According to the economist Allen R. Sanderson, writing in Chicago Life, about 40 percent of college graduates have taken at least one economics course and 5 percent have majored in it. Good news, you say? Maybe because you think that a clear understanding of the various flows of money can prevent our ever again having a crippling disaster like the Great Depression, or even a close encounter like what happened to us in 2008 again?
Maybe so, but the really bad news for economics professors, according to Sanderson, is that polls show that “there is no discernible difference in understanding basic concepts between those who have taken economics and those who haven’t.”
What economics teaches us spot on, nearly all the time, is how to use resources efficiently to maximize output. That’s probably a good thing if you’re a manufacturer and make a profit on every phoithboinder your plants turn out. Unfortunately for that view, most of us aren’t manufacturers, although maybe we work for the people who are.
We should pay close attention to the Occupiers, because what they want, they say, is simply fairness. Which economics does not measure.
And we might give an ear to old John Maynard Keynes, too, who said, “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
Wouldn’t it be interesting if every college course in economics would allow now and then some random Occupier to tell them how money really flows, and what it accomplishes?