Tell University of Western Sydney They are Dopes for Planning to Dump Steve Keen

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The Australian press is giving raspberries to a plan by the University of Western Sydney to pretty much eliminate its economics department, which would result in Steve Keen and other instructors being fired. Keen is a well known and respected heterodox economist, so this move looks particularly misguided. This overview is from The Australian:

All economics study at the University of Western Sydney next year will be dumped except for one introductory course for first-year business students, and those enrolling in Islamic studies won’t be able to learn Arabic after cutbacks forced by a lack of demand.

UWS will also cut Spanish, Italian and financial planning, blaming falling demand for these subjects over the past four years. But critics say it’s an “act of academic vandalism” and “a knee-jerk reaction” to changing preferences among school-leavers. Steve Keen, a high-profile economist who is among more than 30 staff destined to lose their jobs, says the federal government’s demand-driven system, which allows universities to enrol as many students in a course as “qualify”, is to blame.

And this from ABC News:

MARK COLVIN: One of the few economists who predicted the global financial crisis may find himself out of a job. The University of Western Sydney is planning to abolish its bachelor of economics program, and get rid of most of the staff who currently teach it. And the cuts to its School of Business goes even deeper.

The ABC story is worth reading in full. What happened, in brief, is that UWS lowered its entry standards in response to a revision of government policies. The now lower caliber student body is apparently less interested in more rigorous topics. But that works to the disadvantage of students whose low test scores may not reflect their intellectual potential.

The firestorm of bad press has put UWS on the back foot. The university has abandoned its initial draconian decision and is now willing to keep an 8 unit Major in Economics in a Business Degree, down from the current 24 unit full Bachelor of Economics. The faculty is struggling to hang on to 12-16 units instead, which is enough for a Bachelor of Economics with no internal electives.

The meeting where the university’s governing body will make its decision is this coming Wednesday. E-mails would be really helpful, particularly from Australians, economists, or employees of companies that have operations in Australia and would be potential employers of UWS graduates. Here are the targets:

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Aziz

    I would never have heard of the University of Western Sydney if not for Steve Keen. True of thousands and thousands and thousands of others.

    1. jake chase

      I do hope all readers who worry about Steve Keen have bought his book. It may be the best thing written on economics since 1936.

      1. Susan the other

        Financializing knowledge? UWS is crazy. This would be like cutting the physics department at Princeton in the 1930s.

        1. DSP

          They’re not crazy STO,just utterly,utterly mediocre.
          They suck the oxygen out of any space the’re in,into their brown cardigans.Only low watt thinkers can still breathe in their presence.

    2. j.s.nightingale

      Steve Keen would be the ripe candidate for Chicago. Since as Robert Pirsig says, every great University operates in the Hegelian manner, and it is high time they started promulgating the antithesis there.

  2. skippy

    HAHAHA… the bell curve and test results… if not to managements desires… its the departments fault for applying standards. Resolution[?] lower test standards…. and berate staff.

    Skippy… all that – MATTERS – is INCOME STREAMS !!!! DEBT !!! FUTURE EARNINGS REALIZED TODAY !!!(for a select few!!!).

    PS. Job creators is passe, its a debt creators verse now…

  3. mmckinl

    Of course they are dumping Keen. He doesn’t subscribe to the faith based voodoo that supports the bankster industry.

    1. skippy


      His department does/is/[not] create enough debt… therefore… it is seen in the Neoliberal MBA Optimal Optics as *** unviable ***…. full stop…

      Skippy… Wife just graded a box of first year Uni papers, score of 70 possible, average was 22. It was hard science… sigh. One paper use CP30 as an answer, FFS.

      PS. Keen a wart, yeah but, more important, a wart with out cash flow.

      1. psychohistorian

        I feel for Steve Keen. He is an outlier among the myth makers of economics.

        I look at MMT as a great temporary solution to outright control by the global inherited rich. It would delay the inevitable until after I am gone but just kicks the can of class based social injustice down the road shredding the chances for advancement for most youth.

