Does studying Economics or Utilitarianism promote selfishness?
Is it me-conomics or we-conomics?

Folk you know who studied Economics (compared to those who haven't) are:
More unscrupulous

llorarasylloraras, ForeverThinking
2 100%
Morally the same

0 0%
Better people

0 0%
2 votes

Does studying Economics or Utilitarianism promote selfishness?
llorarasylloraras
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Posted Jan 30, 2012 - 3:40 PM:
Subject: Does studying Economics or Utilitarianism promote selfishness?
I've heard from various sources the claim that studying Economics promotes selfishness and in general more bad behaviour (or at least, moral dispositions) than those who have never touched the subject. Having taken just two semesters on micro and macro Economics, it may not be too late for me - although for the purposes of the argument, studying Utilitarianism might have the same "pernicious" effects.

After all, as the reasoning runs, it is the way that Economics treats individual "rational choice" as axiomatic to human behaviour that leads to its students internalising the cost-benefit paradigm in their own lives. Although Utilitarianism insists that the cost-benefit to the wider society is what merits consideration, its not hard to see that someone can end up following the general precepts of the theory, albeit applying these uniquely to their own pleasures.

Here's one take on the idea:
harry-lewis.blogspot.com/20...of-studying-economics.html

And a sceptical approach:
schwitzsplinters.blogspot.c...ng-economics-make-you.html

As a piece of action philosophy, I'm adding a poll so if you have a reaction to this topic you can indicate whether it rings true of your acquaintances. To keep things clear, I'll pose the question of Economics and not Utilitarianism.

Personally, the question is interesting since I have stayed more or less away from Philosophy -- and even more so, Economics -- since finishing uni in 2007 - but I wonder if the indelible marks that I suspect they made on me were all for the best.

Brecht
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Posted Feb 3, 2012 - 12:06 AM:

I am curious, since you are in England, did you study pure Economics or PPE?

Personally, after being an Economics student for two years, I came to the conclusion that the whole discipline is bullshit. I am not certain what others have experienced, but my own experience with Economics has been that it consists in postulating assumptions then mathematically drawing out the various conclusions that would follow from these assumptions. This can be occasionally quite productive (I use the ideas of e.g. opportunity cost quite often in my daily decision making) but most of the time it leads to basically learning nothing.

By nothing I mean this: Spending your university time learning how one goes about mathematically defining ridiculous assumptions does not really amount to learning in a way that a really gives you insight into the Universe (like e.g. Physics). However, Economics majors -- often a bunch whom prefer McDonalds philosophizing -- get really taken in by their own assumptions.

So what happens with Economists is often this: I'm making Model X with the assumption people are rational. Now I am mathematically proving that everything turns out well. Look! Don't you see? People are rational and everything works out well! I now know with philosophical certainty that people are rational actors where everything works out well with no Government.

Voodoo defined mathematically is still voodoo.

ssu
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Posted Feb 3, 2012 - 7:05 AM:

Illorarasylloraras wrote:
Does studying Economics or Utilitarianism promote selfishness?
No.

Neither does studying psychology make you crazy. But if you work decades in an insane asylum...

Brecht wrote:
Personally, after being an Economics student for two years, I came to the conclusion that the whole discipline is bullshit. I am not certain what others have experienced, but my own experience with Economics has been that it consists in postulating assumptions then mathematically drawing out the various conclusions that would follow from these assumptions. This can be occasionally quite productive (I use the ideas of e.g. opportunity cost quite often in my daily decision making) but most of the time it leads to basically learning nothing.

By nothing I mean this: Spending your university time learning how one goes about mathematically defining ridiculous assumptions does not really amount to learning in a way that a really gives you insight into the Universe (like e.g. Physics). However, Economics majors -- often a bunch whom prefer McDonalds philosophizing -- get really taken in by their own assumptions.

So what happens with Economists is often this: I'm making Model X with the assumption people are rational. Now I am mathematically proving that everything turns out well. Look! Don't you see? People are rational and everything works out well! I now know with philosophical certainty that people are rational actors where everything works out well with no Government.

Voodoo defined mathematically is still voodoo.
You have seen the light.nod OK, it's not all bullshit but...

After years of studying economics as a major I changed my major to economic history: at least it talks about reality, real people and real economic decisions made. Of course, it was a incredibly stupid career move, but hell with careerism. Economists may occasionally say something reasonable about the economy, but when they are fixated with their obsession with mathematical obsession they are worthless. And usually the models are keeping them clueless what is truly happening around the world as the focus on their mathematical modelling of irrelevant details.
Brecht
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Posted Feb 3, 2012 - 11:11 AM:

ssu wrote:


After years of studying economics as a major I changed my major to economic history: at least it talks about reality, real people and real economic decisions made. Of course, it was a incredibly stupid career move, but hell with careerism.


Is this really the case? I always thought Economic History majors that went to a good university could get competitive jobs in consulting and occasionally finance.
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