Economics Textbooks

by Harry on January 27, 2018

Henry will enjoy this piece by our friend Laura at the Atlantic, about the way that textbook companies (and authors) are succeeding in extracting rents from students. Especially this bit:

Greg Mankiw’s class, “Economics 10a: Principles of Economics” is Harvard’s most popular course among undergraduates, attracting 633 students this past fall. As is the case in many introductory classes, students attend a combination of large lectures and smaller sections led by graduate assistants and visiting faculty. Mankiw, who himself only gives a handful of lectures per semester, assigns readings from a loose-leaf version of his own extremely lucrative textbook, Principles of Economics, donating royalties from books purchased by Harvard students to charity.

In 2016, he started requiring students to purchase both the textbook and a code that gives them access to a digital platform known as MindTap. There, students complete their homework assignments and take exams, which are graded automatically on the publisher’s website. Students pay about $130 per year for the book and code, a discounted cost Mankiw negotiated with publishers for those at Harvard.

It was nice of him to negotiate on behalf of Harvard students who are, no doubt, among the neediest. And donating the royalties he continues to make specifically from their purchases to charity is awesome. (Maybe that’s why he didn’t negotiate a better deal for them by giving up royalties altogether on Harvard-student-purchased codes). Personally, with my students, given what I know about their circumstances and an eccentric attitude of respect, I wouldn’t feel great about donating money I had extracted from them to the charity of my choice, but, like so many students who pay full price for Mankiw’s codes, they are not Harvard students; maybe I’d feel differently if they were.

Actually this story hit home to me because I am, this semester, assigning my own new book (on which more in later post) in class for the first time (first time I’ve assigned one of my books). Its under $30 and not a text book, but still I felt that I should give them each a $1 which represents the royalty I’ll make on the book (there are three other authors), and couldn’t feel comfortable otherwise. (They think I’m ridiculous. I had a bunch of them over for dinner last night, with chocolate cake and treacle tart—they don’t think that’s ridiculous, and were very pleased by my son’s eerily accurate Trump impressions).

I have a rough rule: my undergrad students shouldn’t have to spend more than $75 on books for my classes: and, normally, it is much less (my large lecture class it is usually nothing). Philosophy is easy because we rely heavily on reading primary texts rather than textbooks, and most contemporary philosophy is done in journals not books, so we can put articles on the course page for downloading for free. My TA this semester has wisely requested that I insist that they print out papers to discuss in section (because of the no-laptop policy).

It must be so much more difficult in Economics. Because unfortunately a fantastic team of economists and communicators have not bothered to spend immense amounts of time in producing a stunningly valuable and well test, user-friendly, open access, online and free textbook with numerous curricular materials, underwritten by HM Treasury, The Bank of England, the Teagle Foundation, Azim Premji University, Science Po, the International Economics Association, Friends Provident Foundation, Santa Fe Institute, Open Society Foundations, UCL, the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the Nuffield Foundation. If some high powered team ever gets round to doing that, it will seriously mitigate the problem Laura’s written about. And Mankiw’s students will be able to decide for themselves whether, and how much, to donate to whichever charity they choose.

{ 43 comments }

1

Donald A. Coffin 01.27.18 at 4:40 pm

One of the worst aspects of college teaching, for me, was selecting and assigning textbooks. (I taught economics) The escalating prices made me wince, and the move to online study/supplemental material upset me (because students needed a code–available only with a new book–or a used book from which the access code had never been used) made things even more expensive. So I tried, insofar as possible, to use textbooks for which students could find used copies My school, by the way, practiced anarchy in the selection of textbooks–which was almost necessary because the economists couldn’t agree on a text. As it happens , I taught at a regional campus of aa major public institution, and many of my students had no home computer access, so even the early attempts at on-line textbooks weren’t really feasible.

I’ve looked at the textbook (and materials) to which Harry makes reference, and would be using it if I were still in the business.

