The Economists of Good and Evil?

In 2009 a book about economics appeared in the Czech language which soon became an international best seller and challenged many of the assumptions which underpin modern economics as both an academic subject and as a science of official policy. The book was Tomas Sedlacek’s The Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street (Eng. Ed. OUP, 2011). In it, Sedlacek does what every TOK student should do when exploring any discipline, namely ...

Core concepts/principles

This post is primarily aimed at the IB1 crowd. Right about now you should be well along your Frustration Curve - it looks something like this over the first year:   Should be fairly self-explanatory but maybe a few words about where you are heading. Your first tests should be reasonably straightforward - let's face it, we are not rocket surgeons - and you should be able to deal with supply, demand, markets and elasticities with reasonable confidence. The initial shell-shock, and ...

Shibumi

The heading refers to my favourite author, Trevanian (Rodney Whitaker) a writer and university professor. Although he had written several novels under this pseudonym and other books under other pseudonyms. (He took great pains to remain anonymous, something I increasingly understand in today’s Twitterati-infested instant-information world of knee-jerk outrage and faux indignation.) It was with the publication of ‘The Eiger Sanction’ and ‘Shibumi’ that his readers clearly saw his teaching background. His scathing comments on university students include: “…ah, sociology, ...

Is anyone else alarmed?

The 'tag line' in my sent emails reads "There is nothing more economically damaging that a set of beliefs lacking any underpinning in data, empiricism or common sense - any opinion asserted without evidence can be summarily dismissed without evidence. Matt McGee, Christopher Hitchens " My wife saw this on a recent trip to Ukraine. Gotta love a country that really hasn't arrived at the Political Correctness cliff! I have long since gaped in astonishment and dismay at the recent inclusion of ...

“They’re rioting in Africa….”

I grew up in what might be termed an 'old fashioned household' - another way of saying that much of what I call my personal tastes are in fact hand-me-downs from my parents. One example is my taste in music, which ranges from Ramstein and Metallica to Judy Henske and The Kingston Trio - the latter two from the 1960's. I have just received the pack of this year's exam papers (relax, none of the content will be published anywhere on ...

Final call

Well, you have a few days left and then you will be sitting in rows of other economists, clock ticking, stern invigilator pitter-pattering about...and you have a few hours during which to prove your worth as an economist. How lucky I was to have a school system, Swedish, with no external exams! I could never have done what we now ask of you - and I have often pointed out to my students what a terrible student I myself was. ...

Did I miss a memo? Let’s keep the ‘F-word’.

FAIL (intransitive verb); to fall short, to be unsuccessful Most of the people who know me have long since realised I don't do transitional material. I'm also not great at light conversation. I've been told of my tendency to go of on a (ranting) tangent on whatever subject has prodded me with a stick. So, I hope you're ready for a little random venting of spleen here, for there is a recent societal undercurrent that is increasingly sticking in my craw, ...

Read your textbook first

It has escaped none of my students that our subject is a 'composite' subject - including (but in no ways limited to!) mathematics, history, political science, statistics and...well, stories. I always try to get across that the ability to become a good economist rests on two foundations; 1. good solid understanding of basic concepts and terms, and; 2. skills such as underpinning arguments, finding flaws with economic reasoning and simply being clear in putting forward economic scenarios both verbally and ...

Is Economics a Science?

Robert J. Shiller is a Nobel Laureate in Economics and an Economics professor at Yale University, in an online article published in 2013 he addresses the vexed question as to whether Economics is a Science. Whilst acknowledging the limitations of his subject as a science readily enough he cannot bring himself to altogether abandon that label. Moreover, he almost seems more interested in highlighting the failures of other disciplines as sciences (chemistry, physics, politics, astronomy…) than to provide evidential support for ...

Being Human

This week I did something which I have rarely done in my many years of teaching; I asked students to spend a whole lesson watching a video. Each student was given a laptop and they were asked to put on their earphones (they always seem to have the latter available at the drop of a hat). They were told to go to Youtube and look for the film “Human” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and watch at least any five of the ...