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February 02, 2007


Interview with Prof. William Comanor on Economic Education

Interviewee: Prof. William S. Comanor (Professor, UCLA)

On 12/29 (12/28 in Pacific Standard Time), I interviewed Prof. Comanor, who had a lot to say about economic education based on his long-time teaching experience at various schools in the US and Canada. The following is a summary of my interview with Prof. Comanor.

Summary of Prof. Comanor's Interview.
First of all, economics is a “methodology” and not a “subject matter.” When you talk about teaching economics, people think that you are talking about the economy, and that is wrong. What distinguishes economics from sociology and other social sciences is not the subject matter but rather the methodology, which can apply to any situation with scarce resources.
Second, economics emphasizes the fact that all decisions are taken under constraints. Most people tend to think that for good decisions all we need to do is think about what you want to achieve. That misses the methodology we economist use to determine optimal decisions.
In economic education, students should be taught the fact that all decisions require identification of the constraints as well as the objectives. In a more concrete terms, they should be aware of realistic constraints, whether in daily living or in future career.
In daily living, they first have to decide how much budge they have. However, all constraints are not monetary constraints. Some constraints are imposed by other people like their parents.
For their future career, students should identify their objectives for sure. But again, that is not sufficient. Just “follow your dream” could be unbelievable non-sense, unless constraints are taken into account.
Economics can tell you these important aspects of decision making, whether it is about your daily living or about your future career. I am startled by how little that is appreciated.

For a Japanese version of this report, see the following: