Students for a Humane And Responsible Economics
Students for a Humane and Responsible Economics (SHARE) aims to improve economics education at Harvard by advocating for a broader diversity in the economics curriculum and by providing a forum on campus for discussion and debate on current economic issues, focusing on the social consequences of global and domestic economic policy. We believe that the field of economics plays a critical role in shaping the basic organizational structure of society and informing policies (both domestic and international) that strongly affect individual welfare. Because of the practical impact of economics, we believe economics education has important human consequences. Economic models are lenses through which students are taught to view how society should function. We believe that Harvard, by only providing one model of economics, fails to provide critical perspectives or alternative models for analyzing the economy and its social consequences. Without providing a true marketplace for economic ideas, Harvard fails to prepare students to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens. We believe that the values and political convictions inherent within the standard economic models taught at Harvard inevitably influence the values and political convictions of Harvard students and even the career choices that they make. Finally, by falsely presenting economics as a positive science devoid of ethical values, we believe Harvard strips students of their intellectual agency and prevents them from being able to make up their own minds.
Despite the limited view of economics embodied at Harvard, we believe that economics poses fundamental questions about society whose comprehensive answers require an interdisciplinary approach. In order to bring to light the broader impact of economics and the intellectual possibilities of the field in a spirit of critical discourse, SHARE has three goals:
1) To diversify the curriculum of economics at Harvard. In particular, we are interested in diversifying the introductory economics course, Social Analysis 10, Principles of Economics (known as Ec 10), by amending the course and/or by providing an alternative introductory course that includes critical perspectives. We believe that diversity in an introductory economics course is crucial, and that Ec 10 must be reformed for five reasons:
a) Ec 10 is the only introductory course currently offered at Harvard, and it is a prerequisite for all other economics courses and a requirement for many concentrations. Thus, students who may be dissatisfied with the course have no choice but to take it.
b) It is advertised as an introductory course, which implies a survey of various economic models. Because Ec 10 presents only the neoclassical model, however, students get the false impression that there are no other models in the field of economics. The fact that Ec 10 is often the only economics course many students will take at Harvard only makes this false impression more dangerous.
c) Most students take Ec 10 as freshmen, when they have not yet fully learned to question what professors teach. They are therefore less likely to question what they learn in Ec 10, and more likely to accept it as fact rather than as one specific framework of analysis and interpretation.
d) A large percentage of the articles in the sourcebook are written by Prof. Martin Feldstein himself or by economists promoting similar ideological and political views.
e) The course offers no forum for discussion. Prof. Martin Feldstein does not hold office hours for his students to ask him critical questions on his lectures or the course material. Sections are also taught uniformly and allow no official time for a deeper discussion of issues brought up in the lectures or the readings. Students are expected simply to regurgitate the information they are presented without questioning it.
2) To diversify the economics faculty at Harvard. The homogeneity of the economics curriculum is mirrored in the faculty’s near-unanimous acceptance of the mainstream economic model. The lack of intellectual diversity in the faculty prevents students from finding mentors who can facilitate their pursuit of critical perspectives on economics. Harvard needs to provide students with a faculty whose interests are representative of the diversity of interests within the student body and the field of economics.
3) To educate students about economics and alternatives to the dominant model, as well as raising awareness of the social and political implications of economics. To accomplish this, we hope to provide an ongoing public forum for critical discussions around economics by inviting speakers, conducting regular discussion groups, and creating links between Harvard students and alternative economic policy research institutes. Finally, we hope to become a center that promotes further study and research in alternative economics, and where students and faculty can engage in critical dialogue about economics.