Wednesday, August 10, 2005

College Textbooks

The simple economic ideas that figure so prominently in today's public policy discussions flow from an abstract academic vision of the marketplace -- a vision that is scarcely recognizable as a portrait of a modern market economy. Surprisingly, political debates seem to turn on a chapter straight out of a college textbook -- and not the liveliest one on campus, either. (page 15)
This comes from Ackerman and Heinzerling's book Priceless.

I wonder how to react to the idea that public policy discussions today should be criticized on the grounds that (1) they come from college textbooks, and (2) they are not lively textbooks?

Sometime long ago and in a far distant place, I was told that newspapers were written at a 6th grade reading level. Would it be fair to conclude that "back then" public policy discussions tended to take place publicly at a 6th grade level? Perhaps there is much progress in observing that today public policy discussion takes place at a college level of understanding.

I guess this also suggests I should consider the possibility that college level analysis has fallen over time to be about at the "back then" 6th grade level. I suspect this possibility has not been realized today, and that our news is still presented at about the 6th grade level. So, maybe it is a good thing that the public policy discussions behind the news are grounded on the level of higher education.

If you are a college student, then perhaps you are comforted, rather than dismayed as these authors seem to be, that you can enter into today's public policy discussion because such discussion relies specifically on concepts, ideas, and theories you confront in your college classrooms.

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