In the last few years Economics’ credibility as a subject has been somewhat undermined. The financial crisis and the global recession that followed have lead many to question the validity of its methodology – why did nobody notice what was happening? What is the point in economics if we can’t foresee events such as these? To me, though, this is exactly what makes economics all the more worthy of study. Economics isn’t just about predicting the future, but about learning from mistakes. It is about analysing both what has happened in the past and what is happening now, and putting that analysis to vital use in the real world.
Keynes once said that an economist must be ‘a mathematician, historian, statesman and philosopher,’ and I feel that the development of all these aspects is crucial to the study. Many economics students will be somewhat surprised upon their arrival at university, to find that the ‘economics’ portion of the syllabus is less than a half, with the rest of their year being taken up by both mathematics and statistics. These, it is true, form the foundations of all economic study; yet to be a successful economist requires not just mathematical ability, but a genuine interest in the world around and an intellectual curiosity that encompasses all the social sciences. Many new strands of economics (such as behavioural) have strong connections with other subjects – sociology and psychology, for instance – and this diverse nature of the subject brings an added layer of interest and, in my opinion, makes economics one of the most varied and remarkable of areas of study. The sheer volume of different paths it can lead you to is testament to this. Economics graduates go into everything from research to journalism, banking to business and for me this is indicative of the scope the subject provides for students to expand their knowledge in the areas that interest them the most.
Economics incorporates a host of different competing perspectives and interpretations, from the Keynesian to the Neoclassical, and this pluralism encourages a more open point of view as a pupil. It forces us to be aware of the necessity of investigating all causes and outcomes, and the fact that there is no objective truth on which all economists agree means that there is always space for debate and discussion. This makes it easier to fully engage with the multi-faceted nature of the subject, as well as to appreciate its real world applications. Economics allows us to constantly question the world around, to pursue a varied and complex set of inquiries, and yet its method and rigour sets it apart from other social sciences.
Were you to open up any newspaper today, you would find that nearly every article could be analysed through the economic spectrum, because that is what the study of it gives you; a new lens through which to see the world, and a new approach by which to analyse it. An economics degree will open you up to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and in my opinion, there is no better base on which to begin your academic career.
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