Economics textbook

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Quotes about economics textbook.


  • My colleague Samuel Bowles used to say that there are two types of economist: the Priest and the Engineer. The Priests live in their own little world and spin theories without any reference to the facts. The Engineers live in the real world, collect data, analyze time series, make predictions, give policy advice, and generally ignore all but the most basic economic theory. Certainly, the Engineers never give a thought to what the Priests are doing (they're usually separating hyperplanes, playing with Fredholm operators, or lost in Banach space). Not surprisingly, the microeconomics textbook used in all the best graduate departments around the world has more than a thousand pages stocked with axioms and theorems, but there is not one economic fact in the whole book.
  • The macro-principles textbooks don’t represent our field well. Little of the exciting work that’s been done by this group has made its way into undergrad textbooks. That’s probably inevitable. But it leads to a real misunderstanding about what macroeconomists do – both among lay-people and among economists in other fields. I hope that some of our gifted textbook writers rectify that situation soon!
  • It is deeply unfair to blame textbook economics either for the crisis or for the poor response to the crisis. The mania for financial deregulation, for example, didn’t come out of standard economic analysis — in fact, it flew in the face of the canonical model of banking crises, Diamond-Dybvig, which suggested both a crucial role of government guarantees to prevent self-fulfilling panics and the need for regulation to control the moral hazard such guarantees would create. It’s true that few economists tracked the rise of shadow banking that bypassed the traditional safeguards — but that was a problem of vigilance, not bad theory.
  • More than a decade ago, when Robin and I began writing the first edition of this textbook, we had many small ideas: particular aspects of economics that we believed weren’t covered the right way in existing textbooks. But we also had one big idea: the belief that an economics textbook could and should be built around narratives, that it should never lose sight of the fact that economics is, in the end, a set of stories about what people do.
    • Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, Economics (4th ed., 2015), "Preface"
  • Even when Econ 101 is right, that doesn’t always mean that it’s important – certainly not that it’s the most important thing about a situation. In particular, economists may delight in talking about issues where 101 refutes naïve intuition, but that doesn’t at all mean that these are the crucial policy issues we face.
  • In our standard economics textbooks and in our modern political debates, laissez-faire is the default rule; anyone who would challenge it swims against the prevailing tide.
  • I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws—or crafts its advanced treaties—if I can write its economics textbooks.
    • Paul Samuelson, “Foreword,” in The Principles of Economics Course, ed. Phillips Saunders and William B. Walstad. (1990)
  • Teaching Econ 101 students theory after theory after theory leaves them with the impression that they could have just been fed a line of bull. And in fact, they're right -- they could have. Instead, teach them to be skeptical, look at the evidence, and think for themselves.
  • Evidence is given, but it is relegated to a brief aside. The kids don't see the data for themselves. They don't learn how to work with it. They don't learn how the studies tested what they tested. They don't learn how to go verify for themselves how useful econ theories are.
    To these kids, econ theories must seem like received wisdom. Even evidence, when presented only as a brief aside with no understanding of methodology, must also seem like received wisdom. Again and again, I talk to econ students who complain that they are expected simply to swallow what they are taught - unlike in their science classes. College kids are smart, and many of them are skeptical. They grow up learning that "science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." That doesn't tend to sit well with the kind of "received wisdom" approach that almost every intro econ textbook takes. Nor should it.

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