Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ideas That Teach Economics: Who Should I Ask?

At least since I successfully used this blog to get a design for the cover of the third edition of my first book, I have been intrigued with the idea of using the internet as a way of collecting ideas and information. My current project, described in my previous post, is an obvious candidate. I have accordingly been using this blog, Facebook and G+ to ask for suggestions on what I ought to include in a book of short works of literature that contain economic ideas. I have also been emailing everyone I can think of who might contribute additional suggestions, ranging from my undergraduate debate partner, a fellow Kipling enthusiast and currently a federal judge, to two science fiction authors, also friends. Also lots of economists. It just occurred to me that I ought to try the second order approach--using the Internet to get suggestions about who I should use the Internet to get suggestions from. Hence this post.

Who should I contact by email who would be likely to know of short works of literature that included interesting economic ideas? What sites online might it be worth putting posts or comments on? 

So far the only one I have tried, aside from here, FB and G+, is Baen's Bar.

15 Comments:

At 3:01 PM, April 29, 2017, Anonymous Joseph K said...

The first story that comes to mind would be using "The Gift of the Magi" by O Henry to illustrate subjective value. It does so because in the story the fob's value is dependent on the presence of the watch. Without the watch, it has minimal value. And similarly, the value of the combs is dependent on the presence of her hair. She cuts her hair, and the combs are suddenly much less valuable. Not to mention that she sold the hair for the fob and he sold the watch for the combs. The exchanges in the story make no sense if we assume value is object (such as based on labor) but makes sense if value is entirely subjective.

 
At 4:19 PM, April 29, 2017, Blogger Sam Lichtenstein said...

Pseudoerasmus?

 
At 5:30 PM, April 29, 2017, Blogger JB said...

I would suggest two short stories by Isaac Babel. "How Was It Done In Odessa" shows how the income of grain merchants in Odessa depended on the grain harvest in Argentina (cross elasticity for close substitutes); the other "Salt" showed what life was like when all markets and trading were made illegal under War Communism (women ended up smuggling salt risking getting raped by syphilitic soldiers)

 
At 2:50 AM, April 30, 2017, Blogger Paul Sand said...

I'd suggest checking out Tyler Cowen, an econ prof at George Mason, blogs at http://marginalrevolution.com. He reads a lot.

 
At 7:01 PM, April 30, 2017, Anonymous Below Potential said...

I would suggest Michael Watts and Robert F. Smith who once wrote a paper on "Economics in Literature and Drama" (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/chwe/austen/wattssmith.pdf) ... the paper also contains a lot of literary works relevant for your project. Another suggestion would be Donna M. Kish-Goodling who wrote a paper on 'Using "The Merchant of Venice" in Teaching Monetary Economics' (see https://www.jstor.org/stable/1182923?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents). The paper also contains further references to other persons that might be of interest to you.

 
At 10:17 PM, April 30, 2017, Blogger David Friedman said...

Below Potential:

Thanks. I've now read the Watts and Smith piece, but don't find much in it that I would want to use. I think part of the problem is that the authors think of economics more or less as the study of the economy, I think of it as the study of the implications of the rationality assumption. A picture of the horrors of unemployment may teach something about the real world and history, but I don't think it teaches much economics--we already know that being poor sucks.

Also, almost nothing they mention is a single short work, which is what I'm looking for. I've read much of Watt's book, and find it hard to imagine a reader reading all of it for pleasure. I did consider writing him for ideas, but unfortunately he's no longer alive. I'll try writing Kish-Goodling.

On Watt's point about authors anticipating economists, however, I have a small example from my own experience. I have a JPE article on the inefficiency of efficient punishments--the problem that if enforcers profit by convicting and punishing people, that provides an incentive for them that may have undesirable consequences.

After making the argument, I discovered that Larry Niven had anticipated me by a fair while in a series of sf stories about organ transplants, the first of which is now on the list for my book.

 
At 12:35 AM, May 01, 2017, Anonymous Toby said...

Do you have anyone on your faculty or who you know who teaches a course in Law & Literature? The stories that are used there are perhaps more likely to also teach economics lessons. This should considerably narrow your search.

 
At 2:29 AM, May 01, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel Kirzner might have a few ideas about economic lessons in theological scripts?

 
At 4:05 AM, May 01, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah Skwire (Liberty Fund)

 
At 5:37 AM, May 01, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist, regularly posts about what he's reading. http://timharford.com/

 
At 12:54 PM, May 01, 2017, Anonymous Josh said...

I think Russ Roberts - host of the econtalk podcast - would be worth talking to about this. I know he has written books of fiction attempting to convey economic ideas and therefore might have good knowledge of precursors or competition to his work. Also this could lead to your book being discussed on Econtalk when completed, which would be good publicity and also an episode I'd very much enjoy listening to

 
At 10:35 AM, May 14, 2017, Anonymous Robert D. Coli, MD said...

With his encyclopedic knowledge of economics and history and research for his daily Cafe Hayek postings, I would suggest contacting GMU's Donald Boudreaux.

 
At 7:46 PM, May 19, 2017, OpenID cirsova said...

Jack Vance's Gaean Reach stories use something called the SLU (Standard Labor Unit) as a form of currency. Since the human work hour is the one inchangeable element, so all goods and services are priced in them. It eliminates the need for that pesky inflationary minimum wage because all a minimum wage is is a decimalization of a single SLU.

 
At 8:02 PM, May 19, 2017, Blogger Steve DuBois said...

Well, there's always I, Pencil: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html

 
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