Day one, year one: I was a girl with black glasses and blue jeans, sitting in the second row, straining my neck to get a good view of the slides on the projector. What was I thinking when I agreed to sit there?

Fast forward a few days, and you would find me in row ten – and not just because I needed to save my neck. I found most lectures dull for their lack of interaction and engagement. I have always been the kind of learner that needed a spark, a form of purpose in whatever I involve myself in. I was not getting that.

The same was true for seminars. It was like I had been transported into the robotics era a few decades earlier. A teacher would walk in, take attendance, read out questions, answer them for us, and then leave. My eyes would yearn for a friendly face; my mind for an interesting discussion.

In class, we often did not question why/how we got to where we were; we took things as given as long as we got the results we were asked to prove. There was no reflection or real understanding.

At this point, you might be thinking that I am painting too grim a picture for a university in the UK. And yes, not all seminars were as I described; some of them did have some form of interaction. But, amid the weight of equations and formulas, something was missing.

I remember myself constantly asking questions such as: Is this the way it works in real life? Does this matter – will it make a meaningful difference to people and planet? Can this be sustained in the long term?

Finally I had to voice my questions out loud. I asked my professor after the class was over, why we needed statistics to establish the importance of happiness in public policy. Shouldn’t it be obvious from human experience? How much time and how many lives would it save if we were simply conscious of what truly matters?

I have come to realise that maybe technical rigour does have an important role to play in research and policy-making. While it is important to keep in mind that numbers are not everything, they give us something tangible to focus on. It is like making a sculpture –  creativity alone does not do the trick, you also need to have a good eye for size, shape and form.

But does that mean all the maths we do is relevant, and must continue to dominate in textbooks? During a Rethinking Economics project I had participated in a while back, I asked a senior team member, why she thought we rely on graphs and equations in economics.

She explained that economics was looking to emulate the established physical sciences in a bid to create a space for itself, among intellectuals. She likened it to imitating the qualities of a much older and favored sibling to establish yourself in front of your family. Perhaps, graphs were simply the medium of creating that space through resemblance. It was a fresh perspective for a young student trying to decode the patterns.

Reflecting on what two years at university have taught me, I realise that most people still don’t know what economics really means. All that my close relatives knew about it was: it has something to do with the stock market; it has to be a lucrative field; and the names of random universities they had seen on brochures that offered economics.

What’s even more surprising is that two whole years studying economics did not make me change their beliefs. Not because I was too lazy to bother offering an explanation, but because I, myself, was struggling to figure what it meant as well.

I think it is important that every child learns to ask the right questions and constantly explore avenues before settling for one. Perhaps, interdisciplinarity can help in that quest. Talking, listening (genuinely) and discussing will help us build a collective vision on a new economic model for a happier, more just, and inclusive future.

At the same time, we probably do need a clear view of how the world actually works. Make sure we know the rules of the game before getting into the field and blurring its boundaries or painting new ones for that matter.

2 Comments on “The Mint is listening to… Nikita Asnani 19, Second year Economics”

  1. Wow!!! Nikita…such in-depth thought process! Sadly everything is pretty mechanical these days and no one kind of bothers! Your write up has touched d core! Human equation is what we are missing! Very well put up! Right from d heart! Wishing you all the very best for your bright future! Continue exploring and sharing!!!!

  2. I can well understand your difficulties Nikita. However this subject surely deserves sorting out and I have managed to do a significant part of it! Please review the following article (and working papers on internet, which contain diagrams) and if you are still interested write to me fora copy of my 310 page e-book about it.

    Making Macroeconomics a Much More Exact Science

    Today macroeconomics is treated inexactly within the humanities, because at a first look it appears to be a very complex and easily confused matter. But this does not give it fair justice, because we should be trying to find an approach to the topic and examine it in a better way that avoids these problems of complexity and confusion. Suppose we ask ourselves the question: “how many different KINDS of financial (business) transaction occur within our society?” Then the simple and direct answer shows that that only a limited number of them are possible or necessary.

