I'm taking some Economics classes as part of a wider business-related degree, and I'm surprised and pleased at how much I really like it. That's not to say that I'm any good at it, but I genuinely enjoy my classes and I'm half wishing I could transfer to a degree with a stronger focus on the subject.
However, I am finding it to be somewhat of a solo hobby. The classes I'm taking are more about the mechanics of economics and don't really lend themselves towards debate or discussion. In addition, there isn't really any attempt towards linking economic theories with real life issues, which is a shame, because it's not like macroeconomics isn't staring us in the face every evening at 6 o' clock.
Maybe it's a self confidence thing as well about discussing this online, like the time that I was reading through some stuff on the Economist website and wondered if I was the only one who copped that the journalist was slightly to the right of the Kaiser. (I'm telling you, the entire economic definitions section reads like an ode to privatisation). I feel a bit silly for evening saying it out loud, in case I turn out to be horribly wrong.
I suppose what I'm asking is why do you study economics? Why do you like it? What were the "oooh really?" moments that hit you when you studied it?
Also if someone can recommend macro introductory textbook that wasn't written by Gregory Mankiw, that would be awesome.
PS - the main Economics article on Wikipedia - what's your opinion on it? Is it a fairly neutral, factual accounting of the topic or not? I know college students are supposed to avoid it like the plague, but I have to start somewhere, and it's a jumping off point for a lot of really interesting places (except Richard Lynn. Don't ask me how I ended up there. That was scary).
I'm not entirely sure why I like economics. I think it's because it involves looking at problems in a way which I'm suited to. I also think it explains well why things happen politically, socially etc; lots of political and social problems are amenable to economic analysis. This makes it generally interesting I think, because of the perspectives it offers on such a wide range of topics.
It sucks that your classes aren't more real world orientated. But I think the lack of argument and discussion in your classes is perhaps down to economics' aversion to value judgements. Economics is 'positive' as opposed to normative. It doesn't try to say that certain things are 'good' or 'bad' in an objective sense, it just says whether they're good or bad for a limited economic definition of 'good' and 'bad.' Often this definition of good and bad overlaps with what would generally be considered good or bad, which confuses things a lot; even economists are prone to blurring that line. But the distinction is important because economics isn't a philosophy, it's a methodology.
Regarding books, why exactly don't you want a Mankiw textbook? Is it because it's the one you're currently using? Or is it because you don't agree with him? If it's the latter, then it's a bit of a problem; not liking what he says doesn't make it less true, and you'll never learn if you ignore the conclusions you don't like. The intro textbook I used was 'Introduction to Economics' by Parkin, Powell and Matthews, and I found it pretty good, you could try that. There's also 'Economics' by Paul Samuelson, which is probably the most famous textbook (though I've never read it).
Like you I am doing a business degree that contains some economics modules. While I do like the subject I find that classes can be a bit boring and prefer to learn on my own.
As for why I like economics, it's probably because it's so interesting. Much of the stuff that you learn in economics can be counterintuitive but makes a lot of sense. Also the fact that economics can be used to explain so much about how the world works and the way people act makes it a brilliant subject to learn a lot about.
Personally I don't read the Economist much but anytime I have read the website it came across as fairly centrist in the economic sense.
Personally I'd recommend Paul Krugman's Economics. Although I'm a libertarian and disagree with him on many things, I find the textbook to be fantastic. There's a real world example explaining each concept at the beginning of each chapter. There is also a European edition containing Europe specific examples.
If you want to learn more about linking economics with real world issues your best bet is probably to read economics blogs.
Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard
Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
Human Action by Ludwig von Mises
Road To Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek
End The Fed by Ron Paul
Principles of Economics by Carl Menger
These books are all you'll ever need to be an economist. Economics is something you can't learn in school. Good luck.
All of the above come from the Austrian school of economics. If you're starting out, you'd be better off approaching it from less of a slant.
Personally, I'd reccomend The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the Road to Freedom by Milton Friedman, Globalisation and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz and The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman along with Krugman's economics textbook. These give a much more balanced introduction to start you off.
That being said, Economics in One Lesson is a must read for would be economists of all stripes.
Not too sure that's a book. I think you might be getting Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom mixed up?
Point taken! Just pointing out that starting out by only reading one school of economics mightn't be the best idea at first!
Gah you're right, typed the above out in a hurry.
Capitalism and Freedom is what I meant, it's an excellent introductory book to economics.
The Road to Serfdom is also worth reading though!
+1 for Capitalism and Freedom.
I like economics mainly for the real world applications, one benefit is being able to understand(somewhat!) the things that are happening on the news. Likewise, it's nice being able to answer questions you hear getting asked all the time like "Why the hell is product X so expensive?" or being able to understand how the stock exchange and exchange rates work.
I also read books like Economics of Public Issues which talks about the economics of prostitution, housing/rent prices and even ticket touting. Anything that can be applied to real life, day to day scenarios/arguments you have in the pub interests me.
It might be a good idea to point out this thread, which has many recommendations and sources. I'll merge the two threads once this one dies.
I agree, it's a good thing to hear something from all sides before delving too deep into any subject. Although the Austrian School does have all the good stuff
+1 - Austro is the right stuff.
Good luck with Keynes/Krugman - let's bring the markets to yet another standstill.
Would you not agree it's far better for people to make up their own minds? Start from a broad perspective than hone in on the area that interests you most and that you most agree with.
Far better than starting out identifying yourself as a monetarist, Keyensian or whatever.
You can approach it any way you like. I can approach a sum of 2 + 2 with a answer of 10 - it still doesn't make it right. Keynesian-ism is fundamentally flawed as it advocates the unwarranted expansion of credit leading to bubbles, and in turn, recessions/depressions. We've been down this road before - how long have we to remain on this path to nowhere?
Good to see that the arrogance of the 'Austrian School' still burns strong.
Economics is fun, so long as you use it only to analyse the past, not the future. (and to think, the latter is my profession!)
What I like most about economics is the breadth of its analysis into how human being interact with society, and how societies interact with one another.
As such, a conversation on economics can take in politics, philosophy, sociology, history, mathematics and all in all, wonderful, endless debate. The only time I ever avoid economics debates is when individuals insist on sticking to the ideas pertaining to a particular movement at the expense of opening their minds, or engage in aggressively dogmatic economic philosophies, which is when the whole thing starts becoming a bore.