The Economic Illiteracy of School History
By Art Carden
This morning, I skimmed through a textbook on Alabama history that I picked up at Goodwill earlier this semester so I can bring myself up to speed on some of the major facts, themes, names, and dates in Alabama history (The Alabama Story by Robert J. Norrell, if you’re curious). I assume it’s for sixth graders, but I could be wrong. I just came across this passage under the section titled “President Roosevelt Offers a New Deal;” it reminds me of co-blogger Bryan’s recent post on “The Economic Illiteracy of High School History”:
President Roosevelt developed a plan to pay farmers to grow less cotton. If less cotton was grown, he believed, then the price farmers got when they sold their crops would go up. President Roosevelt was using an idea called supply and demand. When a lot of one product is available–supply–the call for that product–demand–goes down. When the demand goes down, the price of that product falls too. But the opposite is also true. When the supply of a product goes down, then the demand for it–and its price–goes up.
You might argue with me because it’s a textbook aimed at preteens, but how often have you seen similar economic illiteracy masquerading as analysis in the popular press or in the professional/scholarly literature on labor history?