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Economics without Entrepreneurship or Institutions: A Vocabulary Analysis of Graduate Textbooks

A teacher’s words reflect the theory and methods he uses. Words reveal theoretical structures, the problems identified as relevant, and how those problems should be analyzed. I investigate whether entrepreneurship-rich and institutions-rich theories are represented in Ph.D. programs in economics. I analyze textbooks for the presence of terms that fall naturally into two sets. One set deals with the knowledge and discovery: entrepreneur, innovation, invention, tacit knowledge, and bounded rationality. The other deals with social rules: institutions, property rights, and economic freedom. When the words appear I examine the meaning. I examine the textbooks used in required courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics and industrial organization in all Ph.D. programs in economics in Sweden. The investigation is not specific to Sweden, however, because Ph.D. programs in Sweden are virtually identical to programs in the United States. The same textbooks are used, and nearly all of the textbooks examined are written by economists in the United States. I find that (i) all programs are in the tradition of “mainstream” economics; (ii) by and large, the eight expressions scarcely appear in the textbooks; and (iii) when they do appear, their meaning is diluted or distorted, compared to their meaning in theories where the idea is more central. In my judgment, the results constitute powerful evidence that today’s doctoral programs do not train young economists to identify and analyze important economic issues in a relevant way.

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Paper provided by The Ratio Institute in its series Ratio Working Papers with number 58.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: 18 Nov 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Econ Journal Watch, 2004, pages 515-538.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0058
Contact details of provider: Postal: The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 5095, SE-102 42 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: 08-441 59 00
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  1. Tollison, Robert D, 1982. "Rent Seeking: A Survey," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 575-602.
  2. Anne D. Boschini & Matthew J. Lindquist & Jan Pettersson & Jesper Roine, 2004. "Learning to Lose a Leg: Casualties of PhD Economics Training in Stockholm," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 1(2), pages 369-379, August.
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  13. Robert J. Barro & Paul Romer, 1993. "Economic Growth," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number barr93-1.
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  14. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2004. "Institutions as the Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 10481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1990. "The Allocation of Talent: Implicationsfor Growth," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 65, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  16. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Stanley Fischer, 1989. "Lectures on Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262022834, June.
  17. Bhagwati, Jagdish N, 1982. "Directly Unproductive, Profit-seeking (DUP) Activities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 988-1002, October.
  18. Israel M. Kirzner, 1997. "Entrepreneurial Discovery and the Competitive Market Process: An Austrian Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 60-85, March.
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