Thursday, April 02, 2009

Suppose There Exists a Country Producing Two Goods...

The other day I was teaching the Law of Comparative Advantage to my Econ 102 class. Part of teaching this requires using a Production Possibility Frontier, which displays the production choices available to an imaginary country. This country can produce two goods, and only two goods. The classical example is guns and butter. The point is to demonstrate that societies face choices about what to produce; producing more of one thing requires giving up something else.

When I teach this, I always let my students decide what two goods the country produces. When I asked my students the other day, they sat around looking bored for a few moments (the class is at 8:00 A.M., so I suppose that's to be expected). Eventually one of them suggested "Olympic athletes". I altered that slightly to be "Olympic Athletic Entertainment", since it's a bit unclear if athletes are an input or an output.

They had a great deal of trouble coming up with the second good. I mentioned that when I first taught at this college, the students in my first class suggested that the goods be Prostitutes and Crack Cocaine. My current students thought this was funny. What did they therefore choose as the second good to be produced?

Cracked-out prostitutes.

Classy, eh? I guess they felt they had to one-up the previous class. It didn't occur to me at the time, but prostitutes, like athletes, are probably an input, not an output (the output being "prostitution services").

Of the things I will miss most about teaching here, I would include the following, from least missed to most:
3) Playing soccer with a great group of students, alumni, and other folks from nearby.
2) Teaching these fantastic students. They make class interesting, and they are able to maintain a sense of humor, even at 8:00 in the morning.
1) Hanging out with faculty and students and talking about economics. You know you're at a good school when students choose to sit next to you in the dining hall so that they can talk about economics outside the classroom.