As long as Sunday is Controversies in Economics day

While this paper by Robert Driskill is interesting in itself (for certain possibly eccentric values of the word “interesting”) what really jumped out at me is this passage*:

It is simply over-reaching to try and use this model to counter the zero-sum argument about trade between countries, and it destroys the profession’s credibility: the student who, having diligently learned the “free trade is good” lesson of the Ricardian model, and who realizes later in life that the individual analogy is a poor one for countries, might be tempted to dismiss all the economics learned at that earlier age.

Take out the word “diligently” (just to be perfectly fair) and you’ve got my critique of my own undergraduate economics education in a nutshell. Is there any other discipline that teaches its undergraduates a toy version of the subject, and saves the real stuff for grad school? Or where students who plan to pursue doctorates are better off studying something else entirely (in this case math) as undergrads?

(via here, from here).

*the model he’s referring to, if you’re following along at home, is the classic two-state two-good Ricardian comparative advantage model. Which I’m lucky even to understand since, like an idiot, I majored in economics.


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