The Case for Teaching Economics
By Arnold Kling
Observers from our best science writers to Jay Leno are frequently appalled by the innumeracy, factual ignorance, and scientific illiteracy of typical Americans. This has implications in countless areas of the public and private spheres – for example, when people fall victim to scam artists and irrational exuberance in their investments, when they squander their money and health on medical and nutritional flim-flam, and when they misunderstand the advantages and disadvantages of a market economy in their political decisions. The obvious cure for these fallacies is enhanced education in relatively new fields such as economics, biology, and probability and statistics…no matter how valuable a subject may be, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and a decision to teach one subject is also a decision not to teach another one. The question is not whether trigonometry is important, but whether it is more important than statistics; not whether an educated person should know the classics, but whether it is more important for an educated person to know the classics than to know elementary economics. In a world whose complexities are constantly challenging our intuitions, these tradeoffs cannot responsibly be avoided.
Clearly, Pinker understands the concept of opportunity cost. A similar quote can be found on p.235-236 of Pinker’s book, The Blank Slate.
UPDATE: Pinker writes an op-ed in the New York Times that also deals with this topic.