The People of Economath
By Bryan Caplan
It turned out — and still turns out — that people’s economic intuition,
if untutored by models, missed a major possibility that is in fact
probably the main story.
My question for Paul: Who precisely are the people that intellectually benefit from being “tutored by models”?
1. Econ blog readers? Clearly not. Paul’s blog has as little math as mine because we both know most people can’t or won’t follow the math.
2. Econ undergrads? No. Econ profs very rarely use economath in undergraduate classes because even upper-division students can’t handle it.
3. First-year econ Ph.D. students? Probably not. When they arrive, they’re perfectly able to follow intuitive economic arguments.
4. Advanced econ Ph.D. students? Maybe. But only because they’ve been brainwashed to dismiss intuitive arguments.
5. Econ professors? Often. But only because they’re true believers in their own dogmatic methodology. Paul had to use math to explain his ideas to these people because they mentally raspberry any new idea unless it’s expressed mathematically.
My challenge for Paul: Name three important economic insights you think we owe to economath. I will explain each insight without economath at a level accessible to any good undergraduate economics major.
P.S. Funner, high-cost challenge: Randomly assign econ undergrads to two classes. I teach one; a defender of economath teaches the other. Paul gives each teacher an hour to explain three important ideas we allegedly owe to economath. Then Paul tests our students to see how well they understand the ideas he picked. Prediction: Paul will name me the victor.