IANOE

The college I attended did not use a semester system. The calendar year was divided into four quarters and a school year consisted of three quarters. Most (but not all) people went to school in fall, winter, and spring quarters. A typical course load was four courses per quarter. Some very wily people (with lots of money) took classes all four quarters, three courses per quarter. I took five courses nearly all the way through, taking classes September through May, and worked during the summer (in the summer following my sophomore year of college in a quarter year I earned a third as much as my dad, a lawyer, earned in that full year). In addition, I occasionally audited courses in which I had an interest that didn’t extend to considering a major in it.

As an undergraduate I took the three quarter Intro to Econ sequence, the micro course, and a banking course (basically a macro course). That’s just a few credits short of an econ major (that’s a long, sad story I’ll tell another time).

In addition to my formal course work I’ve read books on economics for fun: Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Ludwig Von Mises’s Human Action, and others. I’ve read chapters of Ricardo, Hayek, and Schumpeter. I’ve never read Das Kapital although I probably should.

Oddly, I’ve also never read any of Milton Friedman’s books. He was a bit after my time.

In all candor I think that too many people’s notions of economics come entirely from reading newspaper columns and blog posts.

15 comments… add one

  • PD Shaw

    I think I have a minor in economics, but I’d have to double-check; one doesn’t want to misrepresent that one has the educational grounding of a minor that one actually lacks. Modesty has accustomed me not mention my minor at cocktail parties and such.

    The two semesters of Economic statistics killed me though, while I think I got Cs, it was clear to me that I wasn’t cut for it and indeed I don’t think most of my classmates weren’t either. I believe the courses were graded on a curve and a C was either the mean, median or mode (never could keep those straight, not that I think the foreign exchange student that taught us ever mentioned them, though he might have).

  • Math hadn’t overwhelmed economics yet when I was an undergraduate. I don’t recall there even being a math requirement for an undergraduate econ major. Other than what was required for the bachelors, that is. Besides the language, economics, and the occasional history course I took practically everybody in all of my courses was an engineer. I just assumed that everybody took a bit of math.

    Not that that would have been a problem. By that time I was tutoring social sciences grad students in statistics.

  • PD Shaw

    I recall my Intro to Econ (micro) professor recommending those interested in pursuing Econ further to take the two semesters of Econ Statistics next, instead of the second Intro semester that dealt with macro. In hindsight its rather unfortunate, but I attended a school with an almost universally classical economics bent. I recall professors in Poli Sci (Intro to Marx) and Biology (Evolutionary Behavior) lamenting that the school had its Econ Department in the Business school, instead of the liberal arts college.

  • Icepick

    I wasn’t cut for it and indeed I don’t think most of my classmates weren’t either.

    :|

  • Drew

    I think it’s probably safe to say econometrics upped the ante on statistics acumen, although mathematical treatment of economic data grinds preceded the prediction game.

  • PD Shaw

    Don’t worry icepick, I excel at the double negative. Or I should say I don’t excel at no double negative, not I.

    But in case I was not clear. I think most of my classmates did not have a clue what they were doing by the end of each semester. We were trying to memorize patterns and hoping for partial credit. I suspect most of them went into some sort of business management curiculuum in order to manage people who would do that kind of junk.

  • Ben Wolf

    Peoples’ notions of economics come primarily from their ideologies, which is exactly why the system is such a mess.

  • steve

    Chemistry major, biology minor. Have read many econ books on my own, but wish I had more formal training. Took just one course as an undergrad and studied just hard enough to make sure I got an A. In my next life I will be an economic historian since I like history a lot (reading Graeber’s book now).

    Steve

  • Icepick

    I think most of my classmates did not have a clue what they were doing by the end of each semester. We were trying to memorize patterns and hoping for partial credit.

    Sounds like a 6000 level Numerical Analysis class I took once. Except that we all knew we were going to get an A, and that’s why we were there. [ Period bolded and italicized for extra emphasis.] The guy teaching the class really knew his stuff, but he couldn’t convey it worth a damn. So he tended to just give everyone who showed up an A. The trick was you had to be good enough to meet all the pre-reqs to take a 6000 level Numerical Analysis class, of course.

    Incidentally, that guy had really big research grants. I’m really not kidding when I say he really knew his stuff. He had made enough money doing applied work (I believe for medical imaging) to drive a very expensive German convertable around on the weekends. If I had known that at the start I would have worked towards applied math instead!

  • The guy teaching the class really knew his stuff, but he couldn’t convey it worth a damn

    I think that may be a prerequisite for teaching Numerical Analysis. I loved my grad level numerical analysis class. The prof was one of the guiding lights of the department—a big name, highly respected. At the beginning of each class he passed out a couple of dozen mimeographed sheets from his then-unpublished text book, very nearly as quickly as he wrote them.

    In retrospect the charm of the course might have been the mimeo ink…

  • In my next life I will be an economic historian since I like history a lot

    I think that practically all subjects are better if taught historically. You get a feeling for context and why people believed what they did when they believed it. I think that the widespread incorrect belief that people who lived a century ago were idiots would largely be dispelled if an historical method were used.

  • sam

    ” I think that the widespread incorrect belief that people who lived a century ago were idiots would largely be dispelled if an historical method were used..”

    Yeah. I agree completely. See Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and The Copernican Revolution.

  • Icepick

    In retrospect the charm of the course might have been the mimeo ink…

    Perhaps maybe!

  • Icepick

    I think that the widespread incorrect belief that people who lived a century ago were idiots would largely be dispelled if an historical method were used.

    Why should I believe that people who lived a centruy ago were smarter than the idiots running around today?

  • Ben Wolf

    Most “great” works of economics are summarily useless because they ignore the banking system, modern textbooks included. An economist who doesn’t know much about banking is akin to a neurosurgeon who doesn’t know much about the brain.

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