August, 2010

Teaching Economics, Appreciating Spontaneous Order, and Economics as a Public Science

  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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James M. Buchanan has argued that the primary role that the economist plays in society is a pedagogical one. The job of the economists is to teach students the principles of economics, most notably an understanding of spontaneous order and the role of the price system in generating that order within the market. The didactic purpose is simply to teach students so they may in fact become informed participants within the democratic process of collective choice. It is in our job as teachers of the basic principles of economic science, and not as pure researchers, let alone as policy experts who act as saviors, that justifies the public expenditure on the discipline. Economics to Buchanan is a ‘prophylactic against popular fallacies’ and not a tool of social control.