Underrated Ideas in Economics

I and Anupam Manur had a lot of fun in a session we conducted for the Takshashila Institute yesterday. Credit to Anupam, it was his idea. And what an idea it was:

Come up with five weird/underrated ideas in economics each, and get the other person to respond to each. Have a bit of a discussion, and then have the participants take the discussion forward.

Here’s the list of ideas that we ran past each other (you may have to open the image in a new tab):

These notes were taken as we spoke, but they cover only a small part of the entire conversation, naturally. Alas, it was not a recorded session, and I cannot share it with you. But it was so much fun!

  1. Discussions work better than lectures. Anytime you want to host a session for students of any age, getting two people to argue in front of an audience is always better than getting one person to deliver a monologue.
  2. For at least me (and I suspect for Anupam as well), coming up with our five ideas was a lot of fun. It forced me to step back and think about economics and what I’ve been working on related to economic theory in a much more introspective fashion, and when is that ever a bad thing?
  3. We ended up agreeing with each other, alas! Why do I say “alas”, you ask?
    • Your arguments become far sharper when you have to defend them, particularly against a worthy “opponent”. If you want to learn better, find someone awesome to argue with.
    • The space for civil disagreement shrinks daily in front of our eyes, and I was hoping to get lots of it from Anupam. The noun (disagreement) is in plentiful supply everywhere we look, the adjective (civil) not so much, and the combination not at all.
    • Given what you know about a field, optimize for being surprised in conversations. Which means you should hear something counterintuitive in a discussion. Unfortunately for me (and for Anupam), both of us ended up picking points that may have been counterintuitive to others on the call, but not for the two of us. My personal lesson: think harder the next time around!
  4. More of these conversations need to happen, and more people need to see them. Not, to be perfectly clear, conversations necessarily involving me or Anupam in particular, but involving people who have some amount of expertise in a particular field (and said people are willing to talk, debate and discuss underrated ideas from said field). This is my favorite example.
  5. Let’s make more of these “debates” happen!

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