HARVARD'S ECONOMICS DEPARTMENT fancies itself as the brightest star in the University's galaxy. By certain measures this might very well be so. Harvard's faculty includes three of the five winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics and more former members of the President's Council of Economic Advisers than can easily be counted.
But fame has bred the arrogance of political orthodoxy. The department's antipathy to Marxian economics has meant that assistant professors who subscribe to this method of analysis invariably depart without receiving tenure.
One such victim is Arthur MacEwan, assistant professor of Economics, whose contract expires this spring. The department, however, decided last week to rehire MacEwan for next year by offering him a temporary lectureship position. This action averts what had earlier appeared to be a successful purge of all the radicals in the department--with Herbert M. Gintis and Samuel S. Bowles, assistant professors of Economics, departing for UMass and Stephen A. Marglin '59, professor of Economics, taking a sabbatical next year.
But the retention of MacEwan is at best a superficial gesture which fails to insure the continuity of teaching and research which the field demands. The department should move quickly to hire new assistant professors to replace those who have left and to search out the most qualified Marxian economists to fill tenured positions at Harvard.
There are signs that the department might be gradually moving in the right direction. A committee reviewing the graduate curriculum, chaired by Kenneth T. Arrow, professor of Economics, has recommended the hiring of two new instructors qualified to teach Marxian economics as part of the required course of study for graduate students.
The department should move quickly to implement the Arrow Committee proposals and should move beyond them to insure that Marxian economic thinking is fairly represented at the undergraduate level as well. We hope that the new-found commitment to diversity that this report represents does not prove to be illusory.