September 17, 2021

The Second Student Revolt (PT. 2)

On September 15, 2008, out of the blue sky, a crash. Twenty percent of global trade wiped out. The beginning of a depression that would last longer than the Great Depression. Mainstream economists were blindsided. Not even one in a hundred saw it coming.

“How did economists get it so wrong?” asked The New York Times.

“What good are economists anyway?” quipped Business Week.

“Will economists escape a whipping?” wondered The Atlantic.

No “scientific” discipline has ever suffered such a blow to its credibility. Far worse than failing to predict the crash, mainstream economists actually enabled it, producing hundreds of reports supporting the dangerously leveraged mortgages and overconsumption that triggered the meltdown.

One presenter at a meeting of leading economists in London stood and said: “We all got it largely wrong and have been using the wrong intellectual apparatus.”

Who could now deny that the emperor was naked?

Student protests flared.

In the UK, a group of Cambridge students — spiritual descendants of the Ecole Normale 15 — waved a manifesto called “Opening Up Economics.”

U of Manchester students founded the “Post-Crash Economics Society” and published a book called The Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts, and a second called simply, Rethinking Economics.

The revolt spread to Harvard — home to the best economics department in the world if faculty Nobel-Prize-count is your metric. A hundred students walked out of Gregory Mankiw’s introductory economics class. Eight hundred signed a petition to get an alternative to Econ 101 into the curriculum. Over a hundred Rethinking Economics groups sprung up in universities all over the world.

At the 2015 American Economics Association (AEA) conference, delegates were greeted by a barrage of Adbusters’ posters pinned up all over the corridors and meeting rooms of the Boston Sheraton. As night fell, we beamed messages onto the hotel’s façade.

The delegates could feel the breath of the resistance now. We’re coming for you!

This was a much bigger deal than the first round of student uprisings. The post-autistic movement had birthed a couple of dozen resistance groups. This time, more than a hundred mini uprisings spun out, in 70 countries.

But again the fury subsided. The revolutionary tumult of Occupy Wall Street had come and gone and not a single Wall Street exec ended up in jail. Not a single prof lost tenure. Not a single university changed its curriculum. The 24/7 news cycle moved on. A few passionate disruptors kept rattling the cage, but that’s it. The keepers of the old paradigm held the line.

Read Part 1

Read Part 3

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