Chapter 5 Rediscovering liberal education Economics as a pluralist, liberal education [The purpose of universities] is not to make skilful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings. John Stuart Mill, 18671 The School again is not a place of technical education fitting you for one and only one profession. It makes you better for every occupation, it does help you get on in life … But you will lose most of the value of the School if you regard it solely as a means of getting on in life. Regard it as a means of learning, to
One hundred years ago the idea of ‘the economy’ didn’t exist. Now, improving ‘the economy’ has come to be seen as one of the most important tasks facing modern societies. Politics and policymaking are increasingly conducted in the language of economics and economic logic increasingly frames how political problems are defined and addressed. The result is that crucial societal functions are outsourced to economic experts. The econocracy is about how this particular way of thinking about economies and economics has come to dominate many modern societies and its damaging consequences. We have put experts in charge but those experts are not fit for purpose.
A growing movement is arguing that we should redefine the relationship between society and economics. Across the world, students, the economists of the future, are rebelling against their education. From three members of this movement comes a book that tries to open up the black box of economic decision making to public scrutiny. We show how a particular form of economics has come to dominate in universities across the UK and has thus shaped our understanding of the economy. We document the weaknesses of this form of economics and how it has failed to address many important issues such as financial stability, environmental sustainability and inequality; and we set out a vision for how we can bring economic discussion and decision making back into the public sphere to ensure the societies of the future can flourish.
economics curricula and the CORE syllabus are. In the next chapter, we argue that the answer to the problems of economics lies in the idea of a liberal education and outline the challenges of achieving meaningful reform. Notes 1 This quote comes from a letter that Tirole wrote in response to interesting developments in France that are similar to ones in the UK that we discuss in this chapter. In France there are a very different set of institutional pressures on universities but there has been a similar homogenisation of economics education. In reaction to this, and to
to develop institutions that support academic economists in engaging with the public and ensuring that undergraduate courses provide a pluralist, liberal education. In the UK, about £4 billion of public money is spent on higher education every year, and tuition fees, which are Economics is for everyone 165 publicly backed by the student loan system, are also a significant part of university income.30 As UK taxpayers, we fund academic economics and have the right as a society to demand something in return. We should demand Public Interest Economics. It is