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March 04, 2008

Different schools of economics

The homepage for Swarthmore's economics department presents seven "Questions of Economics". The first one is "What activities should governments undertake, and what can be left to markets?"

"Left to markets"??

In the department in which I was trained and the one in which I work, this question would be posed differently: "For what activities is the market sufficiently inefficient--explain carefully why!--that we should consider allocating by government instead?"


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Wow, that question really says a ton. The second question posed is only marginally better.


Does this mean Swarthmore isn't right wing any more?

General Specific

The two questions are essentially the same, it is always legitimate to ask (e.g. military expenditures or the need to protect contracts) and therefore attempts to read more into it such as is done in this blog post say more about the blogger and less about the statement on the home page.

kyle N

that sounds willfully ignorant General Specific. No, the two questions are not the same. That is like instead of saying to your wife I love you, you say, I don't love your sister as much as you.


I've had one legitimate economics course in my academic career (thank you Dr. Newmark) and even I know all of these questions are marginal, at best. All five questions are worded poorly, lending false impressions and making unfounded assumptions. Perhaps the intent of Swarthmore Economics is to highlight the inefficiency of highly specialized efficiency. Or maybe the inefficiency of populist rhetoric.


I really do despair at what will become of future generations when these are the questions being asked by economics lecturers.

Steve O'Connell

To Craig (& commentators),

Thanks for picking up on these things. I've removed the header 'questions of economics' from the middle of our page. We weren't trying to define the discipline -- the header was added by our web gurus and it was my own mistake not to edit it out. I've also clarified/stripped down our list of questions.

So thanks for the heads-up. Glad our page is getting traffic.

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