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A specific plan to change economics textbooks

Summary:
From Tim Thornton and WEA Commentaries The importance of economics textbooks Economics textbooks are central to how the discipline of economics reproduces itself and how it convinces society of the legitimacy of its conclusions. Whilst writing a textbook does not have the glamour or esteem of producing highly cited research, it is perhaps at least as important. As Paul Samuelson, the father of the modern economics textbook remarked,“I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws – or crafts its advanced treatises – as long as I can write its textbooks” (Samuelson cited in Skousen 1997, p. 150). Relatedly, Lamm (1993) points out that the yearly sales of the leading economics textbooks dwarf the lifetime sales of many of the ground breaking books in economics such as Keynes’ General Theory.

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from Tim Thornton and WEA Commentaries

  1. The importance of economics textbooks

Economics textbooks are central to how the discipline of economics reproduces itself and how it convinces society of the legitimacy of its conclusions. Whilst writing a textbook does not have the glamour or esteem of producing highly cited research, it is perhaps at least as important. As Paul Samuelson, the father of the modern economics textbook remarked,“I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws – or crafts its advanced treatises – as long as I can write its textbooks” (Samuelson cited in Skousen 1997, p. 150). Relatedly, Lamm (1993) points out that the yearly sales of the leading economics textbooks dwarf the lifetime sales of many of the ground breaking books in economics such as Keynes’ General Theory. Furthermore, King (1995) argues that the inability of the first generation of Post Keynesians to produce a satisfactory textbook was a critical factor in allowing neoclassical-synthesis Keynesianism to become dominant.

Clearly, textbooks matter. Indeed, it is quite hard to imagine how there will be major change in economics until there are major changes in economics textbooks. However, we can frame this same point in more positive terms by saying it is quite easy to imagine how changing the textbooks used in economics could precipitate major change in economics. What then are the prospects of change?

  1. The difficulties of changing textbooks

Usurping the currently dominant economics texts has proven to be difficult thus far and it appears unlikely that the problem will resolve itself. Why is this?   read more

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