Econ Majors Graduate With a Huge Knowledge Gap

What’s needed is a mandatory course on ethics and the limits of knowledge.


Economics remains one of the most popular majors for college students. Most econ students, of course, don’t go on to become professional economists; instead, they fill the ranks of the U.S.’s vast upper-middle-class of business managers and professionals. The models they learn in their college classes inform the way they think about the world, even if they don’t end up using them for quantitative purposes after final exams are over.

But there’s at least one gaping hole in the education most econ majors receive. They learn plenty of models, but they aren’t often taught to think critically about what they learn. At best, they absorb a few ideas from offhand comments by their professors, or from the tone of their textbooks. As a result, many of them leave class with deep reservations over whether economics theories represent real science, or whether economists approach the world in a moral, socially responsible manner.

This problem can be addressed by making all U.S. econ majors take a philosophy-of-economics course, like the one offered at the London School of Economics. There would be two main parts of the course — epistemology and ethics.

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The rough road to Sustainable Mobility: Values, priorities, behavior, choices, . . and ultimately, understanding people


WHY ARE THEY THERE? NOW? (Work trip in Jakarta on one more busy morning)  Each person behind a wheel there made a choice.  How can we give them Better Choices? That’s the rub.

What many people call “transportation” . .  is at its very essence not about roads or bridges, nor vehicles or technology, and not even about money.  Above all it is about people, their needs, fears, desires and  ultimately the decisions they make. And the backdrop — real and mental — against which they make those decision. The planner and decision maker needs to know more them and take this knowledge into the center of the planning and policy process. What makes them tick, individually and collectively.  What do they want and what they are likely to resist. And people, as we all know, are intensely complicated, personal and generally change-resistant. . But if we take the time and care we can start to understand them, at least a bit better. Which is a start.

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ABOUT THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY: Peer review request and first response

Dear Eric,

Surprise! I am at my desk and your email asking me about an eventual independent “peer review” on the current state of science and accomplishment under the heading of Circular Economy arrived moments ago and is staring at me. In fact I was at a conference on just this topic in another country, which was OK, except that I could have given virtually all the talks myself.

I didn’t learn very much, which was disappointing. Waste of time, except it got me thinking more about one aspect of the circularity problem. In brief, most of the elements in the periodic table are now “in play”, and most of them are really “hitch-hikers” obtained from the ores of major industrial metals (copper, zinc, aluminum etc.).

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REPUBLICAN TAX POLICY: A cruel scheme to cut social security while gorging the military-industrial complex.

Trump Tax reform congress all males

The all-white, all male finance committees of both Houses of Congress got behind this bill.

With straight faces, the salesmen for the Trump tax cut have promised a miracle: increased corporate profits, a surge of investment in CAPX, more and better jobs with higher pay, all to be paid for by accelerated economic growth. In fact, the all-white, all male finance committees of both Houses of Congress, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Advisor Hassett say that the US will grow at 3% p.a. or more for the next ten years – no recessions – and that the tax cuts will actually generate a profit for the government of $300 billion in that time. Sadly (and no irony intended) this combination of goodies is a pipe dream. In the next few paragraphs I will explain why, and why Trump and the Republicans are selling snake oil to the suckers. What is surprising is how many financial professionals are buying it.

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The Cause of Global Inequality: Comparing Jared Diamond and Henry George



Can inequality within and between societies be explained in terms of merit and intelligence, or are the most important determinants of inequality beyond individual control? Both economist Henry George and geographer Jared Diamond essentially asked this same question, examining the fundamental forces that have shaped human history. They come to startlingly similar conclusions. These similarities have not, until now, been connected and compared so directly.

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The 2018-2020 World Climate Emergency . . . and the Legend of the Hummingbird

India Assam rice farmers working in intense hear

One day, a very long time ago and in a faraway place you have probably never heard of, or so the legend goes, a huge forest fire was raging all around the countryside. All the animals were terrified, running around in circles, crying and helplessly watching the impending disaster.

But there in the middle of the flames, and above all the cowering animals, was one tiny hummingbird busy flying from a small pond to the fire, each time fetching a few drops with its beak to throw on the flames. And then again/ And then again. And yet again.

After a certain time, an old grouchy armadillo, annoyed by this ridiculous useless agitation on the part of the hummingbird, cried out: “Tiny bird! Don’t be a fool. It is not with those minuscule drops of water one after the other that you are going to put out the fire and save us all! ”

To which the hummingbird replied, “Could be.  But I’m still going to do my bit”.

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