William Watson: The main benefit of reading the classics—humility

Another September, another set of classes. This fall, as for the last few falls, I’m teaching the history of economic thought. I usually start off by asking the class—20 of them in the first session this week, we’ll see how many come back for the second—why we should read Aristotle, Aquinas, Cantillon, Smith, Ricardo, Keynes, Hayek and so on.One reason that gets a sure laugh from students is that history of thought isn’t econometrics. In our program, students choose between history of thought and a second term of econometrics. (Everybody takes one term of econometrics, after a year of stats.)

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