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First Day of Class

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As Bryan Caplan notes [2] over at EconLog, today is the first day of the 2015-2016 academic year at George Mason University.  As always, the keystone course in my teaching schedule is ECON 103 – Principles of Microeconomics.  It meets this Fall semester in the same time and place that it typically meets: Enterprise Hall room #80 from 7:20-10:00pm every Tuesday.  Last year at this time I reflected on this class [3].  Here’s a slice from that post:

My goal – by teaching basic, foundational, principles of microeconomics – is to inoculate students against the bulk of the common economic myths that they’ll encounter throughout their lives – myths such as that the great abundance of goods and services available to us denizens of modernity is the result of a process that can be easily mimicked or understood in detail by smart people or planners – that the market value of goods or services can be raised by price floors (such as a legislated minimum wage) or lowered by price ceilings (such as rent control) – that benefits can be created without costs – that government is an institution capable of rising above the realities that ensure that private institutions never perform ‘perfectly’ – that intentions are results – that destruction of property is a source of prosperity – that exchange across political boundaries differs in economically meaningful ways from exchange that takes place within political boundaries – that the only consequences that occur or that matter are those that are easily anticipated and seen.

I add here only a summary of my teaching goal: It is to make my students aware that society in general, and the economy in particular, is far more complex than most professors, pundits, proselytizers, politicians, preachers, and popes typically assert it to be, and that this complexity is handled with surprising, if not nirvana-producing, success by the decentralized forces of the competitive market.  I aim both to inspire in my students awe that Manhattan gets fed daily and that pencils exist in abundance [4], and to help them understand just how and why their world is filled with such marvels – and, I add further, also to put my students on guard against the many errors typically committed by those who, ignoring the market economy’s incomprehensible complexity, insist too cavalierly that government intervention promises improvement.

Here, in short, is the point:

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