Life as an Academic Economist: US versus Europe

As suggested by one commentator, this article provides an interesting analysis of the relative merits of US versus Europe for academic economists: you can read it here.

18 replies on “Life as an Academic Economist: US versus Europe”

An interesting op-ed. Im not sure that we should take it as much more than such. Any article dealing with a social science that states
“It remains the case that most French and Italian universities teach economics as a philosophical subject—with opinions mattering as much as facts—not a scientific subject”
Shocking….what would Adam Smith or Mill think….Economics as philosophy? Opinion? What next….”political” economy?

“Many young economists, scientifically oriented and so recognizing the superiority of free markets, found the climate intellectually stultifying.”

Wow. I’m sure glad that US economics departments teach such intellectually stimulating theorems as “science = superiority of free markets”!

“A Keynesian, statist perspective still dominates most European curricula: free-market professors are an embattled minority.”

Yes, and Friedman and Hayek circulate in samizdat mimeographs…

Sorry, I’m still only halfway through the article but am enjoying it too much to avoid this running sarcasm-based commentary.

I could only get half way through it!
I’m convinced and am booking a plane ticket!
Good bye Euro weenies


Repeat after me:
Economics is NOT a science.

A behavioural or social science maybe but not a “hard” science that most US economists seem to think it is.

One other observation: Where the article is correct is the student-unfriendly atmosphere in continental European universities and the lack of meritocratic selection of faculty.

From what I have seen in some French universities, it is “too scientific” (if such is possible) since its overly focused on technique.
The article in general is probably biased by its choice of reference points in the US, Chicago, Harvard etc.

The Manhattan Institute, which produces “City Journal” should be understood as a centre-right publication, inflected with libertarianism, and with occasional forays into hard-core conservatism. (Think of the U.K.’s Standpoint, and its relation to the Social Affairs Unit). This is not to deprecate City Journal’s articles for intellectual mendacity: many are thought-provoking and stimulating – and give thought to issues that the conventional media in the U.S. would have difficulty covering without so much “liberal” (in the U.S. sense) qualification as to be tedious to read. But the superiority and scientificity of free-market economics is, for CJ, a philosophical and hence editorial axiom.

@ All (& Philip Lane)

Mon Dieu! Mein Gott! Ghut fur Dome! Ochon, Ochon, Ochon …….. The end of the world is nigh!

Looks like Philip must be unwell, and has sold 51% of this blog to F0x Newz. Look to the right …….. Sharah Phelan is on the list ……….

What a load of cock an bull ideological waffle. Commentary is beneath me.

“The mistake in Europe is to try to improve mediocre existing universities,” Zingales believes. “It would be more efficient to create brand-new elite institutions.”

A use for those empty buildings in the Docklands …


It’s noticeable that Sociology in the US (especially again Chicago and Columbia) is likewise dominated by a quantitative and “scientific” mindset.

And as for one of the interviewees’ comments about Italy, we might look to Diego Gambetta’s analysis for corroboration:

The bit that cought my eye was:

“One more benefit of American universities is competent administration. Economists don’t require equipment as sophisticated as biologists’ or physicists’, but they do need working computers. “When my computer is down at Columbia, it gets repaired in an hour,” Chiappori tells me. “In Paris, it would take a month.” Efficient management also helps secure the research grants that are seminal to cutting-edge academic work. “In France, I could get grants, but it would require weeks of bureaucratic work,” he explains. “In the U.S., one can focus on the substance of the research request, and the administration then takes over and smooths the bureaucratic process for you.” ”

“Senior Management” in Ireland and the UK have a lot to learn.

Holding language constant, I wonder how things look? Not as difficult an exercise as it sounds, as you have the UK (and Ireland) as natural experiments in speaking American!
Speaking of which… Philip, Kevin – what took you both back to Ireland post PhD?

Overall, I have to agree with James above. Now, admittedly I haven’t been touring enough continental Departments to start running panel regressions on this, but I was surprised by a number of sentences in this article, such as:
“A Keynesian, statist perspective still dominates most European curricula: free-market professors are an embattled minority.”

Waiting a month to get one’s computer fixed? Wouldn’t it be a better use of one’s time to buy a new one?
It seems to me that many European academics / economists are quick to blame everyone but themselves for their lack of creativity / productivity. Is it really credible to claim that an Irish / French / Italian academic with about 100 hours of teaching a year and minimal individual contact with students has their creativity smothered by the limitations of the academic structures within which they work? Get on with it and stop wingeing!

Something doesn’t add up. In the US, the best economics analysis, research and teaching – and the biggest economic and financial downturn since the Great Depression. In Europe, allegedly poor economic analysis, research and teaching – and the severity of the downturn exacerbated by contagion from the US and the UK and woeful democratic governance in the PIIGS.

Paul Hunt
It adds up alright! Read the monster from Jekyll Island. The USA is a Potemkin country, very efficient at creating and then transferring capital into safe hands. The economics profession was recognized as a potential enemy to this and was co-opted very effectively to help instead of hinder!


I’m guessing you’ve detected I was being a bit tongue in cheek. It just worries me a bit when the ranking of Irish Economics depts. generates so much heat on this blog. Why would one want to be ranked with the “best” when the “best” either have no impact on the application of sensible economics in the economy or their economics is so off-the-wall that, when applied, it destroys the economy.

@ Paul, Pat

Many of the so-called ‘best’ are basically ‘wrong’ in their basic assumptions. Just look around – at the world economy – need I say more?

Methinks some of the opinions quoted here have imbibed to much at the ex V.P Cheney “Ould Europe” well. Childish or simple mindedness come first to mind. America is going nowhere until they can cut their ties to faddish ideologies.

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