The plutocracy has a dialogue with Occupy students at UC Davis
There is the problem of the relative levels of different types of earned income. Here we have the famous marginal productivity theory... The real wage of each type of labour is supposed to measure its marginal product to society. The salary of a professor of economics measures his contribution to society and the wage of a garbage collector measures his contribution. Of course this is a very comforting doctrine for professors of economics but I fear that once more the argument is circular. There is not any measure of marginal products except the wages themselves. In short, we have not got a theory of distribution. We have nothing to say on the subject which above all others occupies the minds of the people whom economics is supposed to enlighten.Ouch!
Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.I can hardly disagree, as this "bias" -- as expressed in all of the mainstream textbooks, not just Mankiw's -- was the central theme of our Economics Anti-Textbook, whose primary goal was to help students in such courses defend themselves against it.
Care in presenting an unbiased perspective on economics is particularly important for an introductory course of 700 students that nominally provides a sound foundation for further study in economics.But an "unbiased perspective on economics" is not possible, as we try to argue in the Anti-Textbook. Value judgments pervade everything and 'objectivity' is unattainable. Howard Zinn's comments about the impossibility of objectivity in studying history carry over here, for example. (For example, see his wonderful book The Politics of History, p.10. He writes "That the scholar has decided that he prefers peace to war does not require him to distort his facts... Our values should determine the questions we ask in scholarly inquiry, but not the answers.")
Harvard Republican Club Secretary Aditi Ghai ’14, who took the class last year, said she doesn’t think the class is biased. “The class is about pure economic efficiency. Ideology comes into play when we determine how to balance efficiency with social equity,” she said.But a decision to focus the course on "economic efficiency" is a value judgement in itself; it puts some questions to the fore; backgrounds others. Our values determine the questions we ask, as Zinn notes, and the questions we don't ask. In the Anti-Textbook (pp.208-210) we also argue that it doesn't make sense to think of "efficiency" as a primary social objective like equity is, although this student has, not surprisingly, been given the impression that it is.