At some point, in most disciplines (has anyone looked at the prices of anatomy & physiology textbooks lately? or science textbook generally?), the issue of textbook, or other course materials, costs is really going to have to be addressed.

Perhaps another reason I’m glad I’m retired…

2

Lee A. Arnold 01.27.18 at 6:21 pm

For visual learners I animated the introductory textbook chapters in a flow language. I have been doing this since 1983 and they are all lined up here. There are 56 videos in this playlist, all very short (the average is about 90 seconds).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f36Ia7ouE04&t=13s&index=1&list=PLCAE3CA6D964BFC8E

A subsequence on institutional economics starts at #33. The financial crash starts at #49.

Macro starts at #39 but here it is in its own playlist:

3

LFC 01.27.18 at 6:33 pm

Personally, with my students, given what I know about their circumstances and an eccentric attitude of respect, I wouldn’t feel great about donating money I had extracted from them to the charity of my choice, but, like so many students who pay full price for Mankiw’s codes, they are not Harvard students; maybe I’d feel differently if they were.

Prof Brighouse might “feel differently” if they were Harvard students because he thinks Harvard students are all overprivileged brats, whereas students at the Univ of Wisconsin-Madison are all exemplars of progressive virtue. Or something like that.

4

Peter Dorman 01.27.18 at 7:22 pm

There is much that is interesting and valuable about the CORE project Harry links to, but their group-written text would never work with my students or with the way I want to teach economics. First, the text is very theory-heavy and description-weak, not a good quality for students who walk into the classroom with little if any knowledge of the relevant institutions, policies or recent history. The authors also vary in the way they present all this theory. Some make an honest attempt to reach out to readers who are just getting their feet wet; others seem more concerned about how they will be viewed by their peers and demonstrate their cleverness by writing for the quickest students in the class. As far as I can tell, the authors were selected for their prominence as economic theorists (and their ties to INET), not their experience and skills as undergraduate teachers.

But the deeper problem is that, from a pedagogy perspective, CORE is cut from the same cloth as all the other books out there. It sees its mission as filling students’ minds with doctrine. There is no air. Theories are presented in a “this is how it is” manner, and examples are chosen so that students can see how perfectly the the theories work. Class time with such a text will be filled up with the instructor explaining the models so as many students as possible can pass the final exam, which will consist of variations on the theme of “can you identify, explain and apply the theories you’ve been taught this term?”

Of course, explaining models and expecting students to show proficiency with them is a necessary part of an undergraduate economics course, but it is only one piece. Becoming familiar with the context (institutions, history, etc.) is just as important. And above all, students need to develop their own powers of question-posing and -answering in complicated real world situations that seldom adhere to any particular model. In fact, there are multiple economic tools that can potentially be brought to bear in most contexts, and recognizing what they give and occlude is really the core skill, especially in the era of the internet. Those powers do not generally emerge spontaneously; they need to be actively taught (cultivated) by the instructor. That can’t be done if you’re spending all your time explaining how the algebra works in a clever toy model.

To get back to the OP after this long tangential excursion, yes, a free, online text would be wonderful in economics, but only if it is itself wonderful. I think there are other fields where this is the case too; statistics comes to mind, since I also teach it. And what about the rest? Is there a general pedagogy logjam out there, or is it only in my domain?

I gave a lot of thought to self-publishing my own textbooks for free online but decided not to because I couldn’t see a way to communicate the pedagogical change the books needed to do their job. (CORE at least has the support of INET, although INET’s plunge into on-the-ground pedagogy has occurred after its development of the CORE product and is disconnected from it.) Not that commercial publishing was any better.

I wonder if there’s a way to simultaneously solve the exhorbitant cost and crummy pedagogy problems.

5

Harry 01.27.18 at 8:59 pm

“‘Prof Brighouse might “feel differently” if they were Harvard students because he thinks Harvard students are all overprivileged brats, whereas students at the Univ of Wisconsin-Madison are all exemplars of progressive virtue.”

