In the seminar I will discuss some differences between Alan Kirman’s read of my recent Princeton University book with Roland Kupers, Complexity and the Art of Public Policy, in his extended Journal of Economic Literature review article, “Complexity and Economic Policy: A paradigm shift or a change in perspective?” (June 2016) and my interpretation of what I thought I was saying in the book.

His argument is that:

  • I am right that complexity economics is a paradigm shift, but that I underestimate the degree to which it involves a change in policy thinking.
  • I am wrong in not recognizing the full extent of the change that complexity implies for economic policy and am too tied to traditional economics' individualistic liberal ideology.

I do not see this as capturing my views. Specifically, I argue that:

  • Where he states that he agrees with me, I do not see myself as agreeing with him. Specifically, I do not necessarily see complexity as a paradigm shift.
  • Where he states that he disagrees with me, I don’t see us as disagreeing. Specifically, he sees to me as not being radical enough in drawing policy conclusions, and sees me as more tied to the economist’s standard model of equilibrium, and pro-market policy, than he is. I see myself as generally agreeing with him about the radical implications of complexity policy. If anything, I see myself as more radical than him on how economists should go about public policy analysis if they follow a complexity approach.


David Colander received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and has been the Christian A Johnson Distinguished Professor of Economics at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont since 1982. In 2001-2002 he was the Kelly Professor of Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University. He has authored, co-authored, or edited over 35 books and 100 articles on a wide range of topics. His books have been, or are being, translated into a number of different languages, including Chinese, Bulgarian, Polish, Italian, and Spanish. He has been president of both the Eastern Economic Association and History of Economic Thought Society and is, or has been, on the editorial boards of numerous journals, including Journal of Economic Perspectives and the Journal of Economic Education.


Research Programmes