        1. skippy

          Debt is property… all – Natural Law – is based on this theological construct.

          Skippy… as the founders said… in search of property… cough… happiness. Happiness = Ownership sans responsibly… sigh.

  4. simpleton

    One man cannot support an entire department. I’m sorry he will have to move, but he will find another job. An Arabic and Islamic studies professor on the other hand, maybe not.

    1. MacCruiskeen

      Indeed. While Keen has done interesting work, presumably he is an outlier in his own department. One less mainstream academic economics department in the world doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. If anything, it sounds like a step in the right direction. Cutting an economics program isn’t like cutting a physics program, it’s more like cutting an alchemy program.

      1. Up

        You’re being self righteous. Cutting economics is a vulger thing for a university to do, even though the discipline as it is taught involves bias and propaganda.

        An honest student realizes that there are things they should not internalize as they go through economics. (But they have to keep quiet as they do this.) Those honest students who can connect the right dots depite the propaganda are now being deprived of even the starting point of orthodox economics.

        Keen himself was once a student of plain vanilla economics. He had to learn it to launch a proper attack upon it.

  5. diptherio

    Sounds like UWS is determined to turn itself into a diploma-mill anyway, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise to get a pink slip from that place. And I’m pretty sure Steve will do fine. And even if he doesn’t, remember, Marx lived his life in horrible penury yet produced a whole school of economic thought, so maybe being really down-and-out will help focus Keen’s already intense genius to laser-like intensity. I mean, he’s coming up with all this Econo-Thermo-Dynamic stuff now, while also maintaining a veneer of middle-class respectablility; imagine what he could come up with if he didn’t have to worry about pedestrian nonsense like shaving and lecturing freshman business students!

  6. Aquifer

    Well – this could be GREAT feed for a conspiracy grinder (am feeling mischievous this AM) – Orhodox economics, obviously BS, nobody can really push it with a straight face much longer, but the !% really needs it – So must scream TINA, but as safeguard must make sure TI, in fact, NA. Can’t be too obvious – i.e. just fire Keen, so get rid of whole Dept. with Keen as “collateral damage”. And then to top it off, get rid of Italian and Spanish Dept.s so no one can read the reports of what’s REALLY happening in places where ortho econ is being carried to its logical conclusion (do they even HAVE a Greek Dept.?)

    LOL ….and a few yuk yuks thrown in for good measure …

  7. LeeAnne

    I’d like to see Steve receive at least 10% of what Bernanke pulls down from salary, insider information and deals, and his next position in the bankster industry. And for a bonus, 0% mortgage rate.

  8. PaulArt

    My Dear Distinguished Administrators and Professors,
    I implore you to preserve the one voice among the remaining few that are sane in the world of economics and that speak truth to power, viz Steve Keen.

    Is University of Western Sydney going to become part of the Gadarene swine? Is UWS prepared to claim membership in the club of the 0.1% created by the likes of the University of Chicago School of Business and Economics?

    When we think of the bravery of Steve Keen we think of the able leadership of UWS that has made possible the likes of Keen. Are you telling us our beliefs have been misplaced?

    I write from the USA which is soon to become a hissing and a byword when the history of this present millennium of greed is written. A country which has squandered its position of leadership and allowed its mandate to be hijacked by the greed of the 0.1%.

    Do not dear Sirs and Ladies succumb to the dulcet tones of the villains of our time, the Rupert Mudorchs, the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfiens.

    Its in your power to empower knowledge.

    Luceat Lux Vestra, let your light shine

    Do not extinguish the wisdom of Steve Keen.

  9. polistra

    Sounds like the school is practicing sound economics in the broad sense. Its customers want more immediate job-winning skills, so it’s concentrating on those skills.

    Small colleges can’t and shouldn’t support serious academic research, unless they have a big endowment or other external income.

    1. Susan the other

      UWS can create a new major: Liberal Capitalist Arts – to include such basic courses as The Joy of Surplus, Mindless Consuming, Vacuous Poll Taking, Debt Prison Management, and Existential Anxiety. All taught in your choice of German, Mandarin or English. For sports they can offer agility courses like rake stepping, and thin ice skating.

