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?