economist

Serially awesome Cambridge economics professor Ha-Joon Chang has written the world’s smallest economics textbook. 

It’s five key points, all of which are illustrated above; and most of which boil down to “economics is a discipline for the people, and to serve the people. It must be taken back from the political agents known as economists." 

Capitalism is an institution, like our public-school system or our healthcare system. As a nation we think it’s appropriate to debate whether our schools and our healthcare system are working properly and meeting our needs. Why is it taboo to ask whether the way we organize the production and distribution of goods and services is meeting our needs?
—  Richard Wolff, in an interview with The Sun Magazine
So the current [financial] crisis really began in the 1970s, when the wages stopped rising, but its effects were postponed for a generation by debt. By 2007, however, the American working class had accumulated a level of debt that was unsustainable. People could not make the payments. They were exhausted: exhausted financially, exhausted physically by all that work, and exhausted psychologically because the family had been torn apart by everyone working.
—  Richard Wolff
VACCINES are medical science’s nuclear weapons. Clean water and sewage disposal aside, they have saved more lives than any other public-health measure. Vaccines have wiped smallpox, a disease once dreaded by rich and poor alike, from the face of the Earth. They may soon do the same to polio. They have driven words like diphtheria and whooping cough from public discourse in rich countries, and might do the same for measles, mumps and rubella were it not for the vanity, selfishness or foolishness of a minority who will not immunise their children against these threats. They also offer the elderly protection, albeit imperfectly, against the lethal ravages of influenza.
—  The Economist. 2015.

(TitleThe American Association for the Advancement of Science; Onwards and upwards)

UChicago: An Economist’s Love Letter

By Basil H., UChicago ’15

Why should you attend UChicago?

As someone who intends to become an economist – and considering that UChicago is well-known for, among other things, its economics program – allow me to explain why UChicago is so great, from the perspective of an economist.

To an economist, you go to college for three reasons:

1)  College is for human capital accumulation

First, you go to college for “human capital accumulation.” By which I mean, you go to college to learn things: “human capital” is a fancy economics term for knowledge.

At UChicago, you will learn a lot. Perhaps most importantly, you will experience the famed Core curriculum. The Core is essential for providing an introduction to rigorous university-level thinking, which in many ways is entirely different ballgame from what is done in high school.

More than that, however, the Core also provides a shared experience both socially and intellectually. For instance, all first years register for a Humanities sequence, ensuring that whenever you meet another first year for the first time, you’re guaranteed to already have something in common to talk about. But the Core is also a shared intellectual journey. When you’re up talking philosophy with your housemates at 2am, and your roommate says, “Well, Adam Smith would argue…,” you’ll be able to think to yourself, “Hey, I know exactly what (s)he’s talking about,” since you’ve also read The Theory of Moral Sentiments or The Wealth of Nations.

For me, UChicago has been an intense academic boot camp, and I’ve come out of it extremely confident in my intellectual abilities. If you attend UChicago, you will accumulate a lot of human capital.

2)  College is a signaling mechanism

The second reason that economists see people going to college is that it acts as “signaling mechanism”. One of the most important reasons to go to college is simply to be able put it on your resume. A large chunk of academic economic research show that part of the financial return to higher education is being able to tell employers, “Hey, I graduated college.”

I don’t think I need to list here the stats on UChicago’s college ranking or our reputation for academic rigor and excellence; I’m sure you’re already aware. Suffice it to say that when employers see “University of Chicago” on your resume, they know exactly what that means.

3)  College is a consumption good

The third and final reason you go to college is that it is a “consumption good”. In other words, you derive intrinsic utility from it. Put even more simply: college is fun! And UChicago is lots and lots of fun.

If you attend an April prospective student overnight, this will quickly become clear to you. When I did my April overnight, I had the chance to meet current UChicago students who dispelled any concerns I had about finding fun at such a rigorous institution. Attending UChicago has been – without a single doubt in my mind – the four best and most fun years of my life.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is your fellow students. Everyone is super smart, super fun, and super exciting to be around. And if you have been accepted, it means that you are too!

Conclusion:

So that’s my economist’s argument for why you should attend UChicago. First, you go to college to accumulate human capital, i.e. you go to college to learn, and you will learn lots at UChicago. Second, college is a signaling mechanism to employers, and the UChicago brand sends an excellent signal. Third, college is a consumption good – it’s a lot of fun – and, if anything, UChicago is way too much fun.