This afternoon I joined a debate organized by Room for Discussion at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The topic was ‘rethinking economics: the future of our economic schooling’. Since the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis, a bunch of academics have been calling for a revision of the way economics is currently taught at universities. They argue economic curricula should reflect the idea of pluralism: the teaching of a broad range of different schools of thought – alongside the Neoclassical school that has been dominant for the past decades. This plea is clearly admirable but too often falls on deaf ears. If economics is ever to embrace pluralism, its students should do so first.
If you look around at universities, you are supposed to see the future elite. Even in the Netherlands, where there are currently over 250.000 enrolled bachelor- and master students, the image of students belonging to a relatively wealthy and talented class in society still prevails. Do I see myself as part of the elite? I don’t know. And to be honest, given the fact that the concept of ‘elite’ has become something of a swear word during the past few years, I’m not sure whether I want to consider myself elitist.
In about half a year, I will have graduated and hopefully have found my first job. When I tell people this, they often respond with something like “So fun time is almost over!” or “Are you ready to take on the corporate jungle?” Despite their good intentions, I don’t think the picture of a working life is like that at all. In fact, the idea of having a life made up of just work is outdated and misses the point.
Last weekend I was approached by a young woman who was campaigning for a ‘No’ in the upcoming Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement. Although her flyer contained mostly flawed arguments, she did tell me something sensible: “Whether you’re for or against, you should go out and vote.” At first, it was difficult to disagree with her. However, after I’ve seen all the cards on the table, it has become clear to me that I should not vote at all tomorrow.
After yesterday’s horrible terrorist bombings in Brussels, the solidarity-inspired profile pictures are popping up on Facebook once again. This reminds me of the controversy around using the French tricolore filter after the Paris attacks back in November 2015. Many people showed their sympathy for the victims in Paris, but did so less visually for those in Beirut just the day before. Are European lives more valuable than Middle Eastern ones? Likewise, do we care so much more about innocent civilians who happen to die in Belgium, rather than their Turkish counterparts in Ankara – or anywhere else for that matter?
When I was about twelve years old, I was suddenly determined to become an economist one day. Well, at least I wanted to busy myself with money and all that. The occasion of this vision was, ironically, the birthday of a saint (‘Sinterklaas’) who rewards children with gifts in case they behave properly. That evening, I received a novel called Felix en het grote geld (‘Felix and the big bucks’) by Nikolaus Piper. As I couldn’t imagine a more fitting title, I started reading straight away.
The intriguing ‘Brexit’ debate has been on my mind for a while. Now that Cameron has finally struck a deal with his European partners, I can make up the balance: the UK has not only distanced itself from the EU, it has also reintroduced a destructive political tool.
We’ve all heard what the Brits want in terms of European policy reform. Some of the demands are quite sensible, like the limitation of child benefits for workers coming from within the EU (mostly from Eastern Europe). Others, such as the removal of the notion “ever closer union”, is merely symbolic. Most of all, Cameron’s primary concern is pleasing the eurosceptics in his Conservative party, thereby strengthening his own position during his second term in office.