Thomas Piketty made some pointed remarks in response to interview questions prior to his discussion lecture 03 October 2014 at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School, New York, NY. Piketty described the scientific shortcomings of academic economics and the economics education processes of the modern era.
Author’s Commentary (From econoblog 101)
I am writing a grant application which would allow me to teach a MOOC (massive open online course) on the bread & butter of (monetary) economics: how does the monetary system function? It is all quite basic stuff, but I am very much afraid that not many colleagues in Germany could explain to their students how money is created, how banks clear their accounts at the end of the day, how the government spends or how the fiscal is related to the monetary. I am glad to see that Thomas Piketty speaks out in favor of my view of economics: providing understanding of elementary economics before moving on (if one is so inclined) to mathematical models that are more abstract.
Econintersect Transcript of Piketty’s Interview Remarks (Note: We had extreme difficulty because of the pronunciation characteristics to be sure we got an exact transcript. Corrections will be gratefully accepted.)
What can students and the next generation do to promote economic justice?
The first importance to do is democratization of economic knowledge to affirm the bad economic policies and the interests of the wealthy came from the fact that we sort of abandoned economic knowledge to a group of stupid specialists and experts in economic issues. I see there is no such thing as economic science; there are social sciences in economic processes that involve social control of world relations. What is really important, first of all, is not to leave economic issues to others and to – you know … They belong to every citizen, they belong to every social scientist, they belong to every (unintelligible) …
Why is it important for you to have this conversation at the New School tonight?
The New School is very closely associated to the (unintelligible), the place I come from in France, and I returned to the (unintelligible) because I thought it would be easier for me to promote a more interdisciplinary approach to economy. And of course the New School would have been a place where I would have been happy as well.
How do you think the teaching of economics or economic curriculum should change?
We should teach economics much more in conjunction with economic history, social history, political science. It is just impossible to study issues such as the dynamics of income and wealth distribution in a joining(?) economic manner. It is very important that the students don’t use all their energy in abstract mathematical models, which can be useful sometimes but only as a condition that we use a simple model to explain a lot of history called(?) fact of social evolution. And to affirm, economics has been doing exactly the opposite which is a very subjective mathematical model to explain very little empirical measure(?) or sometimes no empirical measure(?) at all.
How can an economist change the world?
First of all I don’t think there is really such a thing as an economist. Personally, as you know, I think of myself as a social scientist and I don’t think an economist can be distinguished from a social scientist in general. So I think social scientists in general can contribute to a more informed democratic debate and what should be important is to change (unintelligible) and to contribute to this economic and political debate.
- Public Programs Express: Thomas Piketty – “There Is No Economic Science” | The New School (YouTube, 09 October 2014)
- Piketty: “There is no economic science” (but there could be!) (Dirk Ehnts, Econoblog 101, 17 October 2014)