Teaching economics is of course a balance act – the need to make students familiar with what is available in the poison cabinet of mainstream economics, and at the same time avoiding even during the short available time that anybody gets tempted by the captivating simplicity of the technical formulas (or repelled by the seeming neutrality). – Yes, Milton Friedman had been right, quoting about myths:
Someone once wrote, and I’m not sure who it was, that a myth is like an air mattress. There’s nothing in it but it’s wonderfully comfortable and deflation causes an uncomfortable jolt.
But there is another responsibility when it comes to the small print (if we may say so).
Somewhere, two test questions caught my attention. the one concerns “normal goods”, i.e. goods of superior quality, to be distinguished from “inferior goods”.
The question read like this – and the options for the reply are interesting:
Which of the following are normal goods?
• Sliced, white bread
• Tesco value baked beans• Caviar
Leaving the branding part aside, suggesting (implicitly) caviar as normal gives some answer to the question “who are the economists”? And if somebody remembers right now the lines about “preaching water, while drinking wine” from Heine’s Germay . A Winter’s Fairy Tale, it may not be by pure accident.
Another question, however, makes me thinking if this is justified. This one, see below (and again leaving the branding aside), reveals, that the understanding of good food did not necessarily arrive in those circles ….
Which of the following goods are substitutes for each other?
• Pizza and hamburgers
• Pie and chips
• Coke and Pepsi
• Salt and pepper• Bacon and eggs
Well, nobody is perfect and with such a small-print nobody and nothing will be …