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Curriculum Reform & Rethinking Economics

Mainstream economic theory has been increasingly questioned following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. The disconnect between reality and theory manifested itself most clearly when the Queen of the United Kingdom pointedly asked why no economist saw this coming. In truth, there were a handful who did get it right, but they were generally ignored in favour of Ivy League educated neo-classical economists, whose assumptions proved incapable of integrating the financial and real sides of the economy.

This is a problem which extends all the way to the classroom, which is why Marc Lavoie, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, wrote a new economic textbook as a coherent substitute to conventional textbooks. The book, “Post Keynesian Economics; New Foundations”, outlines alternative macro and microeconomic foundations, the upshot being a book that acknowledges that we live in a world of fundamental uncertainty, where the role of finance goes well beyond the simplistic reserve banking models that populate most undergraduate studies.

In this interview, Lavoie discusses the methodological foundations of heterodox economics, and offers a very different model of money and credit, firms and pricing, consumer theory, effective demand and employment and growth theories. As Lavoie himself argues, economists essentially had 3 reactions to the recent financial crisis. The first group has been to say that existing mainstream theory is fine, but that it needs to be slightly tweaked and improved so as to take into account elements that were previously left aside and which explain why the crisis could not be predicted. The second group, the so-called “freshwater economists” argue that the crisis was caused by misguided regulations, bad government interventions, ill-advised decisions by central banks, public profligacy and unsound fiscal policy. The third camp (to which Lavoie belongs and which forms the basis of the books prevailing theme) is to claim that recent institutions, regulations, and economic policies have been based on erroneous economic theories, and that these need to be eliminated, starting with the way we teach economics - hence the rationale for the new textbook.

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