Editorial: Austrian economics master’s program would be detriment

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Imagine receiving a master’s degree in Realpolitik, rather than political science. Imagine trying to secure a job with a master’s in Freudian theory, rather than psychology. If such scenarios seem absurd, perhaps we should take another look at our business school’s latest project. Loyola’s economics department is currently working to establish a master’s program in Austrian economics, and the proposal is stirring up much controversy among administrators. The Austrian approach is one school of thought within the greater field of economic analysis. Just as there is the Austrian school, there are also Keynesianism, Marxism, Neoclassicism and numerous other approaches to the subject matter.

Taking the entire topic of economics and whittling it down to the Austrian tradition is unprecedented. The economics department sees the absence of Austrian programs as a call to arms, and it sees our school as the university to answer the plea. Its reasoning is reportedly based upon utilizing the specific skills and reputation of the professors in the department.

This seems a valid argument, as the department is currently dominated by Austrian economists. However, the current professors will eventually retire or change schools and recruit new colleagues. It’s reasonable to expect that Loyola’s undergraduate economics department in a few decades will differ drastically from our current one, as natural growth will allow for professors of other economic traditions.

If the Austrian economics master’s program is approved, however, it will likely preclude any diversity from developing within the department. The professors who teach undergraduates will also teach the master’s program, thus preventing the future of employment of those who do not adhere to the Austrian school. While master’s candidates may benefit from a one-sided education in their chosen school of thought, students at the undergraduate level will undoubtedly suffer from the inevitable pigeonholing.

The environment into which the program would be introduced is also essential to consider. Loyola holds Jesuit values essential to its mission, and these elements must guide its educational plan. Our university emphasizes the importance of shaping well-rounded students who can think critically about the world in which they live. However, if this master’s program gives students only one view of economic issues, how can it be said that Loyola is upholding its responsibility to produce well-balanced graduates? If this program only provides one side of the equation, how can Loyola honestly say it is upholding its commitment to encouraging critical thinking?

The controversy of the Austrian economics master’s program is about far more than tedious academic planning groups. The debate is over the legacy we will leave for the next generation of Loyola graduates. Whether or not the program is approved will dictate future students’ quality of education and the ability of Loyola to honorably promote its Jesuit values. While an Austrian economics master’s program is unprecedented in this nation, perhaps this is simply a lesson in effective and responsible economics education.

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