Toxic Textbooks

A movement to encourage schools and universities to use economics textbooks that engage honestly with the real world


What does “toxic textbooks” mean?

As an epistemological event, the 2008 meltdown of the global financial system ranks with the observation of the 1919 solar eclipse.  The latter proved that classical physics pertained only to a special case and so prompted physicists to introduce new textbooks.  In the wake of today’s global disaster economists must do likewise.  The fact that the economic system that collapsed had been tailored to fit traditional mainstream teachings means that its textbooks harbour and promote fundamental misconceptions about the way economies, most especially their markets, function.  These misconceptions led to one global disaster and could lead to more.  In other words, these textbooks are toxic.



“The first thing that the global financial crisis should therefore do to economics is to galvanise student protest about the lack of debate within academic economics itself, because dissident academic economists will be unable to shift the tuition of economics themselves without massive pressure from the student body.”

Steve Keen [University of Western Sydney, Australia]




Toxic textbooks helped cause the economic meltdown

The current economic meltdown is not the result of natural causes or human conspiracy, but because society at all levels became infected with false beliefs regarding the nature of economic reality. And the primary sources of this infection are the “neoclassical” or “mainstream” textbooks long used in introductory economics courses in universities throughout the world.

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Mass miseducation

Every year these “mainstream” books serve to indoctrinate millions of students in a quaint ideology (perfect rationality of economic agents, market efficiency, the invisible hand, etc.) cunningly disguised as science.  This mass miseducation deprives society of the moral and intellectual capacities it needs in order to design and maintain the support systems required by market economies.

We need new, non-toxic textbooks

More economic catastrophes will befall us and our children if we do not replace these toxic textbooks with non-toxic ones immediately.  If decency and good sense prevail in academia, then affecting this reform will not be a problem.  But textbook reform will damage many economic faculties and toxic textbook authors. The former will suffer losses to their reputations, the latter to their royalties, which in some cases run to millions of dollars. 

Together, we can overcome these vested interests

Society can therefore expect well-placed and richly-funded strategic resistance to doing the right and necessary thing.  This website and the associated Facebook group exist to help citizens, especially students, mobilize and organize themselves to overcome these vested interests.

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“This modern risk management paradigm held sway for decades. The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year."    

Alan Greenspan, 2008


Professors of economics who over the years have protected the neoclassical monopoly should be held responsible and accountable. Advocating a specific ideology in the name of science can hardly be defended.

Peter Söderbaum  [Mälardalen University, Sweden]





What can be done?

Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics, in its five versions, has internationally been the dominant basic text for more than a decade.  Also its author was chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005.


If universities continued to use for nuclear engineering a textbook by an engineer who had headed a team managing a nuclear power plant that without external causes exploded causing huge devastation, there would be an enormous public outcry, including student demonstrations. 

There should be a similar outcry if Mankiw-type textbooks continue to be foisted on the world’s million or so young people who every year in good faith take up the study of economics. We cannot undo current economic disaster, but we can greatly reduce the chances of one happening again by demanding that universities use introductory textbooks that are pluralist in their approach and thereby prevent economics courses from becoming programs of ideological indoctrination.



“Unless mainstream economics takes heed of these warnings and proves its relevance for the understanding of the most severe crisis of the capitalist system since the 1930s, then it will be doomed to irrelevance. My suggestion is that a world protest of academic, student and business economists be organised to drive home this point.”

Geoffrey M. Hodgson  [University of Hertfordshire, UK]





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Economic Indoctrination:
The neoliberal indoctrination of young economics students in universities around the world all starts with one textbook - N. Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics.




New York Times
May 23, 2009


Warning: suitable for use only in imaginary worlds





Mankiw’s Ten Principles of Economics Translated







Toxic Textbooks, Externalities, and Sustainability

Design-impact, June 3


Organizing for a Better Economy
Alt Wire, June 3


Toxic Textbooks is one of the latest social causes being promoted through Facebook to rid the world of misperceptions, particularly when it comes to economics versus the environment. Students around the world are joining the fight to end the publication and use of economic textbooks that perpetuate myths we all know to be false.”    more   June 2


After only 12 days, Toxic Textbook’s Facebook group passes the 1,000 members mark, May 27.


Sorry Greg, This Crisis Was Completely Predictable and Predicted

The American Prospect


What a load of Bollocks
Steve Keen –
May 25, 2009


Fuori i titoli tossici dalle università

Megachip - May 25, 2009


Five days after its launch, the Facebook Toxic Textbooks group  has 700 members.  ‎May 19, 2009‎


Harvard Strike 40th Anniversary

The Nation - ‎May 18, 2009‎

Economics Students: Join "Toxic Textbooks"

RGE Monitor - ‎May 18, 2009‎


Student protests at the New School in New York and the University of North Carolina

Weekly Online – May 12, 2009

600 students reading economics and finance at Bristol University (UK) rebel over fees.  One academic at Bristol, who declined to be named, said: “It has created a sensation at the university. This is the most important student rebellion in this country in a generation. They should be proud.”

Princeton University (USA) economics professor warns the class of 2009 against “the economics profession that brainwashed you”.






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