without the prior contributions of the latter.

    If you think you have mastered Newton, then you can go on to the study Einstein, and perhaps some day to have an intelligent opinion about Higgs’ boson. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up confusing a boson with a North American bison.

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  • Galan

    Good for them. It requires both critical thinking and courage to take such stand. Harvard should be proud of these students.

  • http://sjsu.edu E. Appiah

    Adam Smith is considered to be the father of economics for a reason. Although his work may not be basic, a firm grasps of the concepts he presented in Wealth of Nations is critical to any economics student future success. The building blocks of Keynesian theory are based off of the fundamental teachings of Smith. If a student is not familiar with Smith’s view on free markets, specialization, and the role of government; how can he even comprehend Keynes’ income-expenditure models. It would be like attempting to solve a complex mathematical equation without knowing how to add. The foundation has to built before you raise the roof.

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  • Anonymous

    iugihu

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  • Tta2

    Christ, what a bunch of ignorant whiners.  What they’re basically saying is that he’s teaching the wrong thing?  If you “know” the alternative Keynesian approach is “correct” (or even “equally valid”, which would betray an even greater ignorance), then obviously you already “understand” economics and don’t need him to cover that area.  If you DO need him to cover it, then apparently that’s an admission that your understanding is inadequate.  Perhaps you’ve failed to consider the most obvious alternative: he knows more than you sorry morons and is trying to teach you something that’s correct.  Why not go to your science class next and complain that the faculty isn’t teaching alchemy or an earth-centric theory of the solar system?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zachary-Ryan-Smith/831905787 Zachary Ryan Smith

    I am taking Principles of Macroeconomics at UGA this semester. We are using Mankiw’s textbook. Introductory textbooks are, by nature, simplified. They are such, of course, to facilitate an understanding of basic vocabulary before qualifications are considered in further studies.

    If an introductory textbook author wishes to represent phenomena as beautifully simple graphs brought about by rational Econs, let them. Most of my classmates are too focused on sports to care about the differences between Econs and Humans. Unfortunately, Mankiw presents this overly-simplistic view of the world AND gets involved in political arguments–but presenting only those arguments he likes.

    For example, in his chapter, “International Trade”, Mankiw states that one argument of opponents of free trade is the “unfair-competition argument”. If you are going to write two paragraphs on this subject, you should at least mention these three concerns: 1) the environment, 2) human/labor rights (the heinous fatality rate of Chinese miners comes to mind), and 3) governmental subsidizing in attempts to monopolize.

    (As an aside, I do not believe that China devalued its currency in an attempt to reduce American manufacturing infrastructure, only to take advantage and raise prices later, as Mitt Romney is saying.)

    Unfortunately, Mankiw is more than happy to present only a straw-man argument: governmental subsidization. Of course, Mankiw fails to mention that an aim of this can be monopolization, which does happen with smaller countries/economies. 

    This is one of only many straw-man arguments that Mankiw presents. Unfortunately, this letter is a poor argument against Mankiw’s textbook. Hmm…must have been written by a future politician…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507351785 Alejandro Gabriel Argerich

    Where can I learn more about GTE?

  • Sagittarius A

    Eh… It’s a strong gesture but a little naive.

    If they already “knew” which perspectives need to be presented in a course that is short on time and resources, why do they even need to take the course in the first place?

    The expectation here is that the student is intelligent enough to realize that introductory economics likely cannot cover all dimensions of the subject. So why not just learn, listen, and critique rather than staging these weakly justified and mercurial protests?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507351785 Alejandro Gabriel Argerich

    Спасибо вам большое! Эта теория очень интересна.

  • the bourgies

    What impudence to question the wisdom of our classical economists who have guided this nation to the heights of prosperity.  Don’t they realize that college is not a democracy?  The point is to learn what you’re told.  And no backtalk!