Just goes to show its a mistake to be sardonic on the internet I guess. Of course I wouldn’t feel differently if my students were Harvard students. Even if they were overprivileged brats (which the Harvard students I’ve met recently have been very far from being) I’d still feel that it was crass to take money I had extracted from them and give it to charity. I’m sorry I should have linked to Henry’s occasional skewering of Mankiw for requiring his students buy his overpriced textbook.

6

nastywoman 01.27.18 at 11:46 pm

”Of course I wouldn’t feel differently if my students were Harvard students.“

Oh please not – as nearly all of the Harvard students you ever meet will be ”overprivileged brats” and they even enjoyed it when you tell them –
AND! – IF somebody deserves to be overcharged for anything -(not only some textbooks but their whole education) it’s them, them, them – and I say that as an ”overprivileged brat” who never ever wanted to study at any ”University of Spoiled Children”.

7

engels 01.28.18 at 12:00 am

This kind of institutionalised low-level graft seems to pervade American petty bourgeois life. The best/worst example I came across recently was the ‘get out of jail free’ cards police officers have to give to family and friends
https://nypost.com/2018/01/21/police-union-slashes-number-of-get-out-of-jail-free-cards-issued/

8

engels 01.28.18 at 12:32 am

nearly all of the Harvard students you ever meet will be ”overprivileged brats” and they even enjoyed it when you tell them

…The wonks in training at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government will soon be subjected to a new and touchy-feely line of inquiry: Checking Your Privilege 101. In response to growing demand from student activists, administrators committed Friday to adding a session in power and privilege to its orientation program for incoming first-year students, according to student group HKS Speak Out. …

9

Donald A. Coffin 01.28.18 at 1:49 am

I did my PhD at an institution that encouraged faculty to write instructional materials of all types…but prohibited the (required) use of something written by a faulty member in a course taught by that faculty member. One of the economics profs wrote an intro text (which was OK for the time, but nothing special). We used McConnell. (It was 47 years ago…)

10

Plarry 01.28.18 at 2:24 am

Not terribly relevant to the point of this thread, but the first sentence in the quoted piece is a bit misleading. Ec10a is the most popular course among undergraduates, and the undergraduate enrollment was 627. The total enrollment was 633. The most popular class by total enrollment was CS50, which had 697 students enrolled altogether, although only 602 of them were undergraduates. Source.

11

harry b 01.28.18 at 3:07 am

The Kennedy School thing has to be a hoax, surely?

12

Tabasco 01.28.18 at 3:28 am

It is very simple these days for students to torrent textbooks. Payment of $200 or whatever for the latest version is strictly voluntary – unless the textbook is bundled with access to an online platform which students need to do their assignments and exams.

13

Mike Schilling 01.28.18 at 3:49 am

treacle tart

What is it with the British propensity for making food sound like medical waste?

14

Harry 01.28.18 at 3:59 am

One of them persists, charmingly, in referring to it as ‘trinkle tart’ which does sound better. Maybe.

15

Matt 01.28.18 at 9:03 am

When I took introductory economics many years ago, at a not at all prestigious university, the professor (a very good teacher) had no particular required text. He told people to just buy any intro to micro text they wanted or could find for not much money (perhaps with a year requirement) and that he’d cover what a normal class would cover, and would be glad to help people know what bits to read. It did help that at this university very large classes were an exception.

As for the status of students, I’ve no first-hand experience teaching Harvard students, but I can say that the Penn undergrads that I’ve taught were very largely hard working and very decent people. Some were “brats”, but not most, by any means. (Many, though probably not most, could not be called “over- privileged” except for the fact that they were students at a top university.) The stereotyping that sometimes goes on here is a bit unfortunate, really.

16

bad Jim 01.28.18 at 9:26 am

Now for something completely different, parts of which I may have shared before.

I was a junior at Berkeley, sharing an apartment in what was for me an unusually respectable neighborhood, and had just treated myself to a generous dose of LSD, when one of my roommates presented me with her copy of Paul Samuelson’s introductory textbook. I think I spent fifteen minutes laughing at the copyright notice (“stored in a retrieval system” was, practically speaking, a rather risible notion in 1971).

I spent the night reading it. It left me unsatisfied; so much so that when the next year the catalog offered an upper-division course for “mathematically sophisticated non-majors” I interpreted it as a sign from God, just like the notice years later in a book store window, “Slightly Dented Mars Globes, $8”.

17

nastywoman 01.28.18 at 11:09 am

@15
”The stereotyping that sometimes goes on here is a bit unfortunate, really.”

Not – ”really” as ”stereotyping” ourselves helps to ”check our own privileges” tremendously – see 8 engels -(”the humorless Marxist”)

18

engels 01.28.18 at 11:49 am

HARVARD COLLEGE has almost as many students from the nation’s top 0.1 percent highest-income families as from the bottom 20 percent. More than half of Harvard students come from the top 10 percent of the income distribution, and the vast majority—more than two-thirds—come from families in the top 20 percent.

It does look like the Kennedy School ‘check your privilege’ story may have got blown up somewhat by the media, as the update to the article says, but I have seen reliable reports of similar programmes elsewhere (although, pace NW, these seem to be concerned with losing the privilege ‘stigma’).

19

Monte Davis 01.28.18 at 5:04 pm

Poor Greg: where’s the love for noblesse oblige?

20

anon 01.28.18 at 6:24 pm

Thanks for the link Harry. And you too Lee.

21

Francis Spufford 01.28.18 at 6:39 pm

Mike Schilling @ 13:

‘Treacle tart’ sounds like medical waste, really? I’m not hearing it. I assume the problem is ‘treacle’ rather than ‘tart’, but if you’re a Brit it’s as impossible to hear trickling or vile fluids in the word as it would be for you to hear moles or anything butt-related in ‘molasses’. Treacle is thick, dark and childishly comforting; treacle has a sticky cultural pedigree, because of the treacle well in Alice; treacle comes in a beautiful red and gold tin with a picture of a lion on the side. Treacle tart is kind of gross, true, but only because it is excessive – basically, pure sugar syrup held together by a matrix of breadcrumbs and pastry.

22

Francis Spufford 01.28.18 at 6:39 pm

I really must learn how to close the italics tag.

23

engels 01.28.18 at 8:23 pm

Being a humourless Marxist isn’t a privilege, it’s a right

24

Harry 01.28.18 at 8:46 pm

The key to treacle tart is to cut the golden syrup with lemon juice. One large juicy lemon per 1 lb of syrup. Its still an exercise in excess, especially if your pastry is short, as it must be, but you can feel that at least that something other than fat sugar and wheat is in there. And it tastes fantastic. A tip I got from Jonathon Ross, interestingly.

Also multi grain breadcrumbs. Doesn’t effect the taste, but makes the texture more interesting.

25

Harry 01.28.18 at 8:49 pm

26

Skippy 01.28.18 at 9:23 pm

Looks to me like it’s $130 for everybody, not just Harvard students, no?

link: https://www.cengage.com/c/principles-of-macroeconomics-8e-mankiw/9781337096584

Cue some high dudgeon from Mankiw shortly, if that’s the case, one of his many skills.

27

Ingrid Robeyns 01.28.18 at 9:57 pm

an international colleague recently asked me about my experience publishing with Open Book Publishers – because he wants to write his own textbook, and make it compulsory reading for his students, but doesn’t think it is ethical to charge students for reading HIS book. They are already paying fees for his teaching, he reasons, so he can’t charge them again for his book. So he’s planning to publish his textbook open access, which should solve all these dirty problems about commercial and/or expensive books, isn’t it?

28

LFC 01.28.18 at 10:27 pm

@engels
At Univ of Wisconsin, it appears that 40 percent of students come from the top 20 percent of the income distribution (see link in next box). The student body is considerably more economically diverse than Harvard’s (and apparently than a lot of other places too), but it’s still far from anything approaching a representative snapshot or cross-section of the population. (Which is what one would expect, for a variety of reasons.)

29

LFC 01.28.18 at 10:36 pm

The data here seem to be from all Wisc. campuses combined (not just Madison):

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/college-mobility/university-of-wisconsin

30

bruce wilder 01.28.18 at 11:05 pm

Peter Dorman @ 4 says much of what I would about the quality of Core’s The Economy 1.0.

I read sections of Unit 7 The Firm and Its Customers about profit-maximizing pricing of differentiated goods and came away with the impression that the authors have failed themselves to master economics. They use the purported example of Apple-Cinnamon Cheerios to illustrate The Law of Demand, just as Paul Samuelson used Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ~50 years ago. It was bad then and it’s bad now.

If you are going to use real-world examples you have to do a better job of respecting the factual reality. You should not be pointing out the window and saying that the real world is anything like the simplest forms of the theory. It is like saying mountains are geometric cones or telling your geometry students to go look for isosceles triangles lying about in the garden.

The problem with the pedagogy is founded on basic confusion about what the theory can tell us. Economic theory assumes axiomatically that price varies inversely with quantity demand; ceteris paribus, an increase in price results in a decrease in quantity demanded. As an elemental relation, this makes sense. It is not, however, a fact in the world, or a logical constraint magically simplifying any complex situation. The theory does not tell us, a priori, that an increase in price will result in decreased demand for that good, in all cases, in any particular case or even most cases. The theory is useful for making sense of a complex situation; it is not useful to use theory like a blanket thrown over complex situations so that we can pretend they are simple in ways that they are not.

The authors go on and on about firm cost structures, and marginal cost and average cost and when the firm is able to survive, what is a market failure, apparently confusing themselves. If a firm enjoys increasing returns to scale and faces a downward sloping demand curve, the obvious thing to do is to price-discriminate: find ways to charge different consumers varying prices. If you are not giving your students a frontal lobotomy, you should go there directly and straightforwardly, and then you will have plenty of real-world examples, because that’s how pricing often works. Contrary to the text, many firms do indeed sell some product at less than average cost and prosper doing so.

Other sections prominently mention economic rent and rent-seeking as important explanatory factors but they do not make an appearance in Unit 7, at least as far as I could see. (I admittedly skimmed past parts.) Rents make it into Chapter headers a couple of Units later.

I hope other Units are better than Unit 7.

31

Tim at CORE 01.28.18 at 11:59 pm

Thanks Harry for shouting out CORE’s free online introductory text. Thanks too Peter Dorman for the comment, especially from someone we genuinely think is an outstanding economist, and is an undergraduate teacher who has thought deeply about how to improve the way economics is taught.

But! We think many of Peter’s assumptions about us were not correct (and maybe we can convince him to have another look at us while we’re at it):

> The authors were “selected for… their ties to INET”?

The Institute for New Economic Thinking had no role in selecting our authors. It provided initial funding for the project, but it hasn’t supported us in any way since 2016. INET didn’t manage the project, and it never told us what to write or who should write it.

> Authors were not selected for “their experience and skills as undergraduate teachers”?

The three lead authors identified on the back cover of the print book are all noted teachers of undergraduates. Two of them (Wendy Carlin and Samuel Bowles) have written previous undergrad textbooks. Many of our other authors volunteered precisely because they were frustrated with the existing texts that they were using to teach.

> CORE is “theory heavy and description weak”?

But *every unit* is introduced by a narrative account of a policy problem or historical episode. And …

> We are giving students little guidance on “institutions, policies, and recent history”?

Unit 1 is about “history’s hockey sticks”, 1000 years of growth of per capita gdp, with effects on environmental degradation and global inequality.
Unit 2 is about the industrial revolution.
Unit 3 is motivated by the last 100 years of trends in working hours and free time.
Unit 4 is about experimental methods to study real human behaviour.
Unit 5 starts off with 18th century pirates to introduce the problem of property, power and inequality …

… and there’s an entire unit on the macroeconomic history of the past century.

