Got an Economics Question?

The Internet, television, and magazines or newspapers are full of features concerning economics. So is Amateur Economists. The gamut runs from economic philosophy to politics to econometrics and more.

Readers have many questions. Undoubtedly, you will too.

I’ve always subscribed to the maxim that the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask.

Here’s your chance to prove that you’re not stupid. Ask me.

There are, of course, a few guidelines. Fortunately, you won’t find too many.

Obviously, I want to answer questions about economics, not why the sky is blue.

Of course, I don’t want porn, filth, smut, or anything that our editorial staff or readers will find offensive. Go visit the millions of sites where those things are acceptable.

Try to keep your questions to a sentence or two. Please don’t try to write a question the length of James Joyce’s novels.

I’m not afraid of controversial questions. Just make sure they deal with the economics of an issue.

If you’ve been following the economic talks of the various political candidates during this election year, you should find tons of questions that the normal media doesn’t ask.

Do you have a pet peeve in economics? Maybe I can find an answer for you.

Ever wondered why we grow enough food to feed everyone in this world, yet we don’t? The answer may surprise you.

What’s so “dismal” about the “dismal science”? Nothing, if you know who first coined the phrase.

Do you have to believe in economics even if you’re not a card-carrying capitalist? You bet! Marx or Lenin or Chairman Mao all dealt with the issue in their own way.

My favorite question? What is a widget, anyway?

As the saying goes, if you laid all the economists end to end, they would never reach a conclusion. So it may be with Amateur Economists. Chances are your questions will lead to a lively, stimulating debate. The questions are yours. The answers come back from a real person, not a preprogrammed computer format. Come back often to see how No Widgets Here answered your question.


Stephan Zimmermann is former department chair for economics and taught at various colleges and universities at both graduate and undergraduate levels. He was also a private economic consultant for firms ranging from entrepreneurial ventures to multinationals. Stephan studied at the University of California at Berkeley, Cambridge University, and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He is currently retired and devotes his time to writing both fiction and nonfiction.

Submit your questions in the comments area.

22 comments to Got an Economics Question?

  • mjh

    I am confused by people like Paul Krugman, and many of the left leaning economists. They seem to say that markets are good, but let’s use the government instead.

    How is it that economists from Harvard, Chicago or George Mason all make radically different policy recommendations, yet are still all studying economics?

  • I think it’s amazing (and confusing) too how there are many conflicting theories in economics that are all considered to be correct. It’s also the source of the controversy behind the Nobel Prize in Economics.

  • Much of your confusion stems not from economics itself, but from an outlook on the nature of people. If Krugman prefers to have the government take a leading role over the marketplace, it shows a penchant for a protectionist government, as opposed to a competitive self-reliance. The facts of most economic princples don’t change, but the application certainly does.

  • mjh

    Thanks for the answer, but it’s pretty unsatisfying. It seems odd to me that Krugman (et al) make policy recommendations that the government allocate resources, when economics principles say that markets produce a much more efficient allocation of resources than a government.

    I understand that they have such a penchant. My favorite color is blue. But if I were studying a topic that identified the dangers associated with looking at blue, the last thing I’d do is advocate painting more things blue. How can such penchants exist given what they’re studying?

  • mjh: You seem to subscribe to the classical economic assumption that “efficiency” is the sole criterion for judging economic performance. In a limited perspective, that may be true. Yet that does not change the fact that people’s values change over time.

    If economics were a factual science, and if efficiency were the sole criterion, you might well say that Krugman is “wrong” as you would in a science lab in chemistry if a particular reaction does not occur, given the proper inputs.

    However, economics is much more than mathematics. True, it is (almost) always true that a supply or demand curve behave in particular predictable mathematical ways. Yet, you seem to be forgetting one of the key foundations of classical economics: “everything being equal..”

    Efficiency may be regarded as a paramount goal for more traditional economics, yet begs the question of social values, priorities, choices, etc. All of these can be interpreted in many different ways, Your judgment of Klugman sound more normative than positive to me. That, in itself, is a human trait over which we, as individuals, can have absolute choice (again, ceteris paribus) if we have freedom instead of totalitarianism.

    If Klugman did not represent the views of a substantial readership, and if efficiency were the be-all-and end-all of of economics, then people would stop reading him, he would fail to contribute to the profitability of his columns, books, etc. and, following classical principles, he would eventually cease to write.

    If you believe that he and other writers are “wrong” than you must state your assumptions, going back to philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc.

  • [...] you would like Stephan to answer your economics question, read his post “Got an Economics Question?” and submit your questions in the comments area there. addthis_pub = ‘anthonyl’; addthis_logo [...]

  • mjh

    I don’t believe Krugman is wrong. I don’t know how to interpret him. He seems at odds with the topic he studies.

  • [...] at both graduate and undergraduate levels. Send your questions to Stephan by reading his post “Got an Economics Question?” and submit your questions in the comments section [...]

  • [...] the first week of Amateur Economists, MJH raised the very real question of why there are such enormous differences and contradiction between e…. “I am confused by people like Paul Krugman, and many of the left leaning economists. They [...]

  • mlb

    I may be a little late for this, but if not here’s a question- actually a couple;-)

    Looking around, it seems to me as if one of the greatest economic problems is one of distribution: on the one hand a few own the majority of the resources, while on the other there are large numbers of people who do not have enough to get by. To read the newspapers, however, one would think the only issue economics concerns itself with is growth. If the economy is growing fast enough everything is supposed to be well, but if the rate of growth slows down economists worry. Why are economists more concerned with growth than distribution? Is it simply a matter of who they work for? Why shouldn’t money and resources be able to flow adequately to where they are needed if the economy is not expanding?

  • mlb: You’re absolutely right. It’s not lack of food production, but distribution that is responsible for regional hunger and starvation.

    Please see my thoughts about this very subject in “We Grow Enough Food To Feed EveryoneIn This World, So Why Don’t We?”

  • mlb

    Thanks a lot for your reply. I would like to read your article, but I can’t find it. Do you have a link?

    Thanