Tuesday, February 5, 2019

econlife - Top Ten Ways to Sound Like an Economist by Elaine Schwartz


If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sound like an economist, please remember the following…and do send in your own suggestions.

Top Ten New Year’s Additions:

  • When you are at an AMC theater deciding among the 100+ selections in the Coke machine, you might worry about choice fatigue
  • Explaining the financial hardship experienced by a furloughed government worker during the shutdown, you can refer to negative externalities.
  • When asked why we have done nothing about Medicare’s trust fund running out in 2026, you can reply that Congress’s opportunity cost is too high.
  • Knowing that the Dow dropped 6% during the second year (2018) of the Trump presidency–its worst decline in a decade– you can ask if it was correlation or causation.


The Original Top Ten List

  1. Whatever the question, always answer, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
  2. Defend a decision by declaring, “It was worth the opportunity cost.”
  3. Whether you like or dislike government, point to, “The power of the market.”
  4. Explain a love of low prices with, “It’s the law of demand.
  5. Explain high prices with, “It’s the law of supply.
  6. Preface a position with, “on the one hand…but on the other…”
  7. Justify your Thai T-shirt, Japanese camera, and Sumatran coffee beans by repeating, comparative advantage, comparative advantage…”
  8. When asked, “How are we doing?” just cite the GDP, CPI, and S&P.
  9. Know that the size of the pie has nothing to do with food.
  10.  And finally, the most dependable way to “think economically” is to remember that, no matter what the topic, “It’s about the economy…”

Here is one I got from Kevin Denny (Thank you!):

  • To reject any inconvenient fact, “The econometric evidence is not clear on this.”

 Enjoy and Happy New Year!


Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.