Curriculum for the Twenty-first Century: Recent Advances in Economic Theory and Undergraduate Economics

Undergraduate economics lags behind cutting-edge economic theory. The author briefly reviews six related advances that profoundly extend and deepen economic analysis: game-theoretic modeling, collective-action problems, information economics and contracting, social preference theory, conceptualizing rationality, and institutional theory. He offers suggestions for incorporating these into the undergraduate classes at various levels. He argues that game-theoretic representation of collective action problems offers a unifying framework, on par with supply and demand, for political economy. Blending in the other developments deepens our micro-level understanding of internal and external contract enforcement, with implications on nonclearing markets, power, and distribution. At the macro level, these concepts illuminate the role of institutions in economic development and long-term growth. Undergraduate curricula should incorporate these new approaches.
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