STOREPgrants 2018, selection results

In July 2016, STOREP – Associazione Italiana per la Storia dell’Economia Politica – has launched two grants (2,000 EUR each, funded from the budget), called “STOREPgrants”, for innovative small-scale research projects by STOREP members in the history of political economy, the history of economic thought, and the history of economics, or exploring economic issues on an interdisciplinary basis, or, finally, explicitly promoting heterodox approaches to economic

The Selection Committee for STOREPgrants 2018, composed of three members nominated by the Executive Committee (Enrico Bellino, Ghislain Deleplace and Angela Ambrosino), has scrutinized submitted proposals on the bases of three main criteria: a) relevance and originality of the proposal; b) coherence with STOREP’s aims, and c) feasibility of the project, and possibilities of future developments.

The Committee-selected winning recipients of the two STOREPgrant awards (of 2,000 EUR each) are:

  1. Cosma Orsi (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), “No One Should Have Less. James Edward Meade’s Social Dividend
  2. Michela Ciccotosto (Università di Torino), “A Survey of Economics Teaching at Italian Universities

Here are brief outlines of the researches:

Cosma Orsi (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), “No One Should Have Less. James Edward Meade’s Social Dividend

The purpose of this research project is to pursue an inquiry into Meade’s quest for egalitarian redistributive policies. After the publication of the General Theory, some left-wing economists underlined a certain degree of ambiguity in Keynes’ idea of distribution (Jay 1936; Harrod 1936; Strachey 1940). They argued that Keynes ‘overrated the importance of investment in comparison with consumption’, when in fact the direct stimulation of consumption was ‘the logical conclusion of his argument’ (Jay 1936: 14).
Was James Edward Meade’s reflection on social policy a decisive step towards the resolution of Keynes’ ambiguity? In order to provide an answer to this question, we shall focus on Meade’s advocacy for social dividend. Although Meade presented it as the best option for reconciling economic efficiency with a fairer distribution of income throughout his academic career, historian of economic thought has given little attention to Meade’s social dividend. Though it was a long life commitment, we shall limit the inquiry to the period 1935-1948. During these years, Meade published Economic Policy for a Labour Government (1935), An Introduction to Economic Analysis and Policy (1936), Consumer Credits and Unemployment (1938) and Planning and the Price Mechanism: the Liberal-Socialist Solution (1948). In these works, within a non-Marxist conceptual framework, Meade was exhorting governments to ‘ensure incomes to everyone at the basic minimum standard’ (Collected Papers: II, 324).
The idea that a fairer redistribution would enhance economic growth and ‘national efficiency’ was not at all new (Hobson 1909). However, Meade was able to leave aside the marshy grounds of ethical considerations preferring instead to place the emphasis upon the argument that a fair distribution of income (and wealth) would have brought about both the maximization of economic output and achieved a more efficient use of material resources. An idea to which he always adhered.
How Meade’s social dividend relates to his advocacy for the stimulation of demand in order to reduce unemployment, for increased administrative and economic efficiency and for the overall reduction of economic inequality? An inquiry into Meade’s social dividend turn to be even more important when we consider that he was one of the architects of the contemporary Welfare State. What was once, often, can reveal the essence of what now exists, and shed lights on what it can become in the near future. To investigate how a particular problem has been faced by previous generations, can help us to find interpretative criteria that help us to illuminate today’s challenges.
The presented paper is part of a broader project of an interdisciplinary research looking at the relationship between economic thought and social legislation from the mercantilist era up to now.

Michela Ciccotosto (Università di Torino), “A Survey of Economics Teaching at Italian Universities

What happened to economics educations is something that would be absurd or scandalous even if we were to imagine it happen to medicine or psychology, for example. The imposition of one line of thought is wrong in principle and is dangerous in practice. Not only experts, professors, or academics but also students have spoken against the drift they had been witnessing of this subject towards something that, some may argue, it was never supposed to be. In this respect, it will be useful to see what the status quo of the economics education is, what books are being used, and how students respond to all this, how they perceive their education and how they value it. What we, as Rethinking Economics, are trying to do now is unite these different takes and come up with one, at least for the moment being, final prospect of what economics students in the Italian universities are being taught with regards to the discipline.
Analysing the textbooks used and the material proposed to the classroom is the first step in this investigation of the economics courses. The first study to be taken into account was carried on by Janet T. Knoedler and Daniel A. Underwood who analysed the textbooks used in 75% of all Principle courses in the US universities at the beginning of the 2000s. From the 7 books used and scrutinised it appeared that there is a general consent around what is to be taught: other than a thorough coverage of the NCE principles and the usual repetition of the narrative about “the standard scarcity and opportunity cost argument”, almost nowhere are mentioned alternative views as Schumpeter, Veblen or Marx.
The second step looks at the courses per se. In 2017 a study was published which had been carried out by the students at Manchester university who investigated the status quo of 7 universities in Britain, the topics covered during class, and the nature of the exam questions, expressly whether the students were requested to simply describe and report on something or to critically engage with a specific matter: this led to the publication of the book The Econocracy: The perils of leaving economics to the experts in 2016. This first two tasks could be easily taken on by only looking at the courses’ web pages were most of the information is nowadays on these objects, except for the exam texts, that would require a little deeper surveying.
The last part of our research inquiries, in the end, what is the students’ perception of their own education, how they feel about it and about what they are actually learning during class. A first research going this way started on the 4th of December of the past year conducted among the students at the two economics departments at the university of Turin. To this day (over one month later) the early findings seem to confirm what the first two studies anticipated and by expressing their opinion about their education, these students took part in a bigger effort at the international level to see what’s changed in the teaching of economics.