Defending the History of Economic Thought

Defending the History of Economic Thought

Steven Kates

This book explains the importance of the history of economic thought in the curriculum of economists, whereas most discussions of this kind are devoted only to explaining why such study is of value simply to the individual economist. Steven Kates reaches out past the individual to explain the crucial importance of the history of economic thought in the study of economics itself; without its history at the core of the curriculum, he contends, economics is a lesser subject, less penetrating, less interesting and of much less social value.

Chapter 1: Preliminary thoughts

Steven Kates

Subjects: economics and finance, austrian economics, history of economic thought

Extract

Is the only economics worth knowing the economics found in the latest texts and in journal articles no more than twenty years old? For many an economist the answer is an unambiguous yes. Almost all economics is now learned from the most recent editions of homogenised texts and reference to articles written more than a decade or two before are rare. Economics to most economists has no history worth knowing. Economists once knew better. Every economist at one time learned the history of their own subject. Every economist once read from their forebears and learned their own modern economic theory in an environment that insisted upon an understanding of the economics of the past. Yet somehow and for some reason, the same economists who were brought up reading Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill and Alfred Marshall, to cite only from the English tradition, commenced a change in the discipline so that almost no one now does the same. It is an established view within the mainstream that there is nothing to be gained from having access to the historical tradition. Those within the profession who were themselves taught about the history of their subject have been complicit in the removal of HET from the syllabus and have all but pushed it into the attic of discarded relics. They have promoted the notion that the latest theories embody the only sets of ideas that need ever be enter- tained. Historical views, the soil from which our current ideas have grown,

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