Thursday, April 21, 2016

Peter Radford — 101 or Not 101- Uber Knows?

A significant number of student’s exposure to economics is through Econ 101. only. They never intend to become economists, they simply want to learn something about the economy. Yet, as Krugman admits, 101 is full of hypothetical purity about markets. It isn’t a representation of actual economies. It is a distorted and ideologically driven account of what markets might be under conditions so remote from reality that we can dismiss the whole thing as absurd. No one can learn about the actual economy from sitting through Econ 101.Why do economists insist on creating this stalking horse called a ‘perfect market’ only to bash it as ridiculous later on? Why not begin with something more attached to the real markets students are likely to encounter? And why do they bash it in classes that only future economists attend? Is this some secret plot to ensure intellectual superiority over the naive souls who fell for the misleading nonsense in 101?
Economics could take a hint from philosophy. Philosophy profs are aware that only a very small percentage of their students are likely to go on to major in philosophy and an even fewer to go on to grad school for an advanced degree in it. So they design Phil 101 accordingly.

Phil 101 is (or was when I was teaching) usually oriented either toward presenting "the enduring questions" or to critical thinking. Often these approaches are combined. The objective is to enable student to think rigorously without using mathematics to do so. That is left to the introductory courses in math and science that are generally required. However, Phil 101 usually devotes either a semester or at least a quarter to the study of logic, so students are introduced to non-mathematical formalism, too.

The objective is to provide students who will not go on it philosophy or logic the basic skills to think clear, precisely and concisely. This is a reason that many pre-law students major in philosophy. But the into course presumes that this is the only time a student will be exposed to critical thinking and using it in thinking rigorously about the enduring questions.

It seems that Econ 101 could be designed to do something like that with respect to the economics of everyday affairs that everyone needs deal with throughout life. The starting point is asking what a student needs to know, what skills are needed, and how to prioritize this in terms of the time available.

Instead of carping about the deficiencies of the present system, what would a suitable course in Econ 101 look like?

Modern Monetary Theory and Practice - an Introductory Text

The Worldly Philosophers

The Radford Free Press


Bob said...

Scrap the Economics department and send the students to the Business wing. They can learn useful economics there.

Philippe said...

mainstream economics has always been a form of ideological propaganda. The whole thing is constructed to obscure the truth.

Ignacio said...

"They can learn useful economics there."

Not so sure about that though... depends on what school, some of the idiots that come out of business schools are not better than their economists counterparts. With all their 'management' techniques about managing things they don't understand or comprehend, as if there were universal techniques that are always applicable.

Take for example what a disaster has been for the healthcare sector all those idiots taking change of hospitals instead of doctors. Then is the brand which works in shit like private equity, experts on stripping corporations of their assets, firing people and looting wealth.

I can think of more business types doing more harm than even economists... Both should be joint and called Capitalism 101 maybe?

Simsalablunder said...

Those teaching this stuff probably don't even recognize it as politics but of course it still is as much as it was yesterday. Going back some 30-40 years there where still public discussions to be heard pointing out the political side of it. That has then effectively been choked by chopping up discussions through the method -it belongs to another forum, not here. And that effectively got rid of the highlighting of politic aspect.

Bob said...

Ignacio, might be advisable to make a list, one black and one green.