Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Are young people tiring of old econ?

That's what Revkin thinks, citing some recent debates and the Mankiw walk-out.

Here at Unity, of course, we had a recent protest by non-students (and maybe two actual students) at an economics related event held on campus. But I talked to some of the protesters afterwards, and it was pretty clear that while they definitely had a gripe with many, many facets of our current society, such as the IMF and World Bank, the bailout, politics, the tax code, and on and on (some or all of which are eminently questionable), they didn't actually have a particular economic theory they espoused.

In other words, they knew something was wrong, but didn't know how to fix it.

I wrote a fairly long explanatory email to one of them. She wrote back saying she didn't have time to read it.

(But she had time to protest, and to disrupt an event designed to help our own students decide which economics they agreed with.)

The students in Revkin's article are perhaps a bit more academic, and seem to be gravitating towards ecological economics, which is gratifying. I studied this particular branch of economics in the 1990s, under one of its primary founders.

Despite a fine education in eco-eco theory, and a decade and a half of membership in ISEE, I'm on record in this blog as stating that a move to ecological economics at this point, particularly a unilateral move to ecological economics by the west, would simply hand China world supremacy on a plate.

I stand by that thinking, so far. It seems to me that China is increasing self-assertive and belligerent, and not at all even the qualified force for good the west has been for many years. Advocates for an end to growth have to figure out how we get there without also endangering democracy and freedom. If the west stops growing and China keeps growing, democracy and freedom will likely be threatened. I can't see any other conclusion to draw from the evidence, particularly the current state of the Chinese nation.

But if the students and other protesters involved in the Occupy movement are studying eco-eco, then that is at least a beginning.

Unfortunately, to understand ecological economics you have to understand mainstream economics, so there is still a lot of work for them to do.

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