Economics teaching under scrutiny in US

Tue 13 February 2007
By Ross

The Kansas school board came under significant pressure this week over the content taught in economics lessons in its schools.

Proponents of the so-called “Intelligent Market” theory have claimed that current teaching methods are overly biased towards free market theories by the likes of Adam Smith.

We respect work of people like Mr. Smith, but it needs to be understood that works like ‘The Wealth of Nations’ contain theories and, as such, should not be taught as if they are the only explanation for our economy,” IM campaigner tells WAFTI today. “We think we owe it to our children to hear both sides of the debate.”

For years now, economics lessons have focused entirely on the idea that our economy is driven by “market forces”; seemingly random decisions by directors can be beneficial or detrimental to a company, which guides its development. Free market economists say that pressures from the consumer base kill off failing companies and help successful ones to survive.

Free market economists call this process of natural selection “competition”. The limited resources and finances available nationwide means that every successful company we see today has evolved from ancestor companies that at some point made better decisions than the other ancient companies we longer see today. The only record we have of such extinct companies today is fossilised annual tax returns which researchers have been unearthing at varying layers of the Inland Revenue archives.

However, supporters of the “Intelligent Market” model in the USA cite laws of entropy as evidence that the market could not be as chaotic as it is today through random decisions guided by market forces.

It is clear to us now that such a high level of chaotic mess in our economy could not have happened without some influence from a higher power,” say a controversial report from top researchers at the California Market Science Institute. “Such a complex level of disorder could not have been arrived at by subtle forces alone. Our modern day economic state must surely be the result of nearly eight years of tariff imposition, deficit spending and generally bad decisions by a top-level power.”

The controversial issue is to be debated at emergency school board meetings across 17 different states tomorrow.