The Combination of the Demands to Get Tenure and the Rewards of the Good Life after Tenure Has Been a One-Two Punch to Creative Economic Thought
Although the life of many economists has been good, the life of someone trying to become one has not. In particular, it has become increasingly rigorous requiring increasingly high levels of mathematical skills to gain tenure at a major university. The intense rigor required is effectively freezing out people with a high degree of creativity. Sure, they can publish highly rigorous, highly mathematical articles, but they don’t have the opportunity for a lot of creativity.
Not that math shouldn’t be a key part of economics. Of course it should. But again, the problem is that we don’t have a good model to apply the math to. Doing a lot of math when you don’t have a good model for how the economy works is fairly useless. Once you have a good model, then the math can be quite useful.
However, with the intensity of focus and rigor required to gain tenure, you are effectively selecting out the potentially most creative economists, who might create such a new model. You get people who don’t question the status quo because they can’t. They aren’t able to do so because they are highly focused on the enormously rigorous task of trying to get tenure, not on solving the fundamental questions of economics that would create real breakthroughs. That’s just a big distraction from getting tenure.
So it is a two-pronged problem of a good life after tenure ...