Rock Valley College

Book Group - Introduction

Introduction:  Who Wants to Be an Economist?

  1. From what you’ve read so far, why do you think the PAIC committee chose this book for the semester’s reading project?
  2. Before you read the beginning of this book, what were your thoughts, impressions, stereotypes, etc. about the subject of economics?  Can you relate at all with Yuan Yang’s experience, or something similar?  (cf. the opening lecture of an Oxford macroeconomics course in Chapter One).
  3. According to its origins in ancient Greece, what does the word “economics” actually mean?  Why is this particular definition important?  (cf. “chrematistics” in Chapter One).
  4. What is your response to Kate Raworth’s contention about economic growth?  She claims that impressive increases in life span, reduction in absolute poverty, etc. follow an economic model that is destroying the sources of all of our resources: the earth, and our social bond.
  5. Do you agree with economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich von Hayek (who were ideological opposites) that there shouldn’t be a Nobel Prize for economics?
  6. Kate Raworth mentions examples of the infiltration of economic language which supposedly gives more authority or scientific merit to a variety of concepts, such as patients and doctors recast as “customers and service-providers”.  Can you think of any other examples?
  7. Here is the rationale for the doughnut:  “What if we started economics not with its long-established theories but with humanity’s long-term goals?”  Do you agree with the long-term goals as visualized in the doughnut:  a social foundation of well-being that no one should fall below, and an ecological ceiling of planetary pressure that we should not go beyond?
  8. Quiz Time:  Please Discuss…

    PAIC Book Group Images Chapter One
  9. According to Kate Raworth, when nineteenth century British economist William Stanley Jevons drew a picture to illustrate “the law of demand”, he purposely drew it in a style that closely resembled…what?  And why is this important? 
  10. Paul Samuelson’s economics textbook (first edition 1947) relied on imagery that would suit what group of majors? Cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues that it is not enough just to rebut or even destroy a dominant framework; what else must you do to debunk it?  Can you think of other examples (like “tax relief”…”tax justice”)? 
  11. According to Kate Raworth, what advantage(s) do non-economists have over current economists?