Which Economists Should I Teach In My Philosophy Class?

 
Marx

On the left: Marx

I teach the Modern to Contemporary Philosophy class at my university.  I have decided to add a new lesson next time: After we cover Marx, we’re going to survey some other economist-philosophers from Marx’ time and afterwards.

Smith

On the right: Smith

Which economists should I cover? At present, my plan for this lesson covers Bastiat, Von Mises, Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman.  If you’re going to cover, say, six to eight economists of the 1800s and 1900s in a philosophy class, does the best list consist of these guys + Marx?

I have no intention of dropping Marx; he’s just too influential to ignore.  But I would love to hear your list of five to seven others.  (Many of you know more economists than I do, and others who may be as uninformed as I am may be uninformed in a different direction!)

Published in Economics, General, Religion & Philosophy
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  1. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Mike H: Wait a sec. Isn’t Midge’s point that the given set of factors used in the dilemma don’t comport with reality? It’s not just that the correlation is not perfect, it’s that it barely exists?

    No, because the facts of any particular situation aren’t relevant. What matters is the logic of the situation, not the particular set of factors.

    • #31
  2. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Mike H:

    Wait a sec. Isn’t Midge’s point that the given set of factors used in the dilemma don’t comport with reality? It’s not just that the correlation is not perfect, it’s that it barely exists?

    It’s possible to find scenarios well-modeled by the prisoner’s dilemma. They’re just not scenarios involving, you know, your typical real-world prisoners. No big deal once you’re used to the colorful fantasy life that mathematicians have, where mice nibble off cheese in perfect cubes, and even a coin that’s never been observed to come up heads is assumed to be fair just because the problem-poser says it is. But such fantastic scenarios can be confusing to ordinary people, who may not suspect mathematicians of being fantasists (or even absurdists) at heart.

    And with that, I should probably run. Must figure out why a perfectly logical entity (computer) is producing physically impossible results. That’s life, eh? Even when you know something must be behaving logically, lack of information on the specifics of its behavior can easily render that behavior absurd in your eyes.

    • #32
  3. jpark Member
    jpark
    @jpark

    Another thought: Buchanan and Tullock for public choice theory.

    • #33
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Another Lawyer Waisting Time:Marx was not an economist. I disagree with you using him or claiming that he was an economist – politician, terrorist, hatemonger, yes; economist no. Did he have influence on the world culture, yes but so did the Golden Khan and we do not revere him as a economist. Marx was no scientist. He did no real research to support his ideas. He never reevaluated his position in the face of contradictory evidence. If you want to show why communism/socialism is contrary to human nature and wrong, sure use him but as a model for an economic system, I think not. All his ideas have been proven not just wrong but so damaging to society and human spirit as to be evil.

    Here’s a book review that illustrates how not only wasn’t Marx an economist, but rather that he was pretty much hostile to the very field of economics completely:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/13/book-review-singer-on-marx/

    • #34
  5. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    This is somewhat on topic. My favorite economist posted today about the prevalence of Marxism among academics.

    Overall, Marxism is a tiny minority faith.  Just 3% of professors accept the label.  The share rises to 5% in the humanities.  The shocker, though, is that as recently as 2006, about 18% of social scientists self-identified as Marxists.  

    Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, the authors of the study, hasten to say, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

    [S]elf-identified Marxists are rare in academe today. The highest proportion of Marxist academics can be found in the social sciences, and there they represent less than 18 percent of all professors (among the social science fields for which we can issue discipline-specific estimates, sociology contains the most Marxists, at 25.5 percent).

    In contrast, I urge you to rubberneck.  If 18% of biologists believed in creationism, that would be a big deal.  Why?  Because creationism is nonsense.  Similarly, if 18% of social scientists believe in Marxism, that too is a big deal.  Why?  Because Marxism is nonsense

    (Try not to get bogged down by the creationism comment)

    • #35
  6. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Misthiocracy:

    Here’s a book review that illustrates how not only wasn’t Marx an economist, but rather that he was pretty much hostile to the very field of economics completely:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/13/book-review-singer-on-marx/

    FYI, this is the same link in my last comment under nonsense

    • #36
  7. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Just popping in to say that for my high school students, I like the text Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury, and the text Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

    As I said, these are high school, not college, level books.

    But so many of our “college” students are really at the “13th grade” level, rather than what I might consider college ready, so…

    • #37
  8. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Thomas Sowell.

    Paul Krugman.  Just kidding.

    • #38
  9. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    It seems like the book The Worldly Philosophers is right up your alley.

    • #39
  10. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    Don’t forget Bastiat.

    • #40
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Mike H:

    Misthiocracy:

    Here’s a book review that illustrates how not only wasn’t Marx an economist, but rather that he was pretty much hostile to the very field of economics completely:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/13/book-review-singer-on-marx/

    FYI, this is the same link in my last comment under nonsense

    Yup, the article you linked to is where I got my link. Great minds, and all that.

    • #41
  12. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Misthiocracy:You should probably touch on Thomas Malthus.

    While odious, he was still immensely influential. He was in many ways the precursor to Keynes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus

    Malthus was not “odius”, he was a liberal Christian with a view of humanity no different from any biologist or historian.

    And as others have said, Marx was no economist.  If you’re going to include him, perhaps you should also include:

    Pro:

    Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church

    L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church of Scientology

    Con:

    Adolph Hitler, founder of the religious movement known as National Socialism.

    Maxmimiien Robespierre, who turned the Enlightenment into a dictatorship.

    • #42
  13. TeeJaw Inactive
    TeeJaw
    @TeeJaw

    Instead of classifying economists as left or right how about wrong or right?

    • #43
  14. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    TeeJaw:Instead of classifying economists as left or right how about wrong or right?

    Can I Like this comment a multitude of times?

    • #44
  15. twvolck Inactive
    twvolck
    @twvolck

    Probably the most influential economist of the nineteenth century was Alfred Marshall, the inventor of marginal economic analysis.  He did not strive for political influence, so far as I know, but he met all your other criteria in full.

    • #45
  16. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    I’m with AnotherLawyerWastingTime on this. I’m loathe to include Marx with the economists. (Think about this for a second … Just how wrong to you have to be that you make the economists look good by comparison?)

    He is, however a careful logician. All of Marx hangs on one thing – Labor Theory of Value. If LTV is wrong, all of Marx falls. All of it. And LTV is demonstrably false. Easy counterexample is from baseball – Arod’s gigantic salary vs any other athlete…say Michael Phelps. Does it take that much more labor to produce a Gold Glove third baseman/home run hitter (steroid cheatin’ sob) than a record setting Gold Medalist? No. Their respective wages (the price of their labor) comes from supply and demand. Love him or hate him, more people will pay more money to see Arod than to see Phelps. A trip to the mall or grocery store will turn up many more examples LTV is hocum. And so is Marx. Without LTV Marx is pure fiction.

    • #46
  17. Cordelia Inactive
    Cordelia
    @Cordelia

    You might consider readings from Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

    • #47
  18. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    Another Lawyer Waisting Time

    Marx was not an economist. I disagree with you using him or claiming that he was an economist – politician, terrorist, hatemonger, yes; economist no. Did he have influence on the world culture, yes but so did the Golden Khan and we do not revere him as a economist. Marx was no scientist. He did no real research to support his ideas. He never reevaluated his position in the face of contradictory evidence. If you want to show why communism/socialism is contrary to human nature and wrong, sure use him but as a model for an economic system, I think not. All his ideas have been proven not just wrong but so damaging to society and human spirit as to be evil.

    Completely agree.  Marx was not an economist.  I assume you’re touching on Adam Smith.  Otherwise Ricardo, Hayak, Freidman, depending on what you’re emphasizing.

    • #48
  19. user_753171 Member
    user_753171
    @LincWolverton

    I urge you strongly to include Gary Becker because of his knack of applying economics in nontraditional areas, rather than the narrower economics areas — supply, demand, present value, market entry/exit.

    Also, I just read Bastiat for the first time recently and found his questioning of what was to become Keynesian stimulus notions still a propos. He outlines well the trade-offs between markets and statism through government. His distinction between ‘what is seen and what is not seen’ should be a guide to all government-policy observers.

    • #49
  20. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    No one has yet mentioned Amartya Sen, who as a contemporary economist acknowledges the debt owed by his discipline to the broader field of moral philosophy. Many of his writings on poverty, freedom, and justice would also be more accessible to undergrads and can serve as a foil to other thinkers, such as Malthus or Rawls.

    • #50
  21. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    You are, of course, correct.  One cannot simply ignore Karl Marx.  But if there are any letters to or about him that bring to light just how much of a Sponger he was, include that in the Reading List.

    You will also to have to include any material in which Keynes walks back some of his theories and shows any misgivings about how they are being carried out.

    These men are help up as saints, and it is time to restore to them their Feet of Clay, if that is possible.

    • #51
  22. user_100603 Member
    user_100603
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Can’t ignore Schumpeter. His book Capitalism, socialism, and Democracy is a classic.

    • #52
  23. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Misthiocracy:

    Mike H:

    Misthiocracy:

    Here’s a book review that illustrates how not only wasn’t Marx an economist, but rather that he was pretty much hostile to the very field of economics completely:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/13/book-review-singer-on-marx/

    FYI, this is the same link in my last comment under nonsense

    Yup, the article you linked to is where I got my link. Great minds, and all that.

    I had a feeling. :)

    • #53
  24. user_339092 Member
    user_339092
    @PaulDougherty

    Tuck:

    Malthus was not “odius”, he was a liberal Christian with a view of humanity no different from any biologist or historian.

    Much like the modern AGW proponents today. I cast another vote for Malthus as providing insight to today’s political energy for Catastrophic Global Warming purveyors.

    • #54
  25. user_339092 Member
    user_339092
    @PaulDougherty

    Eugen Böhm von Bawerk, because his name is too much fun to leave out.

    • #55
  26. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Paul Dougherty:Tuck:

    Malthus was not “odius”, he was a liberal Christian with a view of humanity no different from any biologist or historian.

    Much like the modern AGW proponents today. I cast another vote for Malthus as providing insight to today’s political energy for Catastrophic Global Warming purveyors.

    Yeah, not at all.

    He’d be an arch-Conservative today, closer to Ted Cruz than anyone else.

    That’s liberal Christian in the sense of classically liberal, aka Conservative.

    The book’s a good read, quite the eye-opener after hearing him demonized by Progressives my whole life.

    • #56
  27. user_27438 Inactive
    user_27438
    @ForrestCox

    Couple of notable gaps here.  Post Marx – and you’re absolutely right that you have to study Marxist philosophy to have any proper historical frame of reference – you’ve got the Austrian School and the American monetarists pretty-well covered.  And, of course, there’s Keynes.

    But you should also cover the birth of modern financial and market theory (Black / Scholes / Merton, Fama / French, etc. – the epistemological issues in this field are important) and the subsequent attacks levied by the likes of Mandelbrot and Taleb.

    Somewhat related but distinct and worth evaluation is the prospect theory work done by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

    Others have mentioned Gary Becker – his work touched so many areas of life that seem most important to us and is also very difficult to ignore.  His writings related to the intersection between rational action and crime & punishment, as well as his material on human capital could be fertile ground for philosophical discussion.

    Also, and much as it pains me to say it, you’ve got to cover some of the modern-Keynesian cabal that dominate our policy-making.  Practically-speaking, we’re talking about the likes of Paul Krugman (and works that form the bridge from he to Keynes – Minsky, Koo, Fisher).

    Lastly, and this is just a personal thing, I think the philosophical implications of the zero-lower-bound (i.e. 0% interest rates) are pretty interesting.  I wish I had some reading to recommend that could fit within the rubric of a philosophy course, but I just don’t (I see a bunch of “what happened / what’s happening” and not a lot of “what does it mean” – largely because this is a train-wreck that remains in progress…).

    • #57
  28. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Mike H:This is somewhat on topic. My favorite economist posted today about the prevalence of Marxism among academics. . . .

    Indeed.  My students get Marxism from television, politicians, and other classes, and sometimes Smith from other classes.

    • #58
  29. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Mama Toad:Just popping in to say that for my high school students, I like the text Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury, and the text Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

    As I said, these are high school, not college, level books.

    But so many of our “college” students are really at the “13th grade” level, rather than what I might consider college ready, so…

    Asquared:It seems like the book The Worldly Philosophers is right up your alley.

    Cordelia:You might consider readings from Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

    These look like great candidates for selecting a reading to accompany this lesson.  (But I’m not gonna knowingly break copyright law, and my students won’t be able to get the books, so the most I could do is copy 10% for them.)

    • #59
  30. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @SaintAugustine

    Ekosj:I’m with AnotherLawyerWastingTime on this. I’m loathe to include Marx with the economists.(Think about this for a second … Just how wrong to you have to be that you make the economists look good by comparison?)

    He is, however a careful logician.All of Marx hangs on one thing – Labor Theory of Value.If LTV is wrong, all of Marx falls. All of it.

    That’s the sort of reason I have a hard time not thinking of Marx as an economist.  LTV is an economic theory, right?  The guy who promotes it is probably gonna be an economist, right?

    Of course, Marx’ being an economist doesn’t mean he isn’t a lousy one.

    • #60
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