The Economic Logic of the Humanities

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Humanities Writ Large

Jacob Soll, a professor of history and accounting at the University of Southern California, argues in the Chronicle of Higher Education that there is a more important reason to value the humanities than the oft-cited arguments about the power of the humanities to broaden the souls of students, to make them creative, critical thinkers, and so forth. He contends that the economic health and political stability of the United States may depend on the humanities.

He discusses economic theory across centuries and the erosion of the complex interdisciplinary understandings once held by the world's leading economists.

"No one has yet disproved the idea that the liberal arts create wealth," he explains. "Training in computer science might create more wealth more quickly than a degree in Italian studies, but whether a healthy economy can be sustained for long without the liberal arts has yet to be seen. Indeed, the question of whether China can succeed economically in the long term without the open, critical culture of the humanities remains unanswered."

His book The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations is due out in April.