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Seminar to consider Keynesian contribution to economics

The global economic crisis that began in August 2007 has shaken the belief that financial crises belong only to the past, says Robert Dimand.

“At every moment in the evolution of economics, you could find people who were convinced that the way things were is how they would always be,” he says.

A professor of economics at Brock University, Dimand will explore the value of teaching economic history in his free public presentation “What to tell a Graduate Course in Macroeconomics about Keynes,” at 10 a.m. Friday, March 8, in room 1163, Chrysler Hall North.

“Most economists do not learn about the history of their subject anymore, so when the topics of interest change—as they have since the onset of the current recession—economists no longer have the background in how members of their profession used to think,” says Dimand.

He attributes the decreasing interest in economic history to the academic emphasis on mathematics. Grad students fear that pursuing history or political science will get them branded as unable to do the math.

“There is a tendency to concentrate on questions that have answers,” Dimand says. “Those aren’t necessarily all the questions that matter for the world.”

The author of the book The Origins of the Keynesian Revolution, he says that non-specialists are showing renewed interest in the work of John Maynard Keynes, who published his general theory of employment in 1936.

Dimand says that making sure students have a basic understanding of the history of their discipline will make them better economists. His seminar Friday will have appeal to students of other fields as well: history, political science, sociology and philosophy.

Acting chair of Brock’s economics department and co-coordinator of its international political economy program, Dimand serves as president of the History of Economics Society and as secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Economics Association.

Friday’s event is one in a series sponsored by the Department of Economics to promote education in the history of economic thought.