Center for History of Political Economy -- Summer Institute 2011
As I mentioned before, the Institute for New Thinking in Economics has awarded a significant grant to the Center for History of Political Economy at Duke. This is a very significant and positive development as far as I am concerned. And one of the main areas of investment for CHOPE is summer programs to help PhD students develop an appreciation in the subfield, and for advanced students and junior faculty to improve their understanding on how to teach the subject.
I want to encourage all the students who read this blog to think seriously about applying for the Summer Institute programs. The main faculty of Caldwell, Medema, and Hands are among the best contemporary practitioners of the craft (they also happen to be GREAT people as well).
I cannot overstate how enthusiastic I am about the programs that Bruce Caldwell is developing at CHOPE and its potential for helping nudge the economics discipline a bit in a more scholarly direction. I got hooked on economics through a dynamic professor (Hans Sennholz), and being convinced of his arguments and those of the authors he relied on --- namely, Hazlitt, Mises, and especially early on Friedman. But it was a year long sequence in history of thought during my second year at Grove City College that grabbed me in terms of scholarship and the idea that I might want to work in the world of ideas. Reading Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and especially J. B. Say started me on an amazing intellectual adventure that hasn't stopped yet. I still find Ricardo tough to slog through, but Smith and Say are pure joys to read. And, of course, Mill can be frustrating while quotable; Marshall is enjoyable though disappointing, and Wicksteed emerges as the best of the post-Ricardo Brits. By the time I was heading to graduate school, I was addicted to looking for Augustus Kelley Reprints to pick up from the extra money earned stringing tennis racquets or giving an extra-lesson. Note, these are independent of my true passion in economics which was the Austrian tradition of Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Wieser, Mises, Hayek, etc. It would be interesting to do an inventory of my library and see how many are Kelley reprints, that I picked up close to 30 years ago on a college student and then tennis teaching pro salary. Students today get many of these resources for free online, but I am not sure they cherish them since they are acquired for free rather than acquired with earned money as a matter of choice. Something about holding the physical copy and understanding where it came from and what it meant lends a respect to the product, at least in my mind.
Throughout my now 20+ teaching career, I have regularly taught history of thought courses both at the undergraduate and graduate level. And I have been an active participate in the History of Economics Society off and on throughout my career. The field is fascinating for a variety of reasons, but mainly that understanding how the discipline evolved through intellectual debate and cultural and ideological shifts is an important input into gaining perspective. Even if you don't plan on teaching the history of economic thought, it will pay to simply go and be exposed to the field by Caldwell, Medema, and Hands.