By Bart Wilson
Today is my first day blogging at EconLog. I would like to thank Amy Willis for the invitation to guest blog for the semester and for her generous introduction last week. I also thank the bloggers of EconLog for their kind words of welcome. They have set a high bar.
Today is also the first day of undergraduate classes at Chapman. This fall I am co-teaching two sections of a freshman seminar course entitled, “Humanomics: Exchange and the Human Condition.” The short story of the course is that about four and half years ago nine professors were sitting around a picnic table in sunny SoCal discussing an essay by Peter Singer. I have no idea how, but somehow the conversation became eight professors from the humanities college arguing that the world is falling apart at the seams and one economist optimistically countering with historical facts that the prospects for human prosperity are reasonably bright. After the discussion wound down, an English professor, Jan Osborn, and I agreed to continue the conversation: Why are the humanities and economics at odds with one another? Out of our conversations grew the idea to continue exploring the disconnect by co-teaching a neologistically entitled course in Fall 2010. Why not work out the tensions with some bright-eyed freshmen in a Socratic seminar? Education, like research, is about discovery.
The three organizing questions for the semester are: What makes a rich nation rich? What makes a good person good? And what do these questions have to do with one another? Our two primary texts are The Grapes of Wrath and Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. I expect to share how we integrate a few economic experiments into the course to help us answer the organizing questions.