Friday, May 23, 2014

Improving Econ 101

Noah Smith says introductory economics needs to be more empirical. I understand his argument, and have some sympathy with it, but I wonder if the substantial change he seems to be proposing is practical.  Economists usually do empirical work with statistical tools that most college freshmen have not yet learned. 

We teachers of introductory economics can and should explain where and why economists disagree. That is part of helping students develop their critical thinking skills.  But I doubt students are in a position to try to evaluate the competing empirical work that shapes the differing views.

In the end, introductory economics is just that: an introduction to the economist's way of thinking.  That means giving students basic concepts--comparative advantage, supply and demand, market efficiency and market failure--that will make them more perceptive readers of the newspaper.