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 ...

Last minute…

I'm having an interesting day. One of the Picts (look this up) I customarily hang out with for after-school grap juice (fermented) apparently decided to yank me back to reality after a three-day weekend by way of a perky good morning note: Shades of Adam Smith Then it turns out (no, I don't read memos) that the IB2 crowd are off (and with any luck, home studying - god knows some of them need it) and the IB1 crowd is apparently spending ...

Extended essay start-up

At every school I've worked at, the English and business/economics departments have accounted for at least one third of all extended essay (EE) titles. It makes sense; these two disciplines lend themselves easily to the study of a very broad cross-section of society - not that I personally could say anything insightful about Moby Dick or Eric Blair. OK Leo, you may write in the subject of your choice.  This is always something of a problem for the business/economics departments, for two ...

Price discrimination online

Most of you students are pretty 'switched on' in terms of what we old people still marvel at; the Internet. You have never lived in a world without internet - which is pretty much what my dad said (he was born in 1928) to me about TV. No, relax, this is not going to be some sort of rant about taking things for granted or any sentence starting with "...young people today..." I am a big fan of technology and ...

New rule – old problem; rent ceiling

Around about this time during IB1, students should be well into the various forms of government intervention that are included in the IB syllabus. For micro economics, these include (indirect) taxes, subsidies, maximum prices and minimum prices. You may rest assured that at least one of these will be the subject of an exam question for you! During the summer, Berlin became the first German city to implement rent controls, e.g. a maximum rent on inner-city housing in Berlin. The basic ...

Ever more kinked…

I have just revised oligopolies in theory of the firm (ToF) for HL students in IB2. I introduced the kinked demand curve a bit differently this time: I outlined the premises carefully, drew the market equilibrium point in a diagram and then asked the students to carefully obey the PED conditions of '...if I lower my price and the other firms follow...' in drawing the demand curve. This gave an entirely different outcome than most textbooks! I also played a game ...

Syllabus order

I have written here about one of the questions facing IB schools and teachers, namely in which order one might best go through the syllabus. Naturally this is a question for all subjects yet the discussion here is confined to economics. Briefly recapitulating, I have put forward that there are costs and benefits in following a strict syllabus order. The benefits are ease of following the progression for students and that when students move (as frequently happens in IB schools) it's ...

Eternal City

As the recently passed away Yogi Berra would say: "No matter where you go, there you are!" Undersigned has just moved from Shanghai to Rome (the one in Italy, not USA) and after some three months of living out of suitcases, I now have a place to put my collection of watches. Yes, home it is. I've been here a few weeks and am overcome by how incredibly lovely the Romans are! Warm humour and generosity of spirit are defining characteristics ...