From the Editor
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
It’s a tumultuous time- six years after the biggest crisis since the Great Depression, Economics faces more challenges than ever before. Economics has never been more criticised, more incisively examined and more thoroughly under review (Colander, et al. 2009). Neoclassical orthodoxy, the new classical underpinnings of modern modelling methodologies and intellectual stubbornness of the incumbent faculty, not to mention academic capture (see (Zingales 2013)), are all under attack. The latest in the charges against the subject have been laid against it by its own students under the banner of the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics (ISIPE)- who want subjects like Economic History, Austrian Business Cycle Theory and Sociology in Economics syllabi, blasphemy in the eyes of puritans who zealously guard status quo. The ISIPE appears unique- in perhaps no other field of study would a student body actually rise up and struggle for adding to a syllabus.
It’s time for a change.
Paradoxically, though, it’s never been a better time to “Econ.” To embrace the ideals and the insights the (oft-abused, underestimated, and neglected) study of Choice gives us. A part of this is, of course, due to the extraordinary resilience of the fraternity, a large number of whom have returned to re-examining core underpinnings of the models we study. Critics who denounce economics as static are ill-informed, and at worst, jingoistic in their denunciation. Economics is no longer just demand and supply, or even just intertemporal optimisation of Utility functions defined on Constant-Elasticity-Of-Substitution aggregators of consumption goods over an infinite life horizon by perfectly rational, infinitely-lived dynastic family units (anyone unfamiliar with or scared by the terminology can, thus, just skip over).
It’s a far broader field of study than ever before. It includes far more down to earth things- social norms (see (Akerlof and Kranton 2005) and (Akerlof 2007)), Institutions and Social Rules (see (Aoki 2001)), economic geography (Redding and Turner 2014) and, recently, inequality (see (Piketty 2014), although Stiglitz has been screaming about inequality for some time now.) There’s an increased calling within the subject for the incorporation of the other social sciences- History, Sociology, Political Science in particular- into the analytical framework only Economics provides. It’s a subject that has begun to worry about the once neglected issues of environmental crises and depletion, about pollution, health and education, imperfect competition and discrimination, regulatory capture and other issues once ignored as trivial deviations from “equilibrium” and equally unrealistic notions. While still in its infancy, inchoate in its structure as a system of knowledge, it is fast getting there.
And now, it’s time for our contribution.
Econ After Hours is back, in a form that makes it more accessible than ever before to everyone, be they of the economics fraternity or not.
Our mission at Econ After Hours is, firstly, the demystification of the subject. Economics is not a subject that deserves to be confined to a reserved few, those who manage to scale the impossible walls of cut-offs imposed by elite institutions. It is a subject whose key results affect us all, and are determined by the way each one of us behaves. It may be useful to echo Krugman’s concern: while economists are indeed very successful at writing things no one else understands, what the world needs right now is informed action; and to get that kind of action, ideas must be presented in a way that is accessible to concerned people at large, not just those with Economics Ph.D.’s (Krugman 2008, 6). We want everyone to get an idea of how things happening in the modern world- whether it be Russian aggression, the ISIS in the Middle East, or even the FIFA World Cup- affects us all, in ways we may not even realise. We believe that Economics can be made simpler, easier, and more interesting than, say, Economic and Political Weekly would have you believe- and thus, our aim- to bring Economics to everyone.
Secondly, we aim to dispel the moniker Economics has attained- that of being the “Dismal Science.” We aim to demonstrate that the frameworks economics provides can actually be extrapolated to explaining anything and everything human: famously, as on the back of Freakonomics, to why Drug Dealers live with their mothers and how one’s name affects how well one does in life (Levitt and Dubner 2006). More than anything else, this flexibility makes economics fun: It becomes useful for explaining why Mass Bunking seldom works (Baksy and Kundu 2013) and also why studying in St Stephen’s College requires a reliance on India’s weak Copyright Enforcement Regime (Saikia 2014).
Thirdly, we believe in the unification of the Social Sciences and the study of Humanity. We envision Econ After Hours as a space where we integrate our fields of study in understanding problematic issues, be we of the Economics fraternity or students of Political Science, History, or the natural Sciences. It’s a space to understand the world around us as the result of something more complex than a system of differential equations. We welcome everyone to contribute, irrespective of any kind of barrier. Send in your commentary on the World at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to Econ After Hours. Your life will never be the same again.
Akerlof, George A. 2007. “The Missing Motivation in Macroeconomics.” American Economic Review (American Economic Association) 5-36.
Akerlof, George A, and Rachel E Kranton. 2005. “Identity and the Economics of Organisations.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 19 (1): 9-32.
Aoki, Masahiko. 2001. Toward a Comparative Institutional Analysis. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Baksy, Aniket, and Oishee Kundu. 2013. “Individual Choices, Utility and Circumstances: A Preliminary Examination of Mass Bunking .” Econ After Hours , September: 1-4.
Colander, David, Hans Follmer, Armin Haas, Michael Goldberg, Katarina Juselius, Alan Kirman, Thomas Lux, and Brigitte Sloth. 2009. The Financial Crisis and the Systematic Failure of Academic Economics. Kiel Working Paper 1489, Kiel: Kiel Institute for the World Economy .
Krugman, Paul. 2008. The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008. London: Penguin Books .
Levitt, Steven D, and Stephen J Dubner. 2006. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. London: Penguin Books.
Piketty, Thomas. 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Redding, Stephen J, and Matthew A Turner. 2014. Transportation Costs and the Spatial Organisation of Economic Activity. Working Paper No. 20235, Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Saikia, Aranyak. 2014. “Copyright- the Right to Not Copy?” Towards Equilibrium 18-24.
Zingales, Luigi. 2013. “Preventing Economists’ Capture.” In Preventing Regulatory Capture: Special Interest Influence and How to Limit it, by Daniel Carpenter and David Moss, 1-33. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
P.S. Just an afterthought- Economics was termed the “Dismal Science” after Thomas Malthus predicted, about 150 years ago, that human beings were doomed to eternal poverty as a race. Well, we haven’t been, so far.