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While throngs of peace-loving spiritualists descended on the Memorial Church yesterday to hear the Dalai Lama speak, more than 150 curious shoppers flooded Harvard Hall to listen to a man preaching his own brand of liberal gospel.
Students clutching syllabi sat on windowsills and spilled out into the hallway, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Barker Professor of Economics Stephen A. Marglin ’59 as he discussed the rationale for his new introductory economics course.
Marglin said the course—originally proposed as an alternative to the first semester of Social Analysis 10, “Principles of Economics” (Ec 10)—is also intended to introduce basic economic principles.
The course will use the same textbook as Ec 10, but the reading will be interspersed with critiques of widely accepted economic assumptions.
Jangling the change in the pocket of his tan linen pants, Marglin explained how Social Analysis 72, “Economics: A Critical Approach,” overcame substantial opposition from the economics department last spring.
Although last year the economics department overwhelmingly voted not to count Marglin’s class for concentration credit, it will fulfill half of the economics requirement for the social studies concentration.
Marglin said he was raised “to love the market” as a leftist “pink-diaper baby” in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II.
After traditional schooling in economics at Harvard in the 1960s, he said, an experience teaching economics in India compelled him to question the basic capitalist principles he had learned.
Since that time, Marglin said he has felt that the more mainstream economics professors at Harvard do not acknowledge many failings of the philosophies they teach.
“They don’t recognize the losses,” Marglin said. “They don’t even recognize that they’re taking a position.”
Although Marglin’s liberal philosophies render his course attractive for some, other students find the prospect of a one-semester introduction to economics the course’s main draw.
“You should know economics when you graduate college,” Andrew R. Jorgensen ’06 said. “The benefit [of the course] is not that it’s über-liberal, but that it’s less time commitment to learn the same material.”
Marglin’s liberal bent did not seem to put off many of the students who turned out for his class yesterday.
When Marglin mentioned Students for Humane and Responsible Economics (SHARE)—the group of undergraduates who lobbied for the alternative Ec 10 course—several students murmured their approval.
Although the lecture hall was filled to three times its seating capacity, Marglin said it is unlikely that the course will retain all those students. He said he estimates about 50 to 60 will ultimately take the class.
Marglin’s course isn’t the only option in the catalogue for students seeking a left-leaning schedule. Earlier yesterday, students flocked to Government 1140, “What’s Left? The Politics of Social Justice.”
The class was supposed to be an 18-person seminar, according to Visiting Lecturer in Government Edward S. Miliband.
But 200 students crowded into Sever Hall to hear the special advisor to Great Britain’s finance minister speak about progressive politics.
Miliband said he was surprised to hear that the economics department had largely disapproved of Marglin’s course, since he said his own class was welcomed by the government department.
“I spoke to some colleagues and I wasn’t expecting such a large turnout,” Miliband said. “But there’s a thirst to hear about something new.”
—Staff writer Hana R. Alberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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