Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Preference Falsification in Teaching

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Abstract

Today’s macroeconomics courses are built around Solow and Romerstyle growth theories, and micro-founded equilibrium macro models of the ‘real business cycle’ variety. Hewing to a course description with such an intellectual structure is a derogation of my personal and professional views. This short, confessional note explores the activity of teaching what one does not believe, and argues this is preference falsification writ large. The act of teaching equilibrium business cycle theories to students who take these theories out into the world and act upon them there is, I believe, socially destructive. Yet many economists engage in this public activity contra their personal preferences. One solution is judicious use of the course description, in order that a broad church be maintained.