Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Economics! Makes You Go Nuts!

When Atrios linked to this piece about studying economics making people more Republican I had to run out and find an old and very bad poem of mine. To see its relevance, here's a snippet from James Kwak:

Patrick McGeehan at the New York Times recently wrote about a New York Fed study finding that studying economics makes you a Republican. The headline conclusion is that the more economics classes you take, the more likely you are to be a Republican. Majoring in economics or business is also more likely to make you a Republican. (See Table 2 in the original paper.) The study is based on thousands of observations of undergraduates at four large universities over three decades, so it is focused on undergraduate-level economics.

My own impression is slightly different: People already tending toward Republicanism take more economics courses, because they hope to hear what they hope to hear.

But I'm sure both explanations can work at the same time. The reason why undergraduate economics might cause Republicanism is that the study starts with those simple models where the markets work beautifully. It's only later that you learn why reality isn't like that. Another reason might be more Republican professors in economics than in many other fields, though that's pure guessing from my part.

And here's the pome I wrote on Economics 101. It is deliciously bad:

Economics is a poisoned arrow
that stands out from my shoulders,
lodged there since the Introduction To.

It slowly leaks its palest poison
into my brain
until I grow selfish, sure and sane
until my life is rational and narrow
until my poetry no longer smolders
until I forget I once knew who
first replaced my rites with reason.

I took the simplest graphs sketched
on the board for the living flesh
and saw it wretched.

But this, of course, was the price fetched
by those who would see young minds stretched.

It has a point, of course! The arrow's point.

The most economics I ever knew was after the first semester. I remember going home for Christmas and lecturing everyone on every single economic matter, both micro and macro, until my sister yelled at me to shut up.

In hindsight it was probably a bit like what evo psychos feel. Here's this incredibly simple no-work-needed understanding of everything!

The rest of all those years of study was to make me normal again and to make everything about economics much, much more complicated. Because the world indeed IS complicated.

But the introductory courses really should try to vaccinate students against that poisoning.