EC 12 First Assignment

EC 12, 2014-15: First Assignment (due November 30, 2014)

Please refer to the syllabus for reference material and readings.

Special note on plagiarism: You are free to use all sources, including Google and search engines, but you are not free to pretend that you found the answers by your own thinking if that is not the case. Thus, you need to show me from where you got the answers. If it is from your own thinking, you will have to demonstrate to the reader how you got to your conclusions.

For this assignment, the following items in the syllabus are particularly useful: the prologue chapter in Backhouse (pp. 1-9), and Deirdre McCloskey’s “Three-Minute” history of economic thought at

For this assignment, you are allowed to collaborate and work with each other. However, I do ask that you indicate this by noting that the answer was, for example, formulated jointly, with the names of the group members so indicated. It is also okay if all of you collaborate on all of the answers. Nonetheless, there will always be a somewhat higher grade, ceteris paribus, for individual work.

Please answer the following questions briefly.

Deadline is by November 30, 2014 thru e-mail back to me at, with copies to your classmates.

  1. Is economics a science? Why or why not? Hint: To answer this question, you must first define what a science is.
  2. What are the usual reasons for studying the history of economic thought? What are the usual reasons for not bothering to study the history of economic thought?
  3. If physics is also a science, should a physics student study the history of thought in physics? Typically, physicists don’t think much of such a study. Why or why not? (Hint: Does this mean there is a difference between economics and physics?)
  4. We define economics as the study of human choice. If humans change or evolve, will the “truths” of economics change, say, by the year 3013? Defend your answer.
  5. Ants appear to work together to solve an economic problem of survival. So do flocks of birds. Can you imagine an economics of (animal) choice? Would it be the same as economics? Why or why not?
  6. If the basic difference between humans and animals is “free will,” how then can economics be used to “predict”? After all, humans can choose not to behave according to the economic model. Explain your answer.

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