Study at Vic day today

It is study at Vic day today, so if you or someone you know is a Year 13 then the Year 13 needs to head up to Victoria University – so that we can convince them that they should study Economics. [Economics is up at10.25 at HM205 and 1.10 at HM104.]

But if you can’t make it, here is a brief plan of what I’m aiming to cover (with quotes at the top which I will throw in at random times).

Use with 5:

Keynes: The master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts …. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher — in some degree. He must understand symbolsand speak in words. He must contemplate the particular, in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must be entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood, as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician

Use with 3:

Robinson: The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists

Robbins: Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses


  1. Purpose of talk: to tell you about economics and my experience with it so you can decide if it is right for you
  2. How I got into economics:  Story about coming to study English, being wooed by economics.
  3. What is economics?
  • Definitions
  • At first the definitions seem to contradict. Robinson appears to be saying economics is just a language used to deceive, while Robbins is suggesting that it is some type of objective discipline about measuring trade-offs.
  • Don’t get the authors confused – although their names are similar one is a woman and one is a man, much more importantly one was an LSE economist with a strong “microeconomic” view of the economy – while the other was a Cambridge economist and disciple of Keynes, so was more interested in broad concepts of macroeconomics and political economy.
  • In truth both definitions are right. Both are saying that having a clear understanding of trade-offs, which comes from the study of economics, helps to suit the dual purposes of understanding society and discussing what values a policy choice represent.
  • Economics encompasses both definitions. We try to understand the trade-offs that exist within society and how to measure them in as objective a way as possible. However, it is only through that understanding that we can achieve the purposes
  • Economics gives us the tools to understand trade-offs that exist in the social world, of (in some way) understanding the social world around us AND seeing through the words and arguments of those trying to deceive us. And with that to discuss concepts of what is “right” and “wrong”, “fair” or “just”, in a transparent manner.
  • Economics doesn’t tell us what is right and wrong – but it helps us understand what we are assuming when we say something is right or wrong.
  1. What can you do with economics
  • Work for government – helping to inform policy and policy debate about things
  • Work as a private consultant or forecaster (like me – discuss things you do, have
  • Work within a business (examples of firm economist trying to aggregate
  • Work in the developing world
  • Save the world – economics gives you the tools to understand trade-offs. Before happening in NZ done) information, help parts of the business coordinate)
  • Improve your knowledge and life. Everyone has “economic models” in their minds you can truly push for what is “right” it is important to have some understanding of what is – both to understand why it is “right” and persuade others. – as everyone has to, and likes to, think about how social outcomes occur and how their actions impact on others. The discipline of studying economics helps you to do this in your everyday life – a similar point to the one Robinson was making.
  1. What should you study with economics
  • Keynes quote.
  • Main thing I would change would be the term “he” to “they” – important to remember Keynes was talking about a specific economist, his mentor Alfred Marshall.
  • Economics (including the related public policy, finance, and econometrics fields) is a multidisciplinary subject – as a result I recommend studying it alongside something else.
  • Statistics, computer science, mathematics, geography all highly recommended to give you the “tools” to work in an economics field.
  • Philosophy, psychology, history – all useful for understanding economics, but tend to only be useful if you want to do very specific things.
  1. Why study economics at Vic
  • Motivated me to initially study economics
  • Enjoyed it so much I’ve come back for a PhD
  • Well taught with a range of subjects
  • Next to government, which will be a major employer (either directly or indirectly) if
  • Wellington is a great city
  • Both flats and hostel living in Wellington are great fun – having done plenty of both you study economics
5 replies
  1. Paul Walker
    Paul Walker says:

    I’m sure once upon a time I would have said bugger Vic do econ at Canterbury, it has the best department in NZ. After all I did the whole BA, BA(Hons), PhD thing there, but given recent happenings I’m not longer sure I can still say that. As to what to do along with econ, maths/stats have to be the first cab off the rank but after that I would go for history, obviously econ history first and foremost – does Vic still have an econ history program? – then political science, philosophy – Adam Smith was a philosopher – psychology etc, in that order.

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      Vic has been cutting back on econ history – but I did quite a bit of History as a subject at Vic, and it was frikken excellent. The History department does have an economic historian as well.

      Although I really enjoyed doing Economics, Econometrics, and History – and even though I think it is a great combo – with the way things are going I really feel I need to suggest Statistics/Comp Sci to the kids. Really valuable tools in there which help when Econ is giving the context.

      • Paul Walker
        Paul Walker says:

        Well there is all the talk about big data. But can you not teach yourself what you need as you need it? I fear the kids not having the skills to understand and interpret data if we give up on things like history.

        • Matt Nolan
          Matt Nolan says:

          That is a valid fear, and that is what Economics as a subject should be teaching itself. My suggestions for other subjects are based on what you would do next to economics – so technical computer and statistical model building skills are pretty useful there.

          If Economics as a subject at Vic decided to solely focus on the implementation of model building then I would be more likely to suggest adding History/Philosophy. But I would also start to wonder whether it would be a degree worth doing in the first place then 😉

  2. ben
    ben says:

    Robinson: The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set
    of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid
    being deceived by economists

    Or BERL.

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