I know what its like to be a student, and feel like you know everything there is to know. But the truth is that you don’t, you really don’t. And that is something that the students walking out of Econ 10 should realise.
I learnt this the easy way – I listened to my lecturers, asked about the issues, and was able to tell that they were significantly smarter than me … and that they had critically analysed many of the same issues in the past.
From this I discovered that economics provides a framework that can be used for understanding the allocation of resources when we have scarcity. It doesn’t prescribe to us what policies are right or wrong, it just gives us a transparent framework where we can hang up our dirty assumptions for everyone to see and then look at what conclusions pop out.
Look, there is nothing wrong with critical thinking – hell critical thinking is essential in the framework I’ve described about. But they are complaining about a course that leaves all its assumptions out in the open, leaves itself open to criticism, and helps the student to engage in critical thinking.
If you want to know how poor the understanding of the students is look here:
There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory
Comments like this show to me that the students actually know nothing – and just want to protest the course because they don’t know what the course is, or what economics is.
In fact, I’m surprised at this idiocy. I’m a fluffy business economist – nowhere near academia or study – but I read the General Theory and Wealth of Nations in my first year of study. At that point I knew the fact that “Adam Smith’s theories” and “Keynesian theories” were about different things, and shared a lot in terms of the fundamental framework – the framework that is taught by Mankiw in Econ 10.
I find it difficult to believe that anyone could have the arrogance to walk out like this when they have no knowledge or understanding – but then again, maybe I’m underestimating the arrogance of Harvard students …
And this is my issue with a lot of the protests at the moment. There are real issues in the US and Europe, where protesters SHOULD be out complaining – and the knowledge gained from a course like Econ 10 would help to provide this. In fact, once you start to understand allocation, you begin to realise just how much there is to protest about – especially with regards to the developing world, and the inequities we tolerate for the worlds real poor. Instead, the protests are dominated by self-centred narcissists who want attention and want to “fight the system” – giving the whole idea of protest a bad name.
Update: Mankiw discusses here.
Update 2: Reading the comments to the articles linked to by Mankiw is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever done. I hope to god these aren’t actually Harvard students, because the comments are:
- Filled with a lack of evidence gathering – with people discussing Marx who don’t seem to understand that Marx’s method was Ricardian economics, and people saying there are no empirical studies in economics …