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« Economists and the Public | Main | Call for Papers: “Spontaneous Order in Economic and Political Thought from Smith to Hayek and Beyond.” »


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Prof. Boettke,

Great post at a crucial time. I just read this during my first day in my new grad office. The timing was perfect for me.

I would love to see more posts over the next few weeks about teaching principles, because that's exactly what I'm helping with this fall, Principles of Micro. It is something I'm excited for, but would enjoy more advice for you on the process if you have time.


Those who teach economics might benefit from a technique that has proved very useful in professional schools, that of the "decision-forcing case." Not to be confused the lengthy (and often polemic) articles known as "case studies", "decision-forcing cases" are exercises that place students in the role of actual people who, at some time in the past, were faced with a problem. Decision forcing cases begin with the background to the problem, move on to a discussion of student solutions, and end with "the rest of story" (a description of the outcome of the solution.)

I love the meme this represents Peter: The principle problem of economics is teaching the counter intuitive properties of economic reasoning to as many people as possible: a defense against hubris.

We all are victims of the will to power. And economics is the chief modern tool, in the absence of traditional moral rules, by which we assert power in the contemporary polity.

I just think that as nerds we are tempted by platonic nonsense - puzzles - much more than that which corresponds with reality. Puzzles are an incessant attraction, and problems require we interact with and compromise with other people. That's nowhere near as fun as the intellectual equivalent of video games.

Great teacher. If the Cathedral was only populated by more of you..... :)

Suppose an economist, taken at random, from a major American university (not called GMU or any of its associated places)were to take a look at Knight's talk. I think there is a strong likelihood he or she would say: The principles are just a language. Very little substantive came come of them which is not dependent on propositions that are far from certain. Behavioral economics has shown the dubious nature of some of the most basic propositions.

Further, Knight could talk the way he did because most rigorous thinking, at the time, was probably on his side. But now? An economist can give you a "rigorously formulated" presentation of just about any idea.

The Principles textbooks today reflect the history of the discipline -- a body of thought that is just viewed as a heuristic starting point, not certain postulates. In today's world, behavioral economists cast doubt on the importance even of opportunity cost.

I am not so optimistic about economics as some.


In interwar Vienna we had hyperinflation for monetary policy. And for theory, we had Othmar Spann being taken seriously when he said that society is “based on an objective spiritual reality, upon something which must be conceived as an aggregate of a peculiar kind on a higher plane than the individual and therefore super-individual” ("Types of Economic Theory," 1930, p. 59). He was taken seriously when he said that “the mental or spiritual associative tie between individuals exists as an independent entity; that it is super-individual and primary, whereas the individual is derivative and secondary” (Spann 1930 p. 60).

Today, we free-market types may wish for John Taylor over Janet Yellen to head the Fed (if we're going to have a central bank), but Yellen was an early advocate of the Taylor rule within the Fed. Theory may be more ad hoc than we like, giving too much scope for intervention, but we're not hearing about universalism or anything else quite that silly. And when we turn to people's lives, we see less violence and more more freedom over time on all time scales.

Keep fighting, but be of good cheers.

. . . of good cheer.

I am of good cheer(s) because I do not expect much.

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