Turn the page on fairy tale economics, says Monty Python star

Universities must be realistic about crashes and capitalism, says Terry Jones ahead of the premiere of documentary Boom Bust Boom

March 19, 2015

Source: Bill and Ben Productions

A “fairy tale” approach to economics teaching at university level has resulted in worldwide financial instability and a new approach to higher education curricula is needed, according to Terry Jones, the comedian and screenwriter.

The film-maker and Monty Python star, who himself penned a book of fairy stories in 1981, was commenting ahead of the premiere this month of his documentary film, Boom Bust Boom, which supports the global “postcrash” movement – a campaign that calls on universities to give more prominence to alternative economic theories after the 2008 financial crash.

“There is a direct link between our unstable economy and the way economics is taught,” Mr Jones told Times Higher Education. “We cannot expect graduate economists to engage with the real world if they are taught crashes do not exist. They are taught capitalism is stable, that humans are always rational. This is a fairy tale and it’s the reason we are in this mess.”

The film features high-profile advocates for change such as John Cusack, the actor, John Cassidy, the journalist, and experts including Andy Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England, and Nobel prizewinning economists Daniel Kahneman and Paul Krugman. It is co-written with Theo Kocken, a professor in the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at VU University Amsterdam, and features a mixture of live action, animation, puppetry and song.

The film will premiere at the Z-arts theatre in Manchester on 31 March as part of a conference hosted by the University of Manchester’s student-led Post-Crash Economics Society, which campaigns on the need for economics degree courses to be revamped. Among the speakers is Paul Mason, economics editor at Channel 4 News. Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Mason said that there was “no single truth emerging from non-mainstream economics except that the orthodox stuff does not work”.

“I don’t want to see a replacement orthodoxy cobbled together – we need economics to go beyond economics; from abstraction to realism, and from justification to critique,” he said. “It’s a massive undertaking.”

chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Well said. I'm glad Jones is compensating for his overly romantic take on the Dark Ages with a call for economics, which in its neoclassical guise is little more than jumped-up accountancy, to return to the real world.

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