10 Jul 2010

A Sneak Peek at “Principles of Economics”

Shameless Self-Promotion 3 Comments

[The following was posted at the Mises blog.]

We have just added the finishing touches to the syllabus for Principles of Economics, the online Mises Academy class that I will be teaching which begins September 7, and which is open for enrollment now. You can click here to see a screenshot (If your browser automatically shrinks the image, click it to view it fully-sized). I think you will agree that this is going to be an exciting economics class. (And no, that’s not an oxymoron.)

The one thing missing from the syllabus is the links to various chunks of my soon-to-be-released book, Lessons for the Young Economist. The manuscript is done, and right now the graphics people are laying it out, inserting the artwork, etc. But Jeff Tucker reviewed the manuscript when he first saw it, and his praise actually made me blush.

Obviously, if you know students from about 7th through 10th grades, they are the ideal candidates for the book and accompanying class. But I suspect even older students–including grownups–would benefit as well. In all honesty, I learned some economics just writing the book. Richard Feynman once said that if physicists couldn’t teach something to undergraduates, then they didn’t really understand that phenomenon very well. In the same way, I had to fill in some gaps in my own understanding, in order to break down difficult concepts for junior high readers.

For example, when talking about methodological individualism (without using such intimidating vocabulary), I had to deal with things like people with multiple personalities. And when discussing the consequences of drug prohibition, I ended up explaining (in a footnote) why drug dealers couldn’t simply deposit their cash with a trusted third party to avoid shoot-outs during drug deals in parking garages. I had never worried about these details before, because economists typically discuss them at such a high-brow level that we breeze right through the mechanics.

Let me say a few words about the potential for the Mises Academy in general. At first this seemed like a great way to supplement the Mises Institute’s current activities, but the more it progresses, the more revolutionary and significant it becomes. Because of the economies of scale, a popular professor could actually make a living just teaching one of a standard selection of classes (on a rotating schedule) every four months.

At first this seemed like a good way for current faculty to make some extra dough, and for fans of the Institute to receive more specialized instruction than they could get just from reading Mises.org articles. But the implications are much deeper. The bigger the Academy grows, the more professors it can support. That means students who are now in high school and love Austrian economics, can pursue their dreams with much more job security.

In other words, it is still the case that a promising young person might shy away from pursuing a PhD in Austrian economics, because he or she doesn’t want to go into traditional academia. After all, there are only so many resident scholars that can live in Auburn, AL or the few other friendly places scattered across the world. Yet as the Academy grows, more and more people can actually support themselves by becoming world experts in Austrian economics (and related fields). For example, right now it would be incredibly risky to get a PhD in philosophy with a dissertation on Rothbardian ethics. But in five years, if the Academy takes off us we hope it will, that might not be so risky after all.

For those of you who like the idea of the online Academy, but aren’t sure if it will live up to its promise, here are some of the evaluations from my students from the business cycle class that wrapped up in June:

I thought this was an awesome class. Bob is THE MAN! Not only does he have an amazing understanding of economics – HE CAN TEACH as well. I once congratulated one of my professors for getting his doctorate while I was taking his class in college. I’ll never forget what he told me…. that any moron can take a test and get his doctorate – but what truly sets the great professors apart is the ability to TEACH and pass the knowledge on to the students. Bob has that gift and that is so important for those of us that want to learn. Most of us here are econ geeks so the material is not dry for us, but for those who are new – it’s easy to get lost in this stuff and become bored very quickly. Bob prevents that from ever happening with interesting lectures and well chosen assignments.

I loved the lectures and how open professor Murphy was with answering questions. He was able to switch from addressing introductory level questions to much more in depth questions without talking down to anyone or talking too much over anybody’s head.

The syllabus was amazing in how it progressed from the core principles of capital and monetary theory to the impact of an increase in genuine savings to the impact of a credit expansion to criticisms of ABCT to empirical evidence.

Murphy was fantastic in both lectures and Q&A. I’ve listened to and appreciated the presentations of many different lecturers in the audio library on mises.org. But those are generally conventional lectures with perhaps a short Q&A session at the end. Dr. Murphy’s clarity, candor, and focus were really showcased in the extended Q&A sessions after lectures and during the office hours. He is very precise in his use of language, thinks quickly, and gives complete and patient answers

“I love Dr. Murphy’s practical approach to teaching, the selection of reading, podcast, and PowerPoint materials were outstanding, the lectures were well-organized and conversational in tone, and the course itself was seamlessly integrated into a coherent whole. The online venue is also well-organized and easy to navigate.

At this moment, I am one course and one paper away from a master’s in _______ from ______ University. This is the only online _______ training program with full accreditation, and each 10-week class costs $1700.00. Yet not one of the classes I have taken in that program even remotely compares in quality to this class on the business cycle, though the latter costs only $255 (all materials included!). From literally every standpoint — quality of materials, teacher involvement and interaction with students, discussion forums, and use of multi-media, Mises wins hands down, and at a small fraction of the cost. I couldn’t be more satisfied. Thank you for a wonderful learning experience — seriously.

As a final thought, you should know that we are expecting a large demand for the Principles class. Although the Institute has the ability to handle a large student load, there is a technical upper limit because of the live video lectures. We are going to start promoting the class with a full-court press in about two weeks. If you (or a young person you have in mind) want to take part in September, I encourage you to register now and reserve your spot.

I hope to see you in September!

3 Responses to “A Sneak Peek at “Principles of Economics””

  1. david says:

    What I love abouit this sort of stuff is that the disintermediation of universities (and of their ability to define the “mainstream”) continues.

  2. Brian Bergfeld says:

    All right, my quote made the list! Thanks again for a great class, Dr. Murphy.

  3. Eli says:

    Get Joe Salerno to teach a class 😉

    I’m still waiting for Tom Wood’s class to begin in September. I may enroll in Principles of Economics as well.