Samuel Bowles, Wendy Carlin, 20 March 2020

In the shadow of the Great Depression, Paul Samuelson placed the “really interesting and vital problems of overall economic policy” – notably persistent unemployment – at the front of his introductory text. What future citizens learned from their economics courses was transformed by the new knowledge – Keynesian economics – applied to the new problems. This column asks whether we are now at a similar juncture. Using topic modelling, it finds that the novel themes in published research in recent decades – concepts that empower economists to address today’s major challenges of climate change, inequality, and the future of work and of property rights in the knowledge-based economy – are strikingly absent from today’s leading textbooks.

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