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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WHY THE REPUBLICAN TAX BILL SHOULD FAIL IMMEDIATELY


Robert Ayres, INSEAD
with Michael Olenick and Lu Hao

Tax cuts, wages and salaries: Will lower taxes help workers? And the economy?

For several weeks, the guest experts on CNBC and Bloomberg News have been talking about the coming tax cut legislation (for corporations) that the Republicans finally seem to have in their grasp. The Bill, as it is currently proposed, will eliminate the insurance mandate for health care and may leave quite a lot of upper middle class salaried people, worse off, especially in high tax states.

The sure winners will be the shareholders of multinational corporations and “pass through” enterprises, especially real estate partnerships. The “supply-side” cheerleaders for the plan, both in Congress and the White House (Mnuchin, Cohen, Mulvaney, et al) argue that economic growth be much faster, that it will pay for the cuts, and that wages and salaries will rise, thanks to a burst of new investment.

By contrast, virtually all top economists say that the cuts won’t pay for themselves, that the deficit and the national debt will increase, and that growth will not accelerate.

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What Should We Tax? by Herman Daly

For some time a small group of ecological economists has been suggesting that we switch the tax base from income (value added to natural resources by labor and capital), and on to natural resources themselves. Value added to resources is something we want more of, so don’t tax it (either at each stage of production as in Europe, or at the final stage as income as in the U.S.). Continue reading