Broadening Economics Education

by Mario Rizzo  

Policy Ideas in the History of Economic Thought

It is no exaggeration to say that if a bright undergraduate wants to get into a top Ph.D. program he needs to take a good deal of mathematics. Many advisors will recommend a minor in mathematics or even a double major in mathematics and economics.  

As a result of all this, many of the best undergraduate economics students are mechanical problem solvers. They are in a kind of self-referential bubble, but to a much lesser degree, of course, than are top-department Ph.D. students. They expend tremendous amounts of energy with very little payoff in understanding how real economies work. 

However, things would not be so bad if students also took courses that emphasized the broader, historical, institutional, and, dare I say, philosophical aspects of economics. But the intellectual opportunity cost is wrongly perceived as being too high. (Perhaps the career opportunity cost is high, but that is a separate question.)  

Absorbing a broader perspective would encourage tolerance for a variety of methods and a greater appreciation for the complexities of economic policy. It would also increase respect for economists of a previous age who knew so much.  

So enter my course, “Policy Ideas in the History of Economic Thought.”  (See link above.) Continue reading

Welcoming the Bankruptcy of the Welfare State

by Mario Rizzo   

There are at least two kinds of opponents of the welfare state. There are those who think it has gone too far because, for example, it is very expensive, counterproductive, reduces incentives for economic initiative, depresses general economic growth, and may cause an unsustainable debt burden. You can count many economists in this group.  

Then there are those who believe that these consequences will follow but also believe that the welfare state is a profoundly immoral institution. It is true that these economic consequences are one of the things that make the welfare state immoral. But that is not all that makes it immoral.  

The root of the problem is the welfare state’s bogus liberality. Continue reading