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A Course Load for the Game of Life

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A Course Load for the Game of Life

by Greg Mankiw

New York Times

September 4, 2010


AS a Harvard professor who teaches introductory economics, I have the delightful assignment of greeting about 700 first-year students every fall. And this year, I am sending the first of my own children off to college. Which raises these questions: What should they be learning? And what kind of foundation is needed to understand and be prepared for the modern economy?


Here is my advice for students of all ages:


LEARN SOME ECONOMICS You knew this was coming. Perhaps I am just trying to protect my profession’s market share, but I hope it is more than that.


The great economist Alfred Marshall called economics “the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life.†When students leave school, “the ordinary business of life†will be their most pressing concern. If the current moribund economy turns into a lost decade, as some economists fear it might, it will be crucial to be prepared for it.


There may be no better place than a course in introductory economics. It helps students understand the whirlwind of forces swirling around them. It develops rigorous analytic skills that are useful in a wide range of jobs. And it makes students better citizens, ready to evaluate the claims of competing politicians.


For those who have left college behind, it is not too late to learn. Pick up an economics textbook (mine would be a fine choice), and you might find yourself learning more than you imagined.


Not convinced? Even if you are a skeptic of my field, as many are, there is another, more cynical reason to study it. As the economist Joan Robinson once noted, one purpose of studying economics is to avoid being fooled by economists.


<rest at link>


He also recommends courses in statistics, finance, and psychology.

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