A Discussion of Chapter 1 “The World is Pretty Rich, But Once was Poor”

A globe on a table in a library
A globe on a table in a library

In my teaching and research, I keep coming back to the question of why an economy grows, with the hope of that knowledge helping those that don’t.

Dr. Deirdre McCloskey wrote a trilogy of books exploring this issue. While her degrees are in economics, her background spans far beyond and she has had professorships in history, English and communications.

Frustrated with the direction of economics in the 1980s at the University of Chicago, she commenced an interdisciplinary study of the humanities. When I read her writings I can see the depth and breadth of her knowledge.

A common criticism of…


A Discussion of “Morality and Spirituality: The missing link for economic development in the 21st century”.

A pair of hands in a prayer position on an open bible
A pair of hands in a prayer position on an open bible

Economists postulate that it takes good institutions (laws, regulations, morality, customs) to create the incentives needed to organize your factors of production (capital, labor, etc.) to produce a growing output (GDP per capita).

Kame and Tshaka (2015) were professors at the University of South Africa at the time of publication and were writing to the countries of southern Africa that the observable corruption and poor leadership plaguing them were not the root cause of the lack of economic development.

They asserted that “a decline in moral and spiritual values in society” were driving them toward “serious economic trouble.” (p. 1)


A Discussion of “Morality, Institutions and the Wealth of Nations: Some Lessons from ancient Greece”

Greek ruins
Greek ruins

When I teach macroeconomics, I know one question the students have is, “Why can’t we use all this economic knowledge to help poor countries grow?”

And the answer is, we can, to a point. But, really it goes beyond economics.

I use the Cowen and Tabarrok textbook in part because it has a great discussion on this very topic.

Essentially, a developing country needs a growing GDP per capita — GDP is the dollar amount of production of a country and per capita divides that…


A Discussion of “Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System”

I try to limit my exposure to the cesspool of viral “news” stories as they are happening. Looking back after the morass of half-truths and lies when things have settled and the truth can be seen is much more psychologically healthy. This is not a left/right thing because both sides do it.

A recent example hits on the topic I have been researching lately — exploring issues around our food production and consumption.

The Daily Mail got the ball rolling with a story that actually reported…


A Discussion of “The Historical Production (and Consumption) of Unsustainability”

an old picture of a steam engine train on a rickety old bridge
an old picture of a steam engine train on a rickety old bridge

My last couple of stories have examined the unsustainability of our diet,

…and an escape from the unsustainability of our agricultural practices.

Today, I want to examine unsustainability itself. I turn to an article published in The Hedgehog Review, an interdisciplinary academic journal focused on contemporary culture.

I must confess it is strange as an economist to read an article with no equations or statistics!

But the idea of sustainability is key, not only in the issues around diet and agriculture as covered above but also in many of my…


A discussion of “Why Regenerative Agriculture?”

bucolic picture of pastures with cows
bucolic picture of pastures with cows

Writing previously about the un-sustainability of our Western Dietary Pattern has inspired me to look more into how we got here today. We saw the WDP as the cheapest way to eat, but also the least healthy and the most damaging to the environment.

Has the market led us astray? Is this the natural outcome of our capitalist system?

In short, I would say no. The first thing in economics, when trying to understand an outcome is, to follow the incentives.

With agriculture, the market is far from free. Layers upon layers of government programs pushing the market towards producing…


A discussion of: “Global Sustainability (health, environment and monetary costs) of Three Dietary Patterns: Results from a Spanish Cohort (the SUN project)”

a sea of cookies and donuts with icing and sprinkles and candy
a sea of cookies and donuts with icing and sprinkles and candy

The CDC reports that over 40% of American adults are obese, which means a BMI of 30 or higher.

Now, we can argue about the BMI as a metric, but it does show that the number was 30% in 2000 and 40% in 2018. It is definitely capturing a trend, and a bad trend at that.

The CDC also points out the harm obesity causes.

Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of…


A discussion of “A Skeptic’s Guide to Modern Monetary Theory”

A sexy new economic theory appeared in the last few years promising us that government debt really is nothing to worry about.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) says a nation that spends, taxes and borrows in a fiat currency they control can spend as much as they need without worrying about becoming insolvent. Whatever amount of money is needed can be printed.

I dismissed it when I first heard of it because that sounded ludicrous — debt does not matter? The size of the money supply does not matter?

While it…


A Discussion of “Bridging the Teacher-Student Divide: A Multimedia Approach to Reach Digital Native Learners”

I like to think of ways to teach that will make the experience more engaging for both the students and myself.

The crux of the problem is the gap between teaching and learning. Me standing there saying things to you does not necessarily translate into you learning.

Holbrook and Lean (2020) are addressing this issue but also focusing on what they call a teacher-student divide due to technology.

Essentially, the college students of today have been called digital natives because the online world has been an extensive part of their lives growing up. …


A Discussion “The Social Responsibility of Business: Milton Friedman Reconsidered”

As an economics professor, I know I have some misconceptions to overcome every semester a new crop of students appear in my intro microeconomics course.

Economics is about greed. It is immoral. Capitalism is bad.

Elrick and Thies (2018) offer an example of these bad ideas being proliferated due to a bad headline incorrectly summing up Milton Friedman’s free market ideas. And over the years, that incorrect view has been tagged to anyone professing free market views in the vein of Friedman.

Adam Smith’s view of the Invisible Hand first…

Ellen Clardy, PhD

Professor of Economics at Houston Baptist University since 2010 — Want help with econ basics? Search Dr. Clardy on YouTube.

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