Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It's official - I'm teaching History of Economic Thought to about thirty undergraduates in the fall!

Just got word - and I'm very excited.

So there will be syllabus-planning to do this summer although the usual professor's is a good place to start. I am strongly considering Grant's suggestion of Agnar Sandmo's Economics Evolving as a basic text now that I look more closely at it, but let me know if you have any other favorites. I may also just stick with Heilbroner (which was not what the professor used to teach). This will evolve, I'm sure, but if I were to nudge the syllabus I'm thinking of:

1. Spending a lot of time on Smith and especially on the different views of Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo on wages and population in the long run.

2. Spending a lot of time on Malthus and reconsidering him as an important figure in history of thought, particularly population theory and modern growth theory, and the Malthus-Ricardo and Malthus-Say debates as precedent for later debates.

3. Obviously spending time on Ricardo, Mill, and Marx although I think maybe less effort than on Smith and Malthus.

4. Obviously a lot of time on Keynes. I also want to teach some Austrian economics during the Keynes lecture.

5. I want to emphasize a lot the significance of history of thought for considering modern problems... which means I'm going to pull up all the blog posts and lectures that Brad DeLong has written up on this issue to really structure my thoughts - pulling in Malthus, Ricardo, Say, Bastiat, Mill, etc. - and driving the point home hard the whole semester that history of thought is relevant.

This looks to be a standard Smith-to-Keynes class and I'll probably stick with that, even though it's disappointing a lot of ways.

22 comments:

  1. So... I guess this means all my reading this summer is going to have to be history of economic thought.

    I had other plans, but that's not a bad thing.

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  2. sounds great! wish i could take the course...... but i don't even live in the US hahahahaha

    if you could post the syllabus when you have it ready, that would be great

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  3. I really enjoyed this. At least one week on pre-Smith would be worthwhile, I think.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Genesis-Macroeconomics-Thornton-ebook/dp/B001PO69QE/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1370449014&sr=8-1

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    1. That looks like a fascinating book. Ya I'm not sure I'll be able to assign it, but I want to check it out for my own purposes.

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    2. JP Koning recommended it, so I knew it had to be good!

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  4. Congratulations, Daniel Peter Kuehn. What were your other plans, if not for the fact you are going to have to end up doing reading in the history of economic thought?

    As I have stated before, I hope this finally gives you an excuse to try to understand the mathematical aspects of Pigou's theoretical edifice and Keynes's theoretical edifice! :-)

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    1. Lots of American history and American economic thought... which I pretty much have no freedom to get around to during the academic year.

      As for the math of Pigou and Keynes - we will push the undergrads as far as the schedule and their abilities permit, and no farther :) that's just the way of it.

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    2. Understandable, Daniel. :-)

      But with regard to understanding the math of Pigou and Keynes...I was referring more for yourself rather than the undergraduates. Will you at least take the time to read Dr. Brady's articles on the mathematical formulations of Pigou and Keynes, even if you won't assign a single article by Dr. Brady as additional reading?

      However, if it turns out that 3/4 of the class has mastered the required level of mathematics to understand Part II, Chapters 8 to 10, of Pigou's 1933 book and Book V, Chapters 19 to 21, of Keynes's 1936 book...why not put them to the test, and see if they can solve the footnote in Chapter 6 of the GT, and if they can accurate derive Keynes's model found in Book V of the GT? ;-)

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    3. Haha - well it's less likely I'll read Brady now that I've got a lot more that I have to read. I know it would be great if our interests dove-tailed on this and we could talk more about Brady's thinking on this stuff, but it's just not in the cards unfortunately. I've got to live with the fact that I can't banter with you about Altonji or Galor and Zeira and you've got to live with my lack of interest in Brady.

      Do you know if Brady has any students or correspondents that share your interest in that work that you could reach out to? I hate to always turn you down like this.

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  5. Congratulations, Daniel! :)

    From the openness and clarity you exhibit in your writings here, I am sure that your students will benefit from your class. :)

    BTW, not long ago I ran across an article that might be of interest, considering the significance of unemployment and inequality these days. It is about classical economists' perceptions of the poor. The URL: http://www.cairn.info/revue-cahiers-d-economie-politique-2005-2-page-65.htm

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    1. Looks interesting - thanks for the link. I like that it's ungated too!

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    2. Speaking of French economics journals...there is an article by an Alexander Tobon published in 2006, which cited Dr. Brady's 1995 article in the History of Economics Review. Here it is for your reference, and everyone's reference, Daniel.

      http://www.cairn.info/article.php?ID_ARTICLE=REDP_163_0419

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    3. hahahahah i can't beleive alexander tobon came up in ths discussion.... or anywhere in the econ blogosphere for that matter. He's an economics professor from medelli, colombia who did his graduate work in france. he was actually one of the evaluators of my masters thesis on the monetary economy of knut wicksell.
      by the way, daniel, have you considered including some wicksell in your course? he's a great economist and a very important precursor of keynes (the treatise is pretty much based on his work) and of the modern neoclassical synthesis.

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    4. Yep - thinking I'll spend a day on the early monetarists - Wicksell, Fisher, and early Keynes.

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    5. JCE: Alexander Tobon came up because he cited Dr. Michael Emmett Brady's 1995 History of Economics Review article in his 2006 article in Revue d'économie politique. Are you going to inform Professor Alexander Tobon that he was mentioned on the econoblogosphere?

      Daniel Kuehn: To respond to the other interaction we had earlier in this comments section...I can understand your lack of interest in Dr. Michael Emmett Brady's contributions to the scholarship of decision theory under conditions of risk and uncertainty. But why do you lack even the interest to read Dr. Michael Emmett Brady's articles on the mathematical aspects of John Maynard Keynes's General Theory (particularly for Book V of John Maynard Keynes's magnum opus) and the comparison and contrast to the mathematical aspects found in The Theory of Unemployment (which was published in 1933, and the sections one needs to examine closely is Part II - Chapters 8 to 10) by Arthur Cecil Pigou? I was hoping that you would be at least more interested in reading that part of Dr. Michael Emmett Brady's work, and possibly assigning at least one journal article by Dr. Michael Emmett Brady (or a journal article by say, Rogerio Arthmar or Claudia Heller, both of whom agree with Dr. Brady's work like Professor Tobon) as additional reading.

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  6. Why assign Austrian stuff in the Keynes chapter. Wouldn't that reinforce the idea of Austrians v Keynesians as a battle? Wouldn't it be more useful to learn about stuff like Cantillon effects, the fact that while probably real they are probably not deciding factors in the business cycle and then move on to Keynes?

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    1. Well it might not have been as goofy as the Papola portrayal, and it might not have entailed the sorts of disagreements that he thinks it involved... but it was still a debate!

      Keynes faced resistance, and I think it's important to go through the alternatives, so I think it's a good place to introduce it.

      Safer to learn it from me than learn it online, I think :)

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    2. Unless you introduced them then to show how Hayek and Keynes are compatible!

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    3. Gene,

      My thought exactly. Though maybe the debate is a slightly more important history of thought event, while the compatibility of capital structure theory with demand-side slack is more of a theory thing.

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  7. Awesome, Daniel. The Sandmo book is very well tailored to the stuff you mention here. (Complimented, as you say, by some supplementary material like BDLs essays.) Would be great to see your final syllabus so feel free to keep me updated.

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