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Rip it up and start again

Even if Econ 101 isn’t ripped up in the way Howard Reed suggests, few economists would dispute that their subject needs to change. Here, 10 of the world’s leading economic thinkers highlight the single thing they think their subject will need to grapple with over the next decade.

1 Get to work on jobs

Barry Eichengreen, University of California, Berkeley

The global crisis and populist backlash laid bare the fact that American “blue-collar workers” had been left behind by technology and globalisation. President Trump promises to rescue them by “making coal great again” and taxing steel imports. We need a better way.

The conventional wisdom used to be that if manufacturing jobs can’t be recaptured from robots and China, then the solution is better service-sectors jobs—jobs that were presumed to be safe from automation and import competition because they require situational adaptability, interpersonal skills and oral communication. But now advances in artificial intelligence raise questions about the future of even those jobs.

Still, jobs requiring workers to combine practical services, communication and empathy—care workers, for example— should remain safe for the foreseeable future. So the pressing question becomes how to better prepare workers for these particular tasks. This requires rethinking education, training and the nature of work itself—a process that has only just begun.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s May issue: More than a dozen writers critique the current state of economics, suggesting there are still lessons to learn more than a decade on from the financial crash. Howard Reed writes that the ideas we hold about the way economics works need to be ripped up. Ten of the world’s best living economists explain what, in their view, is the single most important lesson economics still has to learn, and Linda Yueh suggests what three of the past masters would think about economics today. Elsewhere in the issue: Vernon Bogdanor outlines why Brexit could cause a constitutional crisis in Britain; Jean H Lee explains why young South Koreans don’t want their country to reunify with their Northern neighbours; Sian Norris writes about the coming battle over abortion and shows where the UK ranks among its European peers; and Sonia Purnell profiles Jacob Rees-Mogg.