Monday, July 8, 2013

Nailed down through Ricardo...


I'm curious about your thoughts. Much of the rest is laid out too, the exact schedule just isn't ready for prime time yet. "Sandmo" refers to Agnar Sandmo's overview book, which is our main text.

Also - maybe this is obvious to those of you who teach history of thought, but I'm going to mention more than this - I just don't want to ask them to read a whole chapter from Smith, for example, when I'm only going to talk about a paragraph.

The class on the 13th is my innovation... we'll have other discussions like this but this will be the only lecture dedicated to it. I think it's very important to understand how history of thought evolves into modern research agendas and ideas.

My worry is I'm assigning too little... but I'm also worried if I assign too much they won't read what really needs to be read.


  1. Like the 13th class quite a bit, Daniel, understanding the history of anything is only useful insofar as that you can relate it to the modern day. I might recommend you just copy only the parts you want them to make sure they read for the AER/JPE articles, your instructions are a bit vague if you don't quite know what you're supposed to be getting out of the article ahead of time.

    What period of thought are you ending at?

    1. Thanks. I am expecting they'll focus on that anyway because they'll read the opening discussion, get lost in the math, and then read the conclusion. But maybe I'm being too pessimistic.

      The JPE article is longer and perhaps takes more targeting. I'm hoping Romer's encyclopedia article will communicate the major ideas. I'll think about how to be clearer on this.

      Probably ending with Keynes although it might be worth doing a class on 20th century developments. Not thinking of Friedman specifically, but I am doing a class on early monetarism covering especially Fisher but also the early Keynes and some other people. So there I'll obviously reference that this came back later in the century in a more developed form.

    2. Actually, I agree that that's all they'll be able to read, but they might see the rest and think you expect them to be able to read it, and then switch to another option. Maybe that's even more pessimistic though!

      It's definitely worth going into the 20th century. It's a bit of a disservice to stop at Keynes, in that there's an implication that that's where modern economics begins, which isn't quite right. I think it might be fruitful to end the class on Samuelson, who really signals the start of modern economics, with revealed preference and the neoclassical synthesis.

      The reason I'm interested is that I've been following Pol Antras's top 50 papers list on twitter. It only goes back to Hotelling (1929)! There's an interesting disparity between what we teach and think of as HET (in my mind, roughly what's in Worldly Philosophers) vs. the intellectual tradition most modern day scholars consider themselves a part of, although perhaps I'm overreaching a bit.

  2. "Reading rots the brain."
    -- Schopenhauer

  3. You are definitely not assigning too much. I wouldn't do more than 50 pages a week and honestly, given how boring/dense this material is I would shoot for maybe as low as 30 pages but that will take some effort on your part.

    I don't have much to say about the actual content though (except it looks good) and wont until you get to late 19th century.

    1. OK - some of these get more than fifty pages a week but others might be less. I think I'm in the 30-50 range but I'll double check.

      I've got some other things to work on this week but I'm sure I'll post the rest when I get to it for thoughts.

      Got any thoughts on what to cover in Marx if I'm giving him two class periods?

    2. Well, I'm not Andrew Bossie, but...

      If you're going to cover Karl Marx, I have two suggestions to make:

      1.) You might wish to note that J.M. Keynes acknowledged that Karl Marx spoke a kernel of truth when he spoke of C-M-C and M-C-M'.

      2.) How much of Karl Marx are you going to cover? All three volumes of Capital, or anything else? The one thing that I would suggest would be talking about globalisation (although as far as I know, the term wasn't used in Karl Marx's time, even if the 19th century can be considered the beginning of the latest phase of this phenomenon). Adam Smith never used the term capitalism, but there are passages in The Wealth of Nations that would indicate what he would have thought of the process during his lifetime. You could also point out that Karl Marx's view of crises does overlap with what he might've thought of globalisation. Here are a few past articles I've shown to you before that might make for good secondary source readings, Daniel.

      The last one is forthcoming in the Journal of the History of Economic Thought.

  4. I've had undergraduate students not read the assigned readings when I gave them <30 a week and read the assigned readings when I gave them >100 a week (yes, I'm aware, it's a lot!). It all depended on how I used the readings in class. To encourage them to actually read, I made them post questions on the readings and answer questions on the readings 10 times a semester -- that forced them to crack open those articles. Unless I did something like that, though, they would never read.

    1. My linguistics prof required a one page (max!) paper every class. For me that entailed not just doing the readings but also doing a little research, such as tracking down the historical usage of an idiom or watching my mouth in the mirror. ;)

  5. Daniel: I'm not sure why the two Stiglitz articles - both great articles- are good examples of Modern Smithians. Krugman, check; Arrow, check - but I would have used learning by doing; Romer, check, but the Smithian Romer is Romer 1986, not 1990!

    I don't teach Smith without something from Theory of Moral Sentiments.

    1. Good catch on Romer. I think it can all be tied back to Smith - I wouldn't say 1990 is not Smithian Romer but you're right, the 1986 paper is much easier and more explicitly connected on that one.

      On Stiglitz - efficiency wages and credit rationing both come up in Smith. As does asymmetric informatoin, market power, and all the other ideas Stiglitz likes to play with. In my view the Smith/Stiglitz thing is more that old economists often have important ideas that people today formalize but that we ought to recognize have deep roots.


All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.