Sunday, March 2, 2008

Are economists subject to diminishing returns?

Your economic history exam for the weekend.

Here are some questions to test your knowledge of the useful history of economic thought. Some of them are only slightly impossible. While answering these questions, keep the following simple points in mind:

-If you don.t know the answers, just make them up, but only if they are outrageous and difficult to check.
-It is alright to cheat flagrantly, but do not on any account repeat yourself. If you are caught doing either of these things, become aggressive and threaten legal action, while claiming that no one told you that stupidity is stupid.
-Your answers may be allusive, but certainly not affected (well, only slightly).
-Above all, remember at all times the economist’s motto: don’t allow facts to get in the way of a good story.

Attempt as many questions as possible until you fall asleep, indicating the time and place.

1. Was Say closer to Malthus than Ricardo was to Marshall? You may prevaricate noisily, but remain seated at all times.

2. Was Adam Smith as important as is generally thought? Feel no obligation to stick to the subject.

3. Could William Petty have counted on the support of AdamSmith? And if not, how often?

4. How many Irish economists does it take to change Galbraith’s mind? You are allowed to scoff knowingly.

5. Who invented Pareto optimality? If not, who did? And was it the best he could come up with?

6. Can economic laws be effectively policed? If so, what is the opportunity cost? (Carefully avoid mention of Robert Peel).

7. Why didn’t Ricardo invent Political Arithmetic? Was he constructing one of his many numerical examples at the time?

8. Are there any economic subjects you regard as too boring to mention? Yawn loudly, but politely, as you think of them.

9. Is it true that Mirabeau was a handsome but narcissistic Frenchman who kept looking at his own reflection? How does this reflect on the Physiocrats?

10. Discuss vaguely, paying special attention to rumours to the contrary, the suggestion that economists don’t know any better.

11. Cantillon was baked by his cook after an argument. What has this got to do with Economics?

12. Deplore the failure of effective demand. You may place an order for more paper at this point in the exam.

13. Stigmatise Malthus’s theory of population growth. How did he conceive it? And who put him up to it?

14.Why did J.S. Mill find so many questions unsettling? Did he neglect to revise before his final exams, or did he just have a nervous disposition?

15. Economics is full of stylised facts without theories and theories without facts. Is this a fact or a theory? If so, how would a linguistic philosopher answer this question? (You are only allowed to use .it ‘all depends on what you mean’ fifty three times).

16. Who was right, Malthus or Ricardo? If so, does it matter? And what if it did?

17. Expatiate briefly on the idea that the utility of the calculus to utilitarians is decreasing at the margin. What does it all add up to? And what is the greatest number? (Does it exceed xy?).

18. Can apples give rise to theories that bear fruit? Did Edgeworth say .’cor blimey’. when he stumbled across the core of an economy? And did it drive Marshall nuts?

19. Is Ricardo.s theory of rent any use to landlords? Restrict your answer to illegible scribble in the right hand margin of the exam script.

20. Be mercifully brief about the labour theory of value. Do adherents invariably measure prices properly?

21. Comment abrasively on the suggestion that you don.t know what you are talking about in your answers to questions 3(b) and 7(c).

22. Complain loudly that economics was ever invented. What should take its place?

23. If all economists were placed end-to-end, would it be an unstable equilibrium? Would there be multiple equilibria?

24. Why are Smith and Marshall generally referred to as Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall, while Jevons and Edgeworth are know merely by their last names? Only deep philosophical and politically correct answers are permitted to this question.

25. What does it mean in the end to say that ends can’t be distinguished from means, and would Robbins agree or even care?

26. Did Mill and Cairnes form a non-competing group, and if so, against whom?

27. Is it realistic to assume that economists don't care about the realism of assumptions? And is this an example?

28. Comment elliptically on the suggestion that if Keynes was a post-Keynesian then Ricardo was a Sraffian and Smith was a general equilibrium theorist, and pigs really can fly.

29. Are economists subject to diminishing returns? Be careful, as this might be a trick question.

Thanks to Gabriel

No comments: