Economics is a prostitute, really. After having managed to turn itself into the most science-like of all those groups thinking about the ways and whys of societal behaviour, a feat done mostly via the application of mathematics as language, it has sold itself, body and soul to, well, whoever pays.
The people who try to figure out how economies behave tend to be preoccupied with the question of how to make money (how many investment bank ‘research’ analysts are really interested in the way the society works?), or with how to keep the economy going so that the next election can be won (or retrospectively, which of those populist promises must be delivered on if the election was won), or how to keep the bankers and politicians from ruining the economy for good (enters the central bank).
The people left in ‘academia’ either tend to do a lot of consultancy for the corporate/policy researchers, and thus are steered towards answering the same questions but do it using slightly different frameworks (and earn less money for it), or choose to remain on the fringe of the debate.
Thus, economics has become more of an engineering discipline than a science. If its subject matter were houses, for instance, it would be concerned with how to build, or maintain houses, rather than what houses are, or where they come from. Maybe think of it as the relationship between physics and engineering; only with the physics bit mostly missing…
As a consequence, economics is the most coherent, but also the most backward social science. Its usage of mathematics ensures rigour, but the prostitution of the questions asked disrupts any real scientific endeavour. Incidentally, the parts where the applications are the least profitable tend to be the most innovative (game theory, networks).
The failure of the discipline is most evident in the current crisis. Analysts in investment banks keep giving in to the latest fads, seeing no point in making calculations any more. Policy economists appear to have decided - for some very odd reasons - that the old models must have been fine, it was just the implementation of the consequent policies that landed us where we are (a bit of self flagellation is always fun, but that is no guarantee for being right). Academic economists are mostly left baffled, living off their reputation, taking any opportunity to pretend that they know something of an Answer.
I challenge all academic economists to recognise the need for a new theory. In particular, a model describing how the global economy behaves is needed. It is increasingly evident that the world economy is as much not a macro economy, as a national economy is not a large market. We will need to depart from the macroeconomic theories, just as macro had to depart from micro some eighty years ago.
The future is global economics.