Economists Sometimes Get it Wrong

Let’s kick it over – one economics department at a time!


A letter from Lukas Clark-Memler from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

To the great people of Adbusters,

Something happened today in a lecture on Labour Economics.

Something that I wanted to share with you.

I've been mounting a campaign at my university – sticking up Kick It Over posters on the long halls of the hushed Economics Department – pushing radical messages under the doors of professors and tutors – sharing the ideas of Meme Wars with anyone that will listen...

But today... well after years of economics classes, after hundreds of hours of lectures, my professor finally admitted the failings of ‘economic science’ – here is what happened:

I’ve been studying towards a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at my university for a few years now – I've sat through hundreds of hours of cut-and-dry economics lectures, memorizing formulas, drawing supply and demand curves, calculating inflation rates… And in all that time, not a single lecturer mentioned the financial crises and the role economists played. Instead we had guest lectures from Reserve Bank analysts and private sector advisers, and were pumped full of hope about the lucrative job that was surely waiting for us at the end of our education.

I began to sleep through lectures, stopped reading Mankiw's textbook, stopped caring. Then today, in a labour economics class, the professor said something that caught my attention. It was a passing statement (not on the lecture slides) and I doubt if most of the class even heard it: “Economists sometimes get it wrong. No government should base policy on crude economic models. The result of such blind faith is the 2008 recession.”

I was stunned. After years of being force-fed neoclassical Scripture, my professor had just put a little caveat on everything we thought we knew: economists sometimes get it wrong; models rarely reflect the real world; faith without proof is the stuff of cults.

I approached her afterwards, struggling to phrase my appreciation of her warning. I wanted to say, “Thank you for teaching us to question the certainty of our textbook models. Thank you for admitting the failure of your discipline. Thank you for acknowledging the dangers of misguided economic policy.&rqduo; But instead of saying anything, I caught the professor's eye and offered a smile of gratitude. She knew what she had done.

Thank you for the inspiration to question and doubt and revolt against established theories.

For the wild,
Lukas Clark-Memler
University of Otago
New Zealand

Imagine … you keep tacks in your pocket so you can pin up posters in the hallways of your economics department on the fly … and once a week you nail one right to a professor's door. Before lectures, you print out 100 copies of your favourite poster from and place one on each desk to greet students at the beginning of class … and then you stand up and ask a bold, overdue question like: “What's wrong with economics? How come not even one in a thousand of the world's economists, professors and policy makers saw the 2008 financial meltdown coming?” You fire the first shots. You trigger a meme war on your campus. You trigger the paradigm shift that will safe the world.

This past spring, students at over a dozen universities and colleges across North America gathered on their campuses to lay the foundations of a new millennial-led movement for economic system change. At NYU from July 19-21, 300 of these young leaders will re-converge at the New Economics Institute’s conference, reRoute: Building Youth and Student Power for a New Economy.

With workshops on campus organizing, curricular change, social investment and alternative finance, reRoute will articulate the vision of a new kind of economics, a bionomics, a psychonomics, a whole new way of managing our planetary household. This weekend, take the plunge and join the meme war wherever you are!