    Although our sociological system comprises of many millions of participants, to properly answer this question we should be ready to consider the averages of the various kinds of activities (no matter who performs them), and simultaneously to idealize these activities so that they fall into a number of commonly shared ones. This employs some general terms for expressing the various types of these transactions, into what becomes a relatively small number of operations. Here, each activity is found to apply between a particular pair of agents—each one having individual properties. Then to cover the whole sociological system of a country, the author finds that it requires only 19 kinds of exchanges of the goods, services, access rights, taxes, credit, investment, valuable legal documents, etc., verses the mutual opposing flows of money. Also these flows need to pass between only 6 different types of representative agents.

    The analysis that led to this initially unexpected result was prepared by the author and it may be found in his working paper (on the internet) as SSRN 2865571 “Einstein’s Criterion Applied to Logical Macroeconomics Modeling”. In this model these 19 double flows of money verses goods, etc., are shown to pass between the 6 kinds of role-playing entities. Of course, there are a number of different configurations that are possible for this type of simplification, but if one tries to eliminate all the unnecessary complications and sticks to the more basic activities, then these particular quantities and flows provide the most concise result, which is presentable in a comprehensive and seamless manner, and one that is suitable for further analysis of the whole system.

    Surprisingly, past representation of our sociological system by this kind of an interpretation model has neither been properly derived nor presented before. Previously, other partial versions have been modeled (using up to 4 agents, as by Professor Hudson), but they are inexact due to their being over-simplified. Alternatively, in the case of econometrics, the representations are far too complicated and almost impossible for students to follow. These two reasons of over-simplification and of over-complexity are why this non-scientific confusion is created by many economists and explains their failure to obtain a good understanding about how the whole system works.

    The model being described here in this paper is unique, in being the first to include, along with some additional aspects, all the 3 factors of production, in Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” book of 1776. These factors are Land, Labor and Capital, along with their returns of Ground-Rent, Wages and Interest/Dividends, respectively. All of them are all included in the model, as a diagram in the paper.
    (Economics’ historians will recall, as originally explained by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that there are prescribed independent functions of the land-owners and the capitalists. The land-owners speculate in the land-values and rent it to tenants, whilst the capitalists are actually the owners/managers of the durable capital goods used in industry. These items may be hired out for use. Regrettably, for political reasons, these 2 different functions were deliberately combined by John Bates Clark and company about 1900, resulting in the later neglect of their different influences on our sociological system– the terms landlord and capitalist becoming virtually synonymous along with the expression for property as real-estate.)

    The diagram of this model is in my paper (noted above). A mention of the related teaching process is also provided in my short working paper SSRN 2600103 “A Mechanical Model for Teaching Macroeconomics”. With this model in its different forms, the various parts and activities of the Big Picture of our sociological system can be properly identified and defined. Subsequently by analysis, the way our sociological system works can then be properly seen, calculated and illustrated.
    This analysis is introduced by the mathematics and logic that was devised by Nobel Laureate Wellesley W. Leontief, when he invented the important “Input-Output” matrix methodology (that he originally applied only to the production sector). This short-hand method of modeling the whole system replaces the above-mentioned block-and-flow diagram. It enables one to really get to grips with what is going-on within our sociological system. Subsequently it will be found that it is the topology of the matrix which actually provides the key to this. The logic and math are not hard and is suitable for high-school students, who have been shown the basic properties of square matrices.
    By this technique it is comparatively easy to introduce a change to a preset sociological system that is theoretically in equilibrium (even though we know that this ideal is never actually attained–it simply being a convenient way to begin the study). This change creates an imbalance and we need to regain equilibrium again. Thus, sudden changes or policy decisions may be simulated and the effects of them determined, which will point the way to what policy is best. In my book about it, (see below) 3 changes associated with taxation are investigated in hand-worked numerical examples. In fact when I first worked it out, the irrefutable logical results were a surprise, even to me!

    Developments of these ideas about making our subject more truly scientific (thereby avoiding the past pseudo-science being taught at universities), may be found in my recent book: “Consequential Macroeconomics—Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works”. Please write to me at chesterdh@hotmail.com for additional information.

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