Occupy Harvard


Back in October, in a post titled “OWS:  Right Movement, Wrong Street,” I commented that:

… maybe there are other streets that need to be targeted as well.  Our political leaders don’t dream up economic policy.  They’re too busy with campaigning and schmoozing.  They take their economic policy advice from economists.  Some lean slightly left; some lean slightly right.  But there’s little difference among them, which is why nothing ever seems to really change regardless of which party is in power.  All favor free trade and all favor growing the population, because they refuse to open their eyes to the consequences. 

So maybe the movement should be renamed “Occupy Garden Street” for the street in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Harvard University is located.  Maybe they should be demanding that Harvard and all of our universities abolish their economics departments, since the economists they’ve produced have proven to be abject failures. 

It’s happening.  This morning I came across the above-linked article that appeared in the Harvard Crimson about the “Occupy Harvard” movement there.  Of particular interest to me was the following:

Indeed, Occupy Harvard has been a very effective protest. …  It sparked national discussion about how classical economics is taught in the college setting.

If you follow the “national discussion” link, you’ll find the following on the INET (Institute for New Economic Thinking) Blog:

The problem of the typical economics class lies in an excessively narrow conception of the scope of economics, and of the research methods appropriate to the subject. This narrowness is pervasive but, as the reaction of the students demonstrates, especially jarring at the introductory level.

Oops!  I guess it didn’t occur to the admissions department at Harvard that, if they admit students from middle and lower income families, those new students might arrive on campus with a dim view of the economy that Harvard’s economics department has had a major hand in creating.  This is where the real hope for change resides – not in Washington and in the dying, failed idealism of the political left and right – but in the minds of a new generation, willing to challenge conventional wisdowm, no matter how lofty the credentials of their teachers. 

As I watched the Republican debate from Florida last night, I was struck by the dearth of new ideas for dealing with economic challenges that have left our country at the breaking point.  “Lower taxes.”  “Get the government out of the way.”  We could have been watching a tape of a debate from 30 or 40 years ago.  There’s no hope to be found there, not that there’s any to be found among the ranks of Democrats either. 

Our only hope lies in fresh young minds who see the world as it is and who react with incredulity when exposed to the nonsensical axioms of never-ending growth that has brought the world to such a state.  Perhaps my optimism springs eternal, but change for the better may be taking root among the new generation on our campuses.  We can only hope.

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