THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 43, Fall 2012

William A. McEachern, Editor


  • Kenneth Boulding died twenty years ago at the age of 83. He was the first economist I ever heard in person. I was a high school student in Portsmouth, NH, and attended a visiting lecture given by the famous man with the silver mane at the University of New Hampshire in nearby Durham. I remember being surprised that he stuttered, but I realized he was making the best of it by trying to use his stutter for rhetorical effect. This was in the spring of 1963, at the height of fears about nuclear war, and he was talking about war and peace. The Thresher, a nuclear submarine built at the Portsmouth Shipyard, had sunk just weeks before off Cape Cod with all 129 souls lost. Boulding was asked how he thought the Cold War would turn out. He was optimistic, he said. When pressed for details, he paused then exclaimed with a stutter, "Ssssssssssssomething'll turn up!" Not a precise answer, but one I still remember vividly after nearly half a century. And, one could argue that Boulding was right—something did turn up to end the Cold War.

  • To the cynic, an economist is someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. I never liked that phrase. But what the economist can say is that, to the buyer, the marginal value must equal or exceed the price; otherwise, no sale. And, as it happens, the price itself is loaded with information, and people like knowing the price. What would the Antique Road Show be without that price estimate, that punctuation mark, at the end? I think the show would be much less engaging. A growing list of TV reality shows is very much about the price, from Pawn Stars, to Storage Wars to American Pickers, to an expanding list of housing shows, such as Curb Appeal, Househunters, Househunters International, Property Brothers, Property Virgins, Love It or List It, and, most recently, Buying and Selling. So if you know something about the price, come sit by me.

  • "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty. Where liberty dwells, there is my country." —Benjamin Franklin

  • "There is nothing so disturbing to one's well-being and judgment as to see a friend get rich."—Charles Kindleberger

  • "The Universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."—Eden Phillpotts (British author, poet, dramatist)

  • "Hateful is the teacher without patience." —Welsh proverb

  • "Ability is the poor man's wealth." —John Wooden