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Student Manifesto for New Economics

by Kristen Sheeran • October 27, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

Last week, an international student movement to free the economics curriculum from its neoclassical straightjacket was launched at the University of California at Berkeley. The movement calls on students worldwide to post the following manifesto on the doors of university economics departments. Their “kick it over” manifesto is posted below.

Economics departments may be the last places to heed the call for changing the basic tenets of economics. Paradigm shifts occur slowly, and a shift in economic theory and practice may have surprising little impact on how economic institutions in the real world function. But if ever the conditions were ripe for a paradigm shift it is now, with the world facing simultaneous economic and ecological crises. Perhaps this is why this student manifesto, as naive as it reads, will resonate with some economists.

The founding members of E3 network penned a treatise on the failings of neoclassical approaches to environmental economics several years ago. Our subsequent work in the climate change arena has confirmed how economics can both impede and inform progress. The purpose of this blog and website is to demonstrate rigorous economic support for climate action; but it is only necessary because so much “bad economics” has been published that has reached alternative conclusions.

E3 Network is not alone is calling for a better or new economics. The New Economics Foundation , the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics, The International Institution for Feminist EconomicsInternational Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics and heterodox economics programs including the University of Massachusetts Amherst, American University, New School, and University of Missouri at Kansas City, have all called for changes to mainstream economic theory and practice. These institutions, and many others I haven’t listed, do not necessarily agree on what is “wrong” with economics. But they do share the same  frustrating realization that may compel students to tack the Kick-it-Forward manifesto to the doors of their economic departments: the world described so narrowly by neoclassical economics is neither the world in which we live or want to live.  

Kick It Over Manifesto

We, the undersigned, make this accusation: that you, the teachers of neoclassical economics and the students that you graduate, have perpetuated a gigantic fraud upon the world.

You claim to work in a pure science of formula and law, but yours is a social science, with all the fragility and uncertainty that this entails. We accuse you of pretending to be what you are not.

You hide in your offices, protected by your mathematical jargon, while in the real world, forests vanish, species perish and human lives are callously destroyed. We accuse you of gross negligence in the management of our planetary household.

You have known since its inception that one of your measures of economic progress, the Gross Domestic Product, is fundamentally flawed and incomplete, and yet you have allowed it to become a global standard, reported day in, day out in every form of media. We accuse you of recklessly projecting an illusion of progress.

You have done great harm, but your time is coming to a close. Your systems are crumbling, your flaws increasingly laid bare. An economic revolution has begun, as hopeful and determined as any in history. We will have our clash of economic paradigms, we will have our moment of truth, and out of each will come a new economics – open, holistic, human scale.

On campus after campus, we will chase you old goats out of power. Then, in the months and years that follow, we will begin the work of reprogramming your doomsday machine.

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