Friday, July 19, 2013

Another Recipe for Mediocrity

The University of Chicago used to have a very different take on economics than other schools across the country. It was even called the Chicago School of Economics and was noted for its particular type of economics and for winning more Nobel prizes in economics than any other school. Bryan Caplan notes, however, a change has occurred:
Economics at the University of Chicago is no longer very different from economics at other top programs. What happened? The proximate cause was lack of a strong instinct of memetic self-preservation. The ultimate cause, though, was that the Chicago School destroyed itself from within.
 He continues:
Future historians of thought will be puzzled by the transformation of the Chicago School. How does one get from Milton Friedman to Donald Wittman? My answer: Step by step, and myopically.
Milton Friedman could articulate his position and did so, and so could his colleagues. Eventually, however, came colleagues who could only articulate that they did what they did (whatever that may have been) and that it had something to do with economics. So through such myopia, it appears that economics at the University of Chicago has become just like economics at any other school, which is to say, undistinguished.

A distinguished program needs to know what it is that distinguishes itself from other programs. It needs to consciously preserve those distinguishing features.