Teaching Economics as Common Sense
By Arnold Kling
Professors James Gwartney (Florida State University), Richard Stroup (Montana State University) and Dwight Lee (Georgia University), three longtime colleagues of mine, have recently published “Common Sense Economics.” It’s a small book, less than 200 pages, that addresses a serious economist dereliction of duty: making our subject understandable to the ordinary person.
…Incentives matter under socialism, too. In the former USSR, managers and employees were compensated by the number of tons of glass they produced. Factories produced glass so thick one could hardly see through it. The rules were changed so that compensation was made according to square meters of glass produced. Factories produced glass so thin that it broke easily.
As much as I respect Greg Mankiw, Paul Romer, and other leading economists who write textbooks, I do believe that the established tradition results in books that at best serve a tiny sliver of the most mathematically intuitive students. Finding a way to communicate with the rest is a much bigger challenge. I admire the authors of Common Sense Economics for making the effort.