At the Freakonomics blog, economist Justin Wolfers criticizes a recent Texas Board of Education effort to include the work of F.A. Hayek in high school economics classes. He sees it as a “conservative” ideological mandate that isn’t justified by Hayek’s scholarly influence:
Sunday’s New York Times reported on attempts by the Texas Board of Education to rewrite the high school curriculum in accordance with its conservative values….. I find the raw ideological force exerted by these “educators” to be both striking and dispiriting.
How do they plan to rewrite high school economics?
In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, to the usual list of economists to be studied – economists like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes.
Taking social science seriously surely means teaching the insights of the most prominent, most important, or most influential economists. This involves teaching important theories—even those you disagree with. There’s no doubt about the influence of Smith, Marx and Keynes; Friedman also belongs. But does Hayek belong on this list?
Let’s use data to inform this debate. I counted the number of references to each economist in the scholarly literature indexed by JSTOR, finding 30,708 articles mentioning “Adam Smith”; 25,626 articles mentioning “Karl Marx”; and 4,945 mentioning “John Maynard Keynes” (the middle name was required to avoid articles by his father, John Neville Keynes). “Milton Friedman” sits easily with this group, and was mentioned in 8,924 articles.
But searching for “Friedrich von Hayek” only yielded 398 articles; adding “Friedrich Hayek” raised his total to 1242 mentions; also allowing “FH Hayek” raised his count to 1561….
By the way, “Lawrence Summers” was mentioned 1712 times, adding “Larry Summers” raises his score to 1972 mentions; and also including “LH Summers” raises his score