  10. Jesse

    I am sure Steve Keen can find another position rather easily. He would be a fine addition to the UMKC for example.

    It is not as if they are singling him out. They are cutting back on ‘low demand’ subjects and eliminating the entire department to save money.

    One might argue that eliminating economics department is folly, and that students are exhibiting bad judgement in not pursuing that course of studies. But to attempt to sustain an entire department for the sake of one man seems a bit excessive.

    This assumes that the facts are as they have been reported.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you send an e-mail. There are not a lot of positions in academia, particularly for heterodox economists. The economics department at UMKC can’t create another tenured position just because they feel like it. Now if you could give them $10 million to endow a chair, that might be different, but absent that, please be realistic and send an e-mail.

  11. Paul Tioxon

    Market demand driven education? The demand for social collapse must high. Perhaps the student meal program will consist of totally awesome Dorito’s Taco Bell tacos, M&Ms, and Oreo cookies washed down with Mountain Dew and Monster!!!
    Give the people what they demand, unless it is a radically better social order.

  12. JEHR

    Here’s my letter:

    Ladies and Gentlemen

    I understand you are going to reduce your Economics department and get rid of one of your most important professors, Steve Keen. He is known world-wide (including in Canada) for his heterodox economic theories that describe how money actually works in the real world and how economics should work. Do you not know that he is presently working on a new economics model that will take into account environmental degradation and banks as part of the economic system? (See: . At present, economists pretend these two aspects do not have any effect on the economy–a very stupid idea which will lead to ruination.

    Steve Keen is doing very important work and your University should be investing in him not getting rid of his whole department! It seems you are getting rid of your mind to spite your intelligence. Steve Keen should be praised and given awards for his work which impacts all people, not just the very rich or the very powerful. But then, maybe that is why you want to get rid of him and his most valuable work.

    Please reconsider and reinstate all your heterodox economists and their very important department. Have a very small debt jubilee of your own and keep him and his economics department on board.


    Joyce from Canada

  13. Schofield

    Steve Keen like Albert Einstein has the rare qualities of abundant curiosity together with enormous tenacity to think outside the box unlike the pedestrian administrators who clearly don’t understand and therefore value the great contribution Steve Keen is making to lift economic theory out of the realms of fantasy.

  14. Crazy Horse

    Well, Steve Keen would have had to resign on January 1 anyway after being appointed Secretary of Treasury by Obama—-.

    Is that Miss Piggy I see flying by on her broom?

  15. Up

    Whoa! This is disgusting! Imagine dropping Linear Algebra because it was “low demand.”

    A suggestion for your Topics/Tags: Market fundamentalism or The commodification of society.

  16. JB McMunn

    So you want the government to subsidize a product that is no longer in demand? Look around you: there are no government-subsidized typewriter factories.


    Right away I am going away to do my breakfast, later than having my
    breakfast coming again to read more news.

  18. Clint Ballinger

    I just sent the following letter:

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    Please reconsider any actions concerning your economics department that will affect the employment of Prof. Steve Keen.

    The work of Prof. Keen, already well recognized around the world, is cutting edge and of the utmost importance. In my opinion he will be one of the few economists whose name will be known in years to come, on par with Keynes, Marshall, Veblen, etc. Your university will do irreparable harm to both itself and the economics profession by interrupting his
    work. In years to come one will wonder how a university could manage to get rid of one of the emerging greats in their field.

    Clint Ballinger
    Ph.D., Economic Geography, University of Cambridge

  19. Clint Ballinger

    PS, I don’t mean to downplay all the many, many people who have worked equally hard on MMT, Post Keynesianism, Circuit theory etc over recent decades and received far less notoriety. I think part of the notoriety is due to 2008 etc. I do think Keen’s work to package Minsky and other ideas in the way he has is important and a breakthrough in some ways, if not in theory then in presentation and explication.

Comments are closed.