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Staff and students reflect on the future and history of economics

28 May 2024
Economic thinking has evolved significantly in the past 75 years. What does the past teach us about the future? And how can economists and business scholars help tackle today’s societal challenges? These questions were the focus of the symposium on 22 May 2024, celebrating the 75th anniversary of VU School of Business and Economics.

In the morning, the audience was immersed in the rich history of the school and introduced to economists such as Bob Goudzwaard, Jan Ridder and Jelle Zijlstra, who have made a major mark on economic thinking in the Netherlands and within the school. Joost Hengstmengel (Associate Professor of Theology and Economics) and Govert Buijs (Professor of Social and Economic Innovation, Goldschmeding Chair) spoke about it with verve. Following this, Klarita Gërxhani, professor of Socio-economics, led the audience through the development of experimental economics. Economic theories are increasingly being tested using experiments, in order to better understand economic behaviour.

The opinion of the audience was also tested, with the help of Mentimeter. For instance, a majority of the audience agreed with the statement that the field of economics is in urgent need of change (6.2 points on a scale of 1 to 10). When asked which economist the audience would have preferred to have lunch with, 21 people chose Bob Goudzwaard, who sadly passed away on 20 April 2024 at the age of 90. Just as many people picked Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom.

Next, a panel of economists and management scholars drew the link between the past and the future. Arjen Siegmann (Professor of valuable work and Christian-social thinking), Katinka Quintelier (associate professor of Strategy and Ethics) and Hans Visser (emeritus professor of International Economics and Money and Banking) shared their views, led by moderator of the day Esther van Rijswijk. 

After lunch, it was time for an interactive afternoon programme. Dean Arjen van Witteloostuijn asked the audience and the panel on stage for advice: how can the school distinguish itself further and what can we do to make the programmes better suited to societal challenges?

First up was the panel, consisting of Wendy Janssens (Professor in Development Economics), Bas Jacobs (Professor of Public Economics), Arjo Klamer (Visiting Professor of Humane Economy) and Christine Moser (Associate Professor of Organization Theory).

Students, (former) staff and other members of the audience then engaged in group discussions and gave advice to the dean using Mentimeter. Recommendations that came up included: more focus on topical issues and problems from the 'real world', more cases more space for philosophy of economics and ethics, inspiring students and making them enthusiastic about the subject. Some dreamed of extending the Masters by one year, while others stressed that it's necessary to make tough choices between topics. In any case, there is plenty of food for thought and the discussion will be followed up.

Next it was time for some self-reflection: what role should economists and business experts take in the future? The discussion kicked off with a fiery speech by two scientists who have different views on this matter: Pieter Gautier (professor of Macro Labor) and Julia Schaumburg (Professor of Econometric Methods and Applications at VU and climate activist for Scientist Rebellion). This was followed by another lively discussion in the audience.

Comedian Greg Shapiro (known from the ‘Netherlands Second’ video in Zondag met Lubach as Trump and as comedian at Boom Chicago) summarized the symposium and made sure everyone left feeling renewed!

We look back on an inspiring symposium and would like to thank all participants, speakers and moderator Esther van Rijswijk. 

More information
Would you like to know more about the symposium or about research at VU School of Business and Economics? Contact science communicator Yrla van de Ven, or 06-26512492.