the Resource section, we have included several interviews with hopes that
these dialogues can bring you closer to "what
economists do." As we mentioned earlier in the "What
is Economics?" section, economics is a broad range of fields, and
many people do it for a living! The interviews are with teaching fellows
and economists who teach economics on the college level.
like to thank everyone we interviewed for setting aside time in their busy
schedules to do these interviews with us. Without you, this part of this
would not have been possible. It was truly and enlightening experience to
speak with each of you!
Watson is the Head Teaching Fellow of Social Analysis
10 (Principles of Economics) at Harvard College, and economic tutor at
interview was done by YiDing in February, 2004.
do you teach at Harvard? Could you briefly describe the material?
teach Ec 10 (Social Analysis 10), Principles of Economics, a
beginning economics college class. It provides a basic framework
of analysis for economics: how to think about and analyze the
did you become interested in what you do today?
was always interested in things like the stock market, companies,
why they grow, how they figured out strategy, all that stuff. When
I was young, I wondered about the way companies work and what they
do. Economics provides the structured, rigourous framework to
investigate such questions."
concept of "economy" is often hard to grasp. In simple
terms, what is the economy to you?
economy is the sum total of all activities through which people
provide themselves with goods and services."
you think studying economics is important? Who should, and why?
Economics is important because it is empowering. Knowledge is
power. It gives you a framework to analyze a really significant
chunk of the world. For example, why your father was laid off, or
what are your job prospects. It's also a means to think about your
citizenship in society in terms of decision-making in government
policy. You need to be informed to make good decisions."
you give a recent example of how economics has affected the world
rates is a good example. They've steadily fallen in the last
several years, so it's a lot easier for kids to buy a car. Loans
don't cost nearly as much!"
places special importance in trading. Why is it so important?
is the means by which we can get ride of things we have and don't
want, and get what we want, but don't have. It's the idea of
comparative advantage. For example, Michael Jordon may make
millions playing basketball, but he probably couldn't build a
computer. He can do what he's good at, and use that money to
"trade" for a computer that some other
"specialist" makes. Otherwise, even Jordon wouldn't have
has trade impacted the world today?
We can consue goods and services that without trade, there would
be no way we could consume. Every time you eat a banana, drive a
Toyota, use a Dell computer, you are consuming something made
elsewhere. (Many Dells are built in Taiwan.) Trade provides a
vastly larger, richer array of products than if people relied just
you give an example of how globalization has affected the world?
Is it a good thing?
evidence has lead to the conclusion that globalization is good.
Economic growth is so important. It's a matter of life and death
for a lot of people in the world. Whether or not their countries
grow is critical. East Asian economies, Taiwan, Singapore, etc.,
started incredibly poor around the 1950s, but after growing 50
years at a high rate, their people have higher standards of
living, eradicated common diseases, and live longer, healthier
lives. All this is due to economic growth, of which globalization
has been instrumental."
you could give today's youth one piece of advice, what would it
for yourself on all issues, particularly economic issues, and not
be influenced by what everybody else thinks. Don't blindly follow
fashion in terms of what you think. Be curious about the way the
world works. To understand it is to acquire power."