A Hole in French Soft Power: The Teaching of Macroeconomics

Posted on October 17, 2022


By Bernard Landais.
An article from Conflicts

The knowledge of macroeconomics disappears while this discipline is essential for understanding political and international issues. Redefining a good teaching of macroeconomics appears to be a vital necessity.

For several decades, the lessons of economic science have shrunk to a trickle, while the subject matter is expanding. The paths leading students to plausible explanations of contemporary macroeconomic phenomena are getting longer, but the dedicated timetables have collapsed. Students of related disciplines, law, political science, management, history are increasingly deprived of secondary culture in macroeconomics.

It is therefore not surprising that the ruling classes and the political and economic elites are so ignorant, not to mention the ordinary citizen who is asked to decide in elections.

The decline of the macroeconomics

The “standardization” of Master’s Degree and Doctorate courses and the semesterization of courses were not suitable for disciplines requiring both culture and reflection, that is to say those that can legitimately be described as academic. The administrative decisions of the years 1990-2000 were in reality acts of force perpetrated by the partisans of professionalizing solutions and disciplines with didactic content.

The neighboring management subjects, favored by the evolution of the profiles of the baccalaureate holders and their prospects for outlets, should have developed independently. In reality, they prospered at the expense of macroeconomics by reducing it to a minimum portion. Moreover, academic economists have not been able to adapt their teachings of macroeconomics, always going through desperately long detours to reach their conclusions. Finally, some of the best apprentice economists have been led astray in the didactic studies of statistics and econometrics to adapt them to international canons and to ever-decreasing outlets. Thus, public and private decision makers have been left without true macroeconomic advisors.

On the front of knowledge and from 1985, everything happened as if macroeconomics had definitive solutions to be applied in confidence and that additional reflection was no longer necessary. It was the exact opposite! No longer in search of new ideas, academic journals have aligned themselves with the criteria of technicality imposed worldwide, with an increasing proportion of derisory subjects. It’s easy to make fun of the Middle Ages, which are far ahead of the “sex of angels”!

Open and productive debates between macroeconomics on concrete situations and policies have disappeared altogether, each striving only to meet the formal criteria of publication.

Submission to Anglo-Saxon criteria

“Publish or die” could also sum up the scientific and linguistic alternative.

The career progression of each requires compliance with the injunctions of Anglo-Saxon macroeconomic science. Its implicit watchword is: “don’t say anything interesting, we think for you” ! However, this current mainstream failed miserably in its models and its practical influence, especially for monetary policy before, during and after the 2008 crisis.

We are now paying a heavy price in terms of the general economic culture and the capacity of the political elites: it is hard to imagine where and when they could have learned a sufficiently effective macroeconomics to be useful to them. Some of these political elites are moreover very happy to exclude the people from subjects which, according to them, do not concern them. Their own ignorance then no longer matters.

All these reasons explain the weakness of macroeconomic debates in public opinion, practically non-existent during the last presidential campaign. They are replaced by vague demagogic considerations on “purchasing power”, a concept likely to mask all the underlying fundamental questions. By listing these questions, linked to the economic difficulties of the time, we will understand why it is necessary to return to the path of theoretical confrontations on at least some major problems.

Back to basics

The question of the economic system reappears and intensifies.

Behind an apparent defeat symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, socialism has never ceased to reappear, in particular in the form of international “public-private” crony capitalism, a kind of globalist oligarchism. For us Europeans, the Commission is its active arm.

The causes of Europe’s economic stagnation are not clear. Whether for trade integration or the single currency, the much-vaunted beneficial effects systematically fizzle out. European promises are like the seeds of the Parable, growing in profusion on soil that is too thin and then drying up inexorably, for lack of depth and the possibility of real rooting.

The decline in growth is linked to the lack of investments, in particular in those which increase human cultures, to the degraded human capital and to the absence of risk intelligence by too few entrepreneurs. Governments have forgotten how to make the right strategic choices required by increasingly advanced globalization.

Anti-development is topical in almost all the countries of the world, confronted with profound changes in the levels and styles of life. The weak economic results, combined with the movement of mentalities and preferences, disappoint people in their quest for happiness.

My diagnosis is that the populations are subjected to too many liberticidal pressures to be happy.

The forecasting and above all the prevention of crises and inflation are increasingly deficient, the econometric models of the beginning of the century having failed. The triumphalism of rulers and the Coué method which alternate almost without transition with the dramatization and the guilt of the citizens, occupy the media field permanently, but only aggravate the instability. On this point, one could expect a lot from the balanced realism of macroeconomic analysis. The latter has plenty of means to calm things down as long as it is given the floor and takes better account of human reactions and anticipations.

The teaching of effective macroeconomics must at least help to meet these challenges. These are also those of the macroeconomics of always renewing itself as societies, their mentalities and their institutions evolve. They call for a new intellectual impetus and the constitution of a “New French School” of Macroeconomics.

Bernard Landais is the author of Respond to decline; a new political economy for the French rightVA Editions 2021.

On the Web

We want to thank the author of this post for this remarkable material

A Hole in French Soft Power: The Teaching of Macroeconomics

Find here our social media profiles as well as other related pageshttps://nimblespirit.com/related-pages/