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  • K-squared

    What is the “bias” and “skew”?  Mankiw only states what generally occurs when freedom of choice is allowed to exist.   Power gravitates to those of that are skilled intellectually, emotionally and sometime by just being lucky.   Life is not fair.  What would be a true travesty would to allow arrogant and ignorant elitists decide what is fair and how benefits and costs should be distributed.  They don’t know what they don’t know.  Harvard education does not make you wise; rather, it risks creating an atmosphere of naivety.

    Historically, we can see how intellectual fools in power have led to the murder of millions.  At least our fools in power must battle the constitution before they flex their muscles to plan our economy in pursuit of equity and fairness.

  • Northampton UK

    Apologies to those blessed with more eloquence.

    As an academic I do sympathise with the colleague who is now
    perhaps thinking “ if only I told them this and left out that…”  etc. 
    The joys of making one’s subject accessible giving “a broad and introductory foundation
    of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits
    and diverse disciplines, which range from…” all in only one module compressed
    into the academic timetable.

    One is frequently reminded how dangerous a little knowledge
    can be.  In the West education has been on
    the slippery slope to a situation where soft skills are “developed” at the
    expense of knowledge and where people have been “feeling” instead of “thinking”
    for decades.  Nations of generalists
    instead of specialists and abundant drivel on the internet has enabled many
    with a little knowledge to form an “informed” opinion allowing them to believe
    what they wanted to believe in the first place. 
    In the UK it seems some of the intellectual classes would now have us
    all in workers’ collectives. As one of those semi informed I have long believed
    that Economics should pay greater attention to Psychology, Sociology and now
    also Education.  (UK coalition note the economic
    effect of making every civil servant fear for their job with cuts only to come sometime
    down the line) Try fitting that into an academic semester! While this letter
    might just be proof of why student power is not always a good thing (David Willets
    take note please), we are really witnessing (experiencing) and emotional
    response to the weaknesses of capitalism. 

    A distant (European) relative once said if you are not a
    socialist at 18 you have no heart, if you are still a socialist at 30/40 you
    have no brain. It is understandable that many would want to “throw their
    toys” in the current economic climate, but it is also clear that the
    consequences of the alternatives to capitalism need greater explanation to
    those young minds growing up in a post cold war era. (I must add that taking
    economics 1 in a “3rd world” country we did look much more than Adam
    Smith – those that grew up in the cradle of Communist Russia found that the
    only hard thing about choosing Capitalism was explaining it to the uneducated
    and naive). We should also not forget that teacher’s and other’s jobs, working
    conditions, remuneration, pensions etc are under review in many western countries.
    It would be a bit naive to think that the message about capitalism received by impressionable
    minds would not be influenced by an emotional response to that and the mistakes
    and excesses of the boom years, bankers etc. With populist politicians on the
    bandwagon in many countries there seems to be a bit of a mountain to climb.

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  • Magjm

    The difference between Adam Smith and Keynes is an important distinction. To say that Keynes should be taught equal to Smith is ridiculous because Smith indirectly founded every legitimate school of macro and micro-economic thought and many of the concepts of economics. Keynesian policies–while influential–are contentious among economists, but every economist agrees in the influence of Smith. It’s ridiculous to assume you know a course without actually taking the course to completion. It’s also ridiculous to then end this “critique” by essentially saying that their time would be better served with the occupy movement. I suppose the opportunity cost is that they will either miss out or misinterpret fundamental economic ideas such as comparative advantage, and if they are our financial future as they say they are, then this should be troubling for many reasons.

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  • Oliver

    I greatly sympathize with those students. One may think that it was naive and other may be good at explaining why Adam Smith is more important than Keynes… However, I am sure that all of us agree that current theories about economics is far from real life and do not allow us to properly interpret economics conditions and in what way it may be corrected.
    If I had a chance to make a suggestion to those students, I would recommend to read two books. Both are written by Rudolf Steiner almost a century ago. It is in German and may be difficult to read though. In addition, I recommend to read them several times due to the very compact content. I promise, you will be surprised and shocked as well. It will open your eyes and give you ideas to really understand what is going in in economics, the fundamental knowledge to create a better world. The book titles are: “Nationaloekonomischer Kurs / Nationaloekonomisches Seminar” and “Die Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage”. As copyrights are expired you will find free pdf sources online. Good luck!

  • John

    As a student at a top 50 University, who was unfortunately not able to receive the kind of funding I would have needed to go top 15, I hope these students do not take Professor Mankiw for granted, and realize that there are others out there, like myself, who would kill to take a class under such an influential economist

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  • Kick out

    Mankiw must be doing something right if he got the Occupier marxies this upset!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Wenzel/100000156834654 Doug Wenzel

    I understand that this was a Micro course, and there was a companion Macro course the next term. Of course, the students don’t know what they don’t know, so of course, they’re right! Incredible.

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  • http://justliberty1776.wordpress.com/ j-lib

    The real power gravitates to rent-seekers of several types, including the original type — the type who Mill noted, “grows rich in his sleep” — the landlord. (I.e., landlord only in the classical sense of owning land, disregarding any buildings or other improvements which are capital.) It is time to bring back those insights of Mill, with Ricardo’s  Law of Rent. And it’s long past time to give Henry George his due for updating Ricardo. Although a journalist, not an academic , George was right on just about all the main points, as even Mankiw acknowledges between the lines in his text. At least, that is true of the old edition that I have in my possession.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Athur-Shiraz-Siddiqui/1409977273 Athur Shiraz Siddiqui

    These students have obviously NOT read Adam Smith hence perhaps their low opinion of his ideas. This is understandable if you are given cliff notes or a “survey course”- that would prevent some from seeing the evolution of the ideas and how Smith is not the be all and end all but only an attempt to improve the state of humankind… it would be advisable to perhaps be gentle with these sensitive and caring people some of them are as young as 15.

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  • An angry high school student

    This honestly disgusts me… I’m sorry but there are so many things wrong with this walk-out. If you don’t like what you’re being taught, don’t go to Harvard. Let one of the thousands of people who were rejected take your spot. Just because you students got into Harvard doesn’t mean you have the right to assume that you know better than your teacher. The professors at Harvard are world-renowned and have years of experience and it is disrespectful to dismiss their teachings without even completing their course. Hell, if you really want to know so much about Keynesian economics, read about it yourself! Oh and joining the occupy movement? That’s just hypocritical. You are all the 1% and if you aren’t yet you will be. And I honestly doubt that you will give a sh*t about income inequality when you get to that level of wealth. So shut your mouths, sit your asses down and take the class. Considering the fact that your hard-working parents probably paid your tuitions, you’re all being spoiled brats. Don’t take your education for granted like this. 

  • Noor Rana9

    this is a really good move by the students! the economics we are being taught is all about production and consumption..the serious drawbacks of current neoliberal economics are not being taught. which is actually to be the major cause of inequality all over the world. this problem persists in all economic institutes over the world and every economic student should stand upon this cause because they are the one who are going to run the economies through policies in actual.!

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  • Will

    I find this funny, because Greg Mankiw is a New Keynesian

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  • CognitiveDissident

    “Influential” as a descriptor unfortunately does not distinguish whether the influence is good or bad. Smith based a lot of his ideas on conjecture and while valuable for histories of economic thought, some of his ideas are not so valuable in a factual sense. Yet Smith’s ideas are pretty much taken as gospel by certain circles. Food for thought.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pavel-Alexandrovich/100003611001988 Pavel Alexandrovich

    CCCP 2.0 Forever!!! Theory “Economics” is shit)))

  • Jorge

    His textbooks are crap, and de rigueur at Brown. Greatly enjoyed learning about the walkout.

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  • Sherlocked

    I would agree with you, but the question you pose is flawed. I do not pretend to be an expert on either Economics or University-level Science, but I am pretty sure they are in entirely separate categories. Economics, as I understand it, is to teach the best ways of handling money flow and the larger scale of the world’s finance, because the economy fluctuates. It changes from day to day. Science, on the other hand, is based on FACTS. We /know/ that the Sun is the centre of our Solar System; to teach anything other would be utter foolishness, not to mention a waste of time since there is nothing we can do to change that fact. Alchemy is outdated – a medieval concept. Sorry to disappoint.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SaiPranavA SaiPranav Arigala

    One of this things that crossed my mind is that, in the class the professor acted as the head, who was giving out marks, for the sake of giving an example we can probably equate ‘marks to wealth’, the ‘class to a state’ and the ‘professor to the head of the state’, here the head was just concerned about making sure that everyone gets the equal share, he was not at all concerned about the overall output of the state, even when people were not doing enough hard work and getting marks, it was the head’s duty to make sure everyone works well, it was his duty to make sure that the hard working people are not discouraged. He failed to do it because he was not interested in the success of the class… So, we can say that socialism as a concept did not fail but it was the leadership that failed… and if what i said was true… now comes my actual question, ‘what should an ideal leadership do in these kind of situations in order to make a state a success…’

  • NadirHajiyani

    Wow, What a response. I love it. Thank you.

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  • Helene

    I am really, really surprised that students at Harvard are not able to be scholars – that is pursue a line of thinking even if the line of clear thought leads one away from one’s biased perceptions.
    These students seem to be also very immature. They are not able to sit through class?

    Why did Harvard even admit these students that are so unable to stay seated and do their work with an open mind or at the very least make a case to support their ideas? These students want to be spoon fed. They do not want to work to justify their thoughts.
    They just want to go to a class and be taught what they will be good at so they can pat themselves on the back and say how smart they are. They have done this all through high school no doubt and are threatened that they may have to actually think and go beyond their comfort zone and guess what?
    They may not be as smart as they thought.
    Whoever these students are, they do not have the grit to be challenged and to meet that challenge with intellect and they can’t even manage to stay seated!
    Instead they stoop to a “walk out” “open letter” trope that is such the stuff of entitlement and just plain LAZY. Seriously – transfer to Brown.

  • KSchool97

    Wow, you morons should have stayed in class. You obviously know nothing about economics.

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  • RegisterToPost

    Folks, this is Generation Y in a nutshell. Pompous, whining, arrogant, and thinking they know everything.

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  • Israel Sanches Marcellino

    In other words: Dear young people, because of your youth and your condition as apprentices, you should never question or protest against anything. Because of your few years of life, it’s impossible to assume that you are capable of a reasonable critical thought and it isn’t even conceivable that you are able to contest any authority (political, moral or intellectual) that you understand as obsolete.

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  • Phill

    “Economics 10″?? I mean, there had been “Economics 1, 2, 3…” and you were still discussing Smith? lol No wonder the situaton of political economic thought in America. I totally support the walk-out initiative – at least students seem to get that something is wrong. And by the way, forget this new trend Piketty guy. If one wants to understand the mess in Economics worldwide a good starting point is Robert Brenner’s “The boom and the bubble”. Cheers!

  • Robert Renato

    Wooow… what a shame. Mankiw’s books are used even here in Brazil, as reference to our Economics courses. This man is taken as an idol, it’s very weird to see this king of protest.

  • Mauro

    He’s seen as an idol? Come on, mate. His manual is read because of its bias. The majority of universities are crowded with neoclassical teachers (and you know that) who ignore heterodox economics, be it keynesian inspired or Marx’s critique of political economy and its heirs.

    Some idol, yeah.

  • Robert Renato

    I did not say he is my idol. By the way, it was like a trick, I mean many and many professors chose his books as a manual for their classes. I personally have nothing to say about Mankiw. He is just one more of the same for me.

  • IllogicalPositivist

    As other people have pointed out, JM Keynes was a macroeconomist and Economics 10 is a micro course. Furthermore Mankiw is a New Keynesian so the idea that he would have an anti-Keynesian bias is laughable. Calling these students “critical thinkers” brings to mind the creationists who demand we “teach the controversy.” The “controversy” is manufactured and the “critical thinking” is ideologically motivated.

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