Essays in Honour of Charles Goodhart, Volume Two
Edited by Paul Mizen
of ‘The role of the history of economic thought in modern macroeconomics’ Jacques Melitz David Laidler argues for the importance of the history of thought in the study of macroeconomics. First, he shows that our judgements about ideas in macroeconomics are aﬀected by real or alleged connections to previous thought. In this connection, he cites eﬀorts to promote new ideas in macroeconomics by associating them with earlier writers. Second, David stresses the eﬀect of social currents of thought on policy-makers’ actions, and therefore economic performance. For both reasons, he deplores the diminished attention to the history of thought in the training of young economists. It is interesting to read the chapter in conjunction with a recent essay by Blaug, ‘No history of ideas, please, we’re economists,’ to which David refers favorably, and which also deplores the decline of the history of thought in the graduate curriculum. I agree with David on both points: knowledge of the history of thought may provide ammunition in economic policy debate; and the history of thought is important in understanding the past. But I think we can say more to recommend including the subject in the professional education of young economists. Let me begin with a question Blaug poses but David doesn’t: why has the history of economic thought declined in importance in the teaching of economics? When I was a graduate student, the subject attracted some of the best minds in the profession: Viner, Schumpeter, Hayek, Stigler. Moreover, top economists...
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