Teaching economics — a question of waste and harm

3 November, 2016 at 10:05 | Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

'...You need to make a distinction between boot-licking and butt-kissing.'Amos Tversky once told me about a meeting he had attended with the
foremost psychological scholars in the U.S., including Leon Festinger. At one point they were all asked to identify what they saw as the most
important current problem in psychology. Festinger’s answer was:
“Excessive ambitions”. In this paper I argue that this is not just the case for psychology, but for the social sciences across the board …

As I see it, excessive ambitions cause both waste and harm. A mind is indeed a terrible thing to waste, and the waste can occur by hypertrophy and atrophy as well as by not developing at all. Cohorts after cohort of students are learning – and many of them subsequently hired to apply or teach – useless theories. Their efforts and talents would have been vastly more useful to society had they been harnessed to more productive purposes. Conjecturally, a redirection of their effort might even benefit the concerned individuals themselves.

Jon Elster

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  1. Prof. Syll – Love the cartoon. You have a great eye for just the right cartoons to illustrate your posts.


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