Discussion Questions on Partha Dasgupta: Societal Well-Being and Democratic Government

Recommended Reading: Partha Dasgupta's "Economics: A Very Short Introduction"

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What I (try to) make my principals students read before class begins; Partha Dasgupta (2007): Economics: A Very Short Introduction http://amzn.to/2gR2jH3. Question: should I try to make my students in my other classes read it too?

Econ 2: Spring 2014: Why We Read Partha Dasgupta:

Me: Note: This is a game theorist's short introduction to economics. Its focus is on:

  • individual goals,
  • individual opportunities and constraints,
  • individual incentives,
  • strategies,
  • exchange,
  • trust, and
  • equilibrium outcomes.

It is, of course, greatly concerned with wealth and poverty--that is, after all, the point.

The point of the discipline of economics is to inquire into nature and causes of the wealth of nations. That's waht Dasgupta does. In this book, you won't find lots of practice figuring out how price and quantity change in response to demand shocks or calculating multipliers. What you will find is the logic and rationale for why figuring out how price and quantity change in response to demand shocks or calculating multipliers is a worthwhile thing to do.

Declan Trott: The extent of the market depends on trust:

There is a deep, coherent and insightful argument at the core of the book.... Wealth depends on the division of labour, and the division of labour is limited by the extent of the market. But the extent of the market is not limited only by transport and taxes. It is limited also by trust: by the rules and expectations that allow cooperation for mutual gain... trust... that most people will keep their word most of the time.... People must believe that the long-run benefits from successful cooperation outweigh the short-term gains from cheating. And they must believe that other people think the same.... Such calculations... restrict the number of people any individual can trust.... Markets... allow... much larger numbers of people to cooperate. But these large numbers cannot rely on personal ties, so establishing the necessary trust is much more difficult....

While... trust and its implications... is the key content of the book, other subjects... the history of economic growth... incentives and institutions in science and technology... sustainability and democratic decision-making.... The Very Short Introduction series is advertised as being for ‘anyone wanting a stimulating and accessible way into a new subject’. Stimulating, yes. Accessible? I am not so sure.... Partha Dasgupta... [aims at] his fellow Cambridge professors and their brightest students. And it is a shame, because the intellectual content of the book, combined with the Becky/Desta device, had the potential for a truly great and accessible introduction to economics.