(We don’t do competitive markets until Unit 8.)

But most of all we’d disagree because hundreds of teachers around the world use our text in the way that Peter describes, to challenge and engage students to understand and debate the major problems facing humanity today, such as inequality, environmental sustainability, and the process of innovation and wealth creation (you can find the stories that some of them tell in the blog at http://core-econ.org).

32

Eric 01.29.18 at 2:32 am

One factor that bothers me, which you only touched on, was how little time the professors actually spend on those classes. Mankiw has a huge number of students (633). He gives only a few lectures leaving the rest to others and the sections taught by grad assistants. (In my undergraduate experience at another Ivy League school, I had one grad assistant admit he didn’t like teaching and didn’t want to be there.) And now Mankiw even doesn’t do any of the grading, having it done by the publisher of the textbook.

I was appalled one semester when I was going through some of the suggested test questions (I always make up my on but was curious to see what I thought the authors might consider important) for my Constitution class and discovered that the correct answer listed was actually wrong. I wrote the authors and they responded they had no input on the test material, that it was all contracted out to the publisher. No wonder most of the questions were inane.

I submit a lot of the real teaching in this country is being done in community colleges with classes rarely over 25 and where teachers actually know their students personally. Those teachers can take a student much further over the course of a year than at the high-priced schools. Students at the elite Ivy League schools could teach themselves and most of the money they spend is not for an education from well-known teachers but rather for the contacts they make. You can certainly get just as good an education at a community college for a lot less money. Only the contacts are missing.

33

LFC 01.29.18 at 12:42 pm

Eric @32

Community colleges are important and valuable, but the suggestion that they are the only places where teaching in small classes occurs is wrong. First, your comment ignores four-year liberal-arts colleges. Second, you take a 600-student course like Mankiw’s and imply it is typical of the course offerings at its institution, which it isn’t. If a student at Mankiw’s institution is determined to interact act w faculty and if he/she receives good advising — a big “if,” though it was probably even a bigger “if” 40 years ago — it is quite possible. Btw Mankiw’s institution and comparable ones offer a raft of freshman seminars, all of which are small and some of which are taught by senior faculty members.

H. Brighouse has spent a lot of time here blogging about pedagogy and his teaching methods. He teaches neither at a community college nor at an Ivy League school. Your comment, by counterposing these two categories as if they exhausted the field, is seriously misleading.

Lastly, your assertion about “contacts” contains a kernel of truth but is exaggerated.

34

Derek Bowman 01.29.18 at 2:48 pm

Harry,

Why are you concerned with giving students back your share of the royalties on the book they bought but not your share of the tuition they’re paying for your course?

I share your concern with the cost of student textbooks, and with not wanting to exploit students for your own financial gain. But the cost of textbooks pales in comparison to the cost of tuition.

35

Harry 01.29.18 at 5:53 pm

That’s a good question. Not sure I have a good answer. Teaching them is (part of) what they pay for. If I didn’t get a salary for that, I’d have to do a different job. (I am quite conscious of the fact that they are paying my salary, and I think that has some motivational effect on me. A student brought her dad to a talk I did last week in Palo Alto, and he joked that he thought that it was evidence that they were spending their tuition wisely).

Whereas writing books is part of that job, which I am paid for. What seems obnoxious about Mankiw’s behaviour (apart from only turning up to class 6 times a semester) is the job he is paid for as a way of extracting more income from the students taking his class. That’s what I don’t want to do. Now, I also don’t see why I should get any royalties at all (from any students) from books or articles I write in the course of my job. I do take the royalties though, and I could say that I offset them by paying for various things (like dinner) for some students, but it wouldn’t really be true because I would do that anyway.

36

Howard 01.30.18 at 8:22 am

With so many people complaining about the cost of books, I thought I’d put mine out there or free. It’s based on lecture notes of a one-semester course I taught long ago to professional students (MPA) on microeconomics (no macro) for public policy and management. I really tried to discard all the existing ideas of how to construct a textbook,and think hard about what the essential concepts were. (I can tell you that students who took it understood more and were more eager to use it than in the past.)

I have laboriously uploaded it to Google Doccs. The formatting got slighly screwed up, so it,s now very wide but perfectly readable. I’d really appreciate comments. I hope this isn’t a violation of CT policy, but it is, as I said, free.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTqFg0kpSb0P0Oxph2ctXS0jskIx6WX0o69THZIikyRWbHyMcqkO_dtEeHtqh_e-ALp2Wo_heX8bgUa/pub

37

Howard 01.30.18 at 8:26 am

One more thing. It’s not only free but very short, about 100 typed pages.

38

Vic Twente 01.30.18 at 6:08 pm

What’s really funny is, even with the insane markup and the being a required text at Republican state universities, Mankiw’s publisher still went bankrupt and he had to fight them for back royalties.

39

Vic Twente 01.30.18 at 6:11 pm

By the way, a lot of these texts have a “global edition”, printed in Malaysia and sold at very cheap prices. Assign your students that instead. Anyone complains, ask them why your students must be exploited by monopoly producers illegally enforcing segmented markets.

40

Derek Bowman 01.30.18 at 6:17 pm

Thanks for the reply. I agree with your assessment with Mankiw’s behavior, but I think it depends on the prior judgment that it is morally (or professionally) problematic to profit off of a textbook sold to any students in that manner and at that price point. Perhaps, however, this wrongness is further compounded by one’s obligations to one’s own students.

But if we assume it’s a good educational resource offered to students on fair terms, and that a professor is justified in being economically compensated for producing such a resource, I don’t think profiting off of assigning it to one’s own students is any more problematic than profiting off their tuition dollars.

Given your view that you shouldn’t get royalties, I wonder why you published with such a press rather than publishing as an open educational resource.

41

Vic Twente 01.31.18 at 1:20 am

Problem is, Mankiw’s textbook is not a good educational resource. It’s the kind of lowbrow lowest-common-denominator garbage that is taught from by underpaid sessional ABDs at third-rate departments in third-rate schools.

42

harry b 01.31.18 at 2:36 am

Well, for lots of the reasons discussed in CB’s thread. Basically, we want to influence how social scientists think, and want it to be used extensively in graduate programs. And I think we’ve a better chance of achieving that with a recognized press and a dynamic editor (who really believes in us).

I’m not sure that professors shouldn’t get any royalties. Just that they shouldn’t automatically get them; they should be treated like patents.

My royalties are so trivial it isn’t worth signing them over to my employer. I could gift them after the fact. But, just as I give to Oxfam etc rather than paying more taxes, even though I think taxes should be higher (and maybe they will be! I think I’m in an odd category of people who will pay more after the tax cuts), I spend royalties on undergraduate students rather than gifting them to the university.

I’m not making an argument, just describing what I do and how I think about it.

43

Moz of Yarramulla 01.31.18 at 9:59 pm

harry b@42: I’m not making an argument, just describing what I do and how I think about it.

Oh, I think you are making an argument, and one I agree with. The best way to say “I should pay more tax” is to pay that tax voluntarily. Or to put it another way, if you think the government should fund something but they don’t, fund it yourself. Viz, vote with your dollars.

The great thing about “voluntary taxation” is that you get more say than with the involuntary sort. The problem with that is the charismatic megafauna one: voluntary tax goes into random places based on odd criteria. But then you look at how government allocates tax revenue and… is my donation being driven by Sarah Mclachlan’s TV ad actually a worse system?

Where I struggle is with the competing needs argument: in Australia we desperately need more funding for a whole bunch of humans rights (first nations, refugees, public defenders etc), but at the same time if we don’t keep the ecology working those things stop mattering (hey #metoo, let’s fix that problem by making humans extinct). So me donating to the charismatic megafauna charities…. good or bad?

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