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Finally, Economics Departments Will Teach Free Market Capitalism

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For whatever reason, the University of Utah was a long resister in the dominance of the free market fundamentalism that has made the field of Economics a joke. Luckily, there has been some meaningful pushback against this new orthodoxy in the last decade, but many Economics departments are still dominated by right-wing hacks. That was never the case at Utah. That’s why the Beehive State became a center of global Marxism in its governance and voting preferences. Anyway, the Koch Brothers have finally solved this problem by funding an entirely new Economics department devoted explicitly to full 100% hackdom. In supporting this, the Deseret News provides arguably the worst newspaper editor op-ed I’ve ever read.

The newly established Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business will provide some philosophical balance to the university’s educational offerings and scholarship on economics, and it will further position the university to produce what Utah needs — an educated workforce.

The institute, which was made possible by gifts from the Eccles family and Koch foundations, is an unequivocal win for students, the state and the University of Utah’s burgeoning world-class business reputation.

For the better part of a century, Castro’s Cuba and the University of Utah’s economics department seemed like the last bastions of Marxist thought in North America — with the latter being subsidized by local tax dollars.

Teaching Keynesianism is basically Castro. And anything left of that, well, those people were basically advising Pol Pot.

In recent years, prominent Marxist scholars such as Emery Kay Hunt and Hans G. Ehrbar have defined the ethos of the university’s unorthodox department. Even today, the University of Utah remains one of the few universities to still offer some economics courses from a Marxian perspective.

Oh. My. God. Marxian economics. How will 19 year old kids from the Salt Lake suburbs survive this onslaught on their common sense?

Now, thanks to a generous $10 million gift from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Marriner S. Eccles Foundation, along with a matching $10 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation, local students will be exposed to a more academically vibrant suite of economic ideas.

The plutocrats, riding to our rescue like the Mormons to the wagon train at the Mountain Meadows Massacre! Oh wait…

Major Utah employers such as Goldman Sachs, Qualtrics and many others now thrive on well-tuned data analytics. Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business, explained that in the process of designing its new major, the business school researched what skills students would need to remain competitive in the local workforce. The research is reflected in the degree’s pragmatic, economics-oriented curriculum.

With the involvement of the Koch Foundation, there will undoubtedly be some who claim that the new institute is now ideologically beholden to the well-known conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. For example, after the Koch Foundation announced a separate gift at Utah State University earlier this year, protesters projected an image of the billionaire brothers on the side of the school’s building with text, reading: “SOLD! Utah State University Respected research institution! $25,000,000.” But, that ignores the commitment to education and gifts to 300 institutions, including Stanford, Harvard and Brown, that the Koch Foundation has provided.

Yes, the fact that the Koch Brothers are buying influence across the nation clearly demonstrates that they aren’t buying influence in Utah? Sounds like our editors need courses in logic as much as they do economics.

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  • “The newly established Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business will provide some philosophical balance to the university’s educational offerings and scholarship on economics, and it will further position the university to produce what Utah needs — an educated workforce.

    The institute, which was made possible by gifts from the Eccles family and Koch foundations, is an unequivocal win for students, the state and the University of Utah’s burgeoning world-class business
    reputation.”

    Sounds more like a press release than an op-ed.

    • NeonTrotsky

      Assuming that the Deseret News is like any other paper in todays world, then they’ve probably laid off tons of staff and will often just print press releases directly that they’ve received.

  • Yestobesure

    Interesting that this dept is within the business school. I wonder what the functional result will be – will they be teaching side by side econ 101 classes competing with the arts and sciences econ department? Will the undergrads be able to satisfy requirements by taking classes in the new dept? Will this just be another right wing research institution that doesn’t do much teaching?

    • humanoidpanda

      The funny thing is that people who do really rigorous statistical analysis of economics tend to be , in American political terms, center left. In fact one of the major tenets of Austrian economics is rejection of empiricism. So , if the business school wanted to establish a data analysis department, good for them. But the fact that the Koches are giving the money makes me somewhat skeptical

      • majeff

        That’s the killer about so much right-wing nonsense: it’s immune to facts and data. Their “first principles” philosophy isn’t open to empirical testing, it simply must be true and one must return to those principles even if they do not align with reality.

        • njorl

          “In addition, as he’s going to be teaching politics, I’ve
          told him he’s welcome to teach any of the great socialist thinkers,
          provided he makes it clear that they were wrong.” – 4th Bruce

        • NeonTrotsky

          Why do you think hard core conservatives/libertarians are into Austrian economics, which rejects empiricism entirely.

          • slavdude

            Well, because they so often cite them (Mises, Hayek, etc.). But then again there also seems to be a naive belief that businesspeople (or at least those who attend or work at a business school) somehow are economics experts.

            • Captain_Subtext

              If Salma Hayek wants to teach, that's a class I would take.

        • ASV

          Immune to facts and data, but way into the Orwellian destruction of language.

      • Yestobesure

        It’s more than just empirics and statistics, though that’s a great point; people who look at economics as an academic discipline, as a social science tend to shade left. This is especially true if they look at things like comparative economics or history of economic thought. It’s different at a business school, which is by it’s nature vocationally slanted.

        • DAS

          Except from a vocational standpoint, what good does it do you (if you want to train economists to do economics related jobs) to train people to “understand” economics in a way that is diametrically opposed to economic reality? I guess actually understanding economics must not be all that important in jobs requiring economics degrees.

          Of course, the advantage of having people educated in “economics” believe that your political/economic theories are just sound economics is the multiplier effect: say you don’t know much about economics but your friend who majored in economics and is doing an economics-related job says that the GOP has a better economic policy, then maybe you’re more likely to support the GOP. In this case, it works out quite nicely for the political right that you can manage to be successful in economics/finance without actually understanding actual economics.

          BTW, I see this in action all the time: people who are in finance/economics fields (and who majored in finance/economics) who have the most absurd views about economic/fiscal policy. But the agent of misinformation for the people I know is the Wall Street Journal: you’re in the finance/econ biz, so you read the WSJ. But then you are misled by them. And the multiplier is that all of the econ/finance people’s friends think “[X] must know about economics, and [X] thinks the GOP are correct on economic issue [Y], so the GOP must be correct”. In many cases X (especially with the GOP going so far off the rails on social issues so that most urbane finance/econ types are fully within the Democratic fold) happens to self-identify as a Democrat, so you also get a bit of “even the liberal [X]” action.

          • humanoidpanda

            “BTW, I see this in action all the time: people who are in finance/economics fields (and who majored in finance/economics) who have the most absurd views about economic/fiscal policy”

            But the key here is that you can have perfectly fine degree in finance and know very little about macroeconomics. Same as doctors and health care policy, or architects and urban planning.

            • Yestobesure

              There’s also a values and perspective component, even among academics… Do you prize “full employment” and look at economics as a means to manage the economy to achieve this social end (Keynesian)? Do you think “free markets are great because they are really cool self-organizing systems” or “… because they let me go out and be rewarded for my intrinsic greatness” (Mankiw-ish)? Do you focus on all the interesting ways markets can fail to serve society properly or do you look for ways to introduce cold market logic into other spheres of human relationships? Do you look at how financial markets actually behave (shiller) do you focus on esoteric mathematics that treat financial markets as a realm of pure logic (fama)?
              Even in terms of macro, some investors can be successful trading the markets based on heuristics and instictive trading sense without having any idea of how the economic system works. There is also a great ability to compartmentalize knowledge necessary to do your job and knowledge that fits with your personal politics or that of your social group. E.g. realize how ridiculous the House GOP was in playing games around the debt ceiling but still seeing the Dems as bad for the economy.

    • djw

      There are probably fewer administrative hurdles to creating a department explicitly designed to complete with and poach majors and FTEs from an existing department if you do it in a different college.

      • NeonTrotsky

        Almost certainly. My undergrad had about a dozen different variations of the environmental science/policy major, in at least three or four different schools/colleges, when they probably should have all just been rolled into one.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Associate Dean Richard Nixon’s Head in a Jar says AROOOOO!!!!

  • Mark Jamison

    The Koch’s pretty much bought the econ department at Western Carolina University although Ayn Rand style fundamentalism already had a foot in the door thanks to John Allison from BB&T. Despite assurances that the university would have final say on staff all of the new hires come from or have connections with the mothership at George Mason and the Mercatus Institute. Curriculum materials largely come from a Tyler Cowen proxy, Marginal Revolution and is heavily weighted to Public Choice – moreso than straight Austrian economics. It’s heavily influenced by the work of James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock with a good bit from Cowen and the younger generation like Brian Caplan (author of the that wonderfully sophomoric piece of crap The Myth of the Rational Voter).
    WCU doesn’t have a stand alone Econ department, it’s folded into the Business school where free-market fundamentalism reigns.
    It’s more than a little ironic that many of the schools the Kochs have subsumed are public state institutions – institutions that wouldn’t exist if their public choice and fundamentalist philosophies were actually put in place.

    • Captain_Subtext

      Makes you wonder if the Kochs would fully fund the University if the education dollars completely dry up? I doubt it. They seem pragmatic enough to just start over somewhere else. When are they going to get too old for all of this?

  • How to make labor costs go to ZERO 101 or the slaves had it so good , didn’t they ?

  • NeonTrotsky

    I’ve been told that an easy way to judge the quality of a school’s economics department is whether its part of the school of business or part of the the school of liberal arts and sciences.

    • TheBrett

      The existing Econ department is in the School of Behavioral Sciences, so that might be the case at the University of Utah.

    • When I taught Calculus the B school econ majors took a version without limits or proofs; basically Just an extra semester of pre-calc. Humanities and Science econ kids had to take the real stuff.

      • Lurking Canadian

        What???? How do you study the behavior of any kind of dynamic system without at least first order ODEs?

        No wonder they pretend the economy always magically stabilizes itself. If it doesn’t they have no idea what to do.

        • I don’t think many schools make legit econ majors even go past Calc II. I checked the website and my current institution doesn’t; and it’s a good bit higher up on the academic totem than were I was teaching Calc.

          I’ve heard that grad school in econ basically requires a double major in math to be competitive at least though. But the guys (and it invariably seems to guys) who go and work at a bank wouldn’t know an ODE if it bit them.

        • There’s a lot of missing foundations in the application of differential equations to what are, of course, discrete dynamic(al) systems.

      • Cassiodorus

        I had a professor as an undergrad Econ major that also taught at the business school at my alma mater. The level of Econ knowledge expected for MBA candidates was 101-level stuff.

  • Veleda_k

    I feel genuinely nauseated.

  • Spot Letton

    “That’s why the Beehive State became a center of global Marxism in its governance and voting preferences.”
    If we had just been able to prevent Ann Coulter from speaking on Utah campuses, we might have saved the whole project. Damn!

  • TheBrett

    Mariner Eccles is rolling in his grave over this. He was a long-time Keynesian who was appointed to both the Federal Reserve Board and its chairmanship by FDR and later Truman (although he left in 1951 over disagreements with Truman), and an early proponent of trying to actively promote and manage aggregate demand in the economy. What the hell, Eccles Foundation?

    • Noah Smith likes to point out (with charts!) Econ profs are significantly more left leaning than the public–and much more so controlling for their rich white male demographic.

      • TheBrett

        A lot of the confusion is because the non-Econ public tends to think that Economics = “Macro-Economics”, whereas most of it is Micro-Economics. But even in Macro, Keynesian/”Saltwater” schools were prominent at the same time as the Neo-classical/”freshwater” schools.

  • Hogan

    Major Utah employers such as Goldman Sachs, Qualtrics and many others now thrive on well-tuned data analytics.

    I’m just a simple English major from the late Mesolithic, but . . . that sounds like math to me.

    • “Well-tuned data analytics” is more marketing buzzword than actual math. (I know – it’s a favorite of my company’s marketing department and our new CEO, because “data analytics” is the hot new thing in our branch of the software industry.)

  • gmoot

    I’ve accepted Koch Foundation money to give a talk at a university: $1500 + expenses for a few hours of poisoning young minds with leftie propaganda such as, for example, data on poverty trends, intergenerational mobility, and the five main reasons why The Bell Curve would have received a failing grade in my department’s 1st-year quant methods course. As a bonus “f*** you” to the Kochs, I donated most of this financial windfall to PP.

    Not sure that there’s a point here, except perhaps to say that funding university programs may not work out to be quite as effective of a strategy as the Kochs think.

    • I’ve been reading Gary Dorrien’s history of American liberal theology: it doesn’t seem to ever work out for those poor conservatives when they try to establish an alternative academia. Andover seminary was established specifically to counter the liberal trend of unitarianism at Harvard and champion Calvin and hellfire. Got absorbed back into it within a century.

      And of course Leland Stanford probably has composed some good lamentations in the afterlife. And, in a truly great irony, George Mason’s grads are unemployable outside the Federal bureaucracy. And they’re not exactly a 5th column.

      • Davis X. Machina

        And, in a truly great irony, George Mason’s grads are unemployable outside the Federal bureaucracy.

        A modern-day East India College.

      • slavdude

        How about those Liberty U. alums?

        Anyone remember Conservapedia?

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Sounds like a madrassah to me.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Sounds like a madrassah to me.

  • applecor

    I understand the Kochs funded this too, which, despite its message, may save them from the deepest circles of hell…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk

  • CD

    http://economics.utah.edu/undergraduate/requirements.php

    What the Deseret News won’t tell its readers is that U of U Econ offers plenty of mainstream theory, and its BA requirements are pretty conventional. There is one upper-level elective in Marx.

    • TheBrett

      I’ve taken classes through U of U Econ, and I’ll second this from personal experience. None of what I’ve taken seemed particularly “marxist” – it just amounts to a couple of upper-division scholars who got tenure because of the first wave of Berkeley exiles. I remember my Money & Banking professor talking about them with some amusement (he leaned leftward, but was basically a social democrat as far as I could tell).

      • fearandloathing

        In the year 2525, if man is still alive, the Koch Brothers (having managed to survive with the help of Peter Thiel’s vampirism research), after having succesfully eliminated all dissent from libertarianism, will then turn on each other, each accusing the other of being a Marxist who has betrayed the cause.

    • DAS

      Many people couldn’t distinguish Keynes from Marx. I know dyed in the wool Democrats, who would never think of voting GOP, but who think Bernie Sanders is an actual hardline socialist whose ideas would have been an economic disaster.

      Being Democrats, they are ok with the current set of tax brackets and maybe a slight upward tweak in the capital gains tax, but anything more than a slight tweak is “wealth redistribution” that is “economically disastrous” “communism”.

  • So wonderful of our masters to be willing to ensure that we’re taught exactly what will enrich them yet more at our expense. MAGA, right?

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