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Archive for March, 2016

The Rule is a Tool

March 31, 2016 Leave a comment

David Colander is critical of what he considers the insufficiently nuanced way Mankiw presents economics to freshmen students. Mankiw’s response is here. (H/T Marginal Revolution)

Not surprisingly, I tend to side with Mankiw on this, but for a different reason.

It’s not that students know nothing about economics and therefore must be taught the basics before learning nuance.

The problem is that they have to unlearn a hyper-relative approach to the world in which everything is questioned and doubted to the point of not being able to make any useful claims about reality. The answer to everything is some version of “it depends on your point of view” or “I feel” or “perception is reality” or “maybe that’s true for you, but for me…”

The idea that no one can make useful claims to knowledge is not a nuanced view of reality. It’s a view that inhibits learning.

Of course, all knowledge claims should be subject to scrutiny. Everything we know is qualified in one way or another. But what Mankiw does well, in my opinion, is give students a window into a world where you can actually gain knowledge about how the world works. Not perfect knowledge or simple answers, but something to work with, something to predict with, something to put confidence in as a useful tool.

If Colander thinks modern students just swallow rules whole in economics class, I rather doubt he’s working with actual freshman much. My freshmen students have trouble believing that there are any rules. They have a extreme skepticism that one can make any claims that would stand up to someone who merely says, “But I don’t feel that way.”

For many of them, Mankiw’s approach is a breath of fresh air, after being constantly told that there’s nothing really to be learned, only positions to be taken based on one’s feelings about some matter or another.

Categories: Education

Congratulations, Jones Graduate School of Business!

March 17, 2016 Leave a comment

With apologies for my somewhat self-interested promotion of this good news:

The Rice MBA is the only full-time MBA program in the last decade to go from below the top 40 to the top 25 in the U.S. in all three top rankings of business schools: from 2006 to the present, Bloomberg Businessweek, from unranked to No. 19; U.S. News, from No. 44 to No. 25; and Financial Times, from No. 41 to No. 24 (in the U.S.).

The Jones School’s graduate entrepreneurship program was ranked No. 14 in U.S. News’ MBA specialty rankings.

I’ll always be very thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from some really excellent teachers (and fellow students) in this program. Glad to see it continuing to do so well in a very competitive environment.

Categories: Education

Moving the PPF Out

March 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I mentioned in class yesterday that I thought the U.S. had become the world’s largest hydrocarbon producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia. But I didn’t have the actual figures at hand; here they are for interested students:

The United States remained the world’s top producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2014, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. U.S. hydrocarbon production continues to exceed that of both Russia and Saudi Arabia, the second- and third-largest producers, respectively. For the United States and Russia, total petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbon production, in energy content terms, is almost evenly split between petroleum and natural gas. Saudi Arabia’s production, on the other hand, heavily favors petroleum.

Categories: Energy

Class Videos on GDP and Standard of Living

March 10, 2016 1 comment

First, on real GDP and standard of living:

Second, growth miracles and disasters:

  • Is GDP is good measure for standard of living? Why?
  • What does GDP not measure well?
  • What usually happens to the incomes of poor people when a country’s GDP grows?
  • What does the “hockey stick” mean?
  • Which countries have similar GDP per capita but very different distributions of income?
  • What’s the difference between GDP and GDP per capita? How is GDP per capita calculated?
  • What are some example of countries that have “caught up” quickly with the countries with the highest standards of living? What are some example of countries that have not caught up?
Categories: Income Distribution