Margin of error?

June 18, 1999

Readers will be familiar with the issue of declining student enrolment in economics. One reason for this that is usually overlooked is that mainstream economics has ceased to have relevance to the world in which we live. If evidence of this were needed, then look no further than the exchange between Neil Kay and David de Meza (Letters, THES, June 4 and 11). Both use standard economic theory, replete as it is with standard assumptions, to make claims about the way firms behave when hiring workers. Although some economists believe assumptions like these are realistic, most do not, preferring to use them for reasons of expediency. The outcome of this expediency, however, is economic theory that fails to address reality. And, one way or another, students have cottoned on to this. If veterinary scientists started lectures with the words, "Let's assume pigs can fly...", it would not be long before their student enrolment declined.

Steve Fleetwood Lancaster University Management School

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