Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The last thing we need

I saw a link this morning claiming to be five strong economics articles for beginners. Reading through the list, I was happy with each entry, but disappointed in the aggregate. There was Leonard Reed's "I, Pencil," a piece on price signals from Russ Roberts, Frederic Bastiat's famous "That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen," Mike Munger's piece against price gouging laws and the short version of Friedrich Hayek's "Road to Serfdom."

All five are great essays, but all five are essays from the free market perspective. Even though that is my view, I'm off put at attempts to introduce someone to economics and steer them to one of the two rival camps. While I am not Keynesian, I respect that view and believe someone should learn from both camps before choosing a side.

Anyone new to economics would benefit from reading one of Paul Krugman's Pop Internationalism essays, his piece Ricardo's Difficult Idea on free trade or J. Bradford DeLong's Cornucopia essay on comparing standards of living across time periods.

It was at this point I glanced to see the source of the list. No doubt it was going to be a free market educational group.

I wish it had been.

Instead, it was from The Institute for Faith, Work and Economics. The opening paragraph to the article I was reading said (with added emphasis by me):

IFWE’s mission is to build a framework of faith, work, and economics for the purposes of living out whole-life stewardship. Sound economics is grounded in biblical truths, and helps each of us to be better stewards.

This is exactly what I don't need. There are far too many anti-capitalist bottom feeders claiming that the invisible hand described by Adam Smith is a religious concept that requires a belief in God. People like Glenn Beck just add fuel to the fire when they declare that the free market is God's creation.

I'm repulsed by the suggestion that "Sound economics is grounded in biblical truths." The Bible declared many times that making people pay interest for loans was a sin. This led to economic stagnation through the medieval church's ban on usury.

Good economics comes from science and reason, not from religious texts.


  1. I dispute the fact that they're from the free-market perspective. The final two we could probably argue over, but the first three, I believe, are just basic economic principles that neither side would dispute. Price signals are significant no matter your political affiliation.

    I don't know of any similarly simple and intuitive essays that have a Keynesian tilt, for example. I'd be happy to read some about the liquidity trap and the paradox of thrift.

    I have no comment on the larger point you make regarding religion.

  2. A fair point. Perhaps the pieces aren't slanted, but it's telling that the writers are Chicago School/Austrians.