What I would like economics majors to know
Please cite the paper as:
Hemenway, David, (2013), What I would like economics majors to know, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2013, The economics curriculum: towards a radical reformation, 3rd May – 14th June 2013
I have been teaching microeconomics for more than four decades, and over the past months I have been seriously thinking about this question: “What are some of the most important things I would like economics majors to know before they graduate?” At first I was leaning to such important and well-known ideas as opportunity cost, marginal analysis, moral hazard, externalities, and the prisoners’ dilemma game. Instead I decided on five ideas that are usually not well-covered in economic textbooks:
1. people are not solitary creatures but social animals;
2. tastes are malleable and particularly so for children and adolescents;
3. there are lots of children and adolescents in the world (though few in economic textbooks);
4. retail purchasers rarely have detailed information about the products they buy;
5. large corporations (and other economic institutions) often have a substantial social and political power.
These ideas are discussed generally and illustrated with respect to the market for cigarettes.