Economists Do It With Models

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I’ll Take “Things People Should Know About But Don’t” For $200, Alex…

November 18th, 2009 · 12 Comments
Just For Fun · Uncategorizable

So the following Jeopardy video was going around the econo-blogosphere a few weeks ago…I’m a little horrified that a bunch of people who know random things like what the third longest river in the world is (the Yangtze, which is apparently even longer than previously thought) and the name of Robert E. Lee’s horse (Traveller, and I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t have to look that one up) performed, well, like this when it came to economists:

I particularly like how horrified the woman in red looks by the category- I always thought that people were supposed to be happy when they find the Daily Double, but I guess not. I also REALLY want to know what that last clue would have been.

So what is going on here? I’ve been thinking about this for the past few weeks, and I eventually realized that this outcome is in part a function of what we are taught in school. I think I’ve mentioned before that economics is only required as part of a high school curriculum in 14 or so states, and even then it’s unclear what these schools take to fit under the heading of economics. (I’ll give you a hint- learning how to balance your checkbook is NOT economics.) Furthermore, even though we learn super useful things in American History class like that Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait of George Washington that is on the one-dollar bill and Jethro Tull (the person, not the band) invented the seed drill, we are taught surprisingly little about the economists who played quite the important roles in the development of our (well, my) country and many others. (Like why is Keynes not mentioned more during the study of the Great Depression, for example?)

Before I fall into a rant about my life’s work, let me give you some links for the people referenced in the video:

Adam Smith – philosopher who wrote The Wealth of Nations, which is thought to be one of the seminal economics texts, since it was written at a time when the field of economics didn’t yet exist as such.

Arthur Laffer – economist who developed the Laffer Curve (shocking), which I’ve written about before. Wikipedia also tells me that we were born in the same city, which is kind of random.

Milton Friedman – strong free-market advocate and founder of the “monetary” school of thought, whose ideas run counter to those of Keynes.

See, was that so hard? If you think you can do better than the Jeopardy contestants, here is a little online quiz where you can try to prove it. (HT to Marginal Revolution.)

Hmmm…I am usually so on top of things- why did I wait so long to post the Jeopardy clip? Welllll…it just so happens that my lovely and talented RA Jarret is on Jeopardy tonight. He won’t tell mw whether he won or not and is making me watch to find out, so you know where I will be (on the couch) at 7:30pm. For now, here’s a nerdy visual:

In the interest of good-natured public humiliation, there is also a “hometown howdy” video on the Jeopardy site that can be found here.

Good luck Jarret! 🙂

Tags: Just For Fun · Uncategorizable

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 JzM // Nov 18, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I saw that episode and could “hear” you yelling 1800 miles away. 🙂 As for tonight—Go Jarret!! We’ll be cheering!

  • 2 econgirl // Nov 18, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Update: That kid is so buying me dinner.

  • 3 AJP // Nov 19, 2009 at 11:59 am

    So… did he win?

  • 4 econgirl // Nov 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Haha, apparently Jeopardy has become more pop culture-focused than I remember from when I was a kid…an “I can haz cheezburger” category? Really?

  • 5 econgirl // Nov 19, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    @AJP: Yeah, he won…tonight is celebrity Jeopardy, so I think he is back on again on Friday…it’s ok, I’m only a little (read, a lot) jealous… 🙂

  • 6 stephie // Nov 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    i read “seminal economic texts” and saw “sexiest economic texts.”

    a modest example:

    (617): hey baby ill supply if u demand

    (is what would happen if ediwm joined forces with tfln…making ediwmtfln.)

  • 7 Rev. Pfloyd // Nov 25, 2009 at 12:47 am

    The tin-foil hat side of me thinks that public schools don’t teach economics intentionally. After all, what would our politicians be able to pull over on us if we actually collectively understood even basic aspects of the “dismal science”?

  • 8 Hank // Nov 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I bet anything that the last question was about Keynes.

  • 9 intitle:"live view / - axis" // Nov 29, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Update: That kid is so buying me dinner.

    Have a webcam? The world is waiting for you! Broadcast yourself to the whole Internet

  • 10 Lawrence M // Dec 2, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    So why do you think she wagered $2000 when it was clear that they knew nothing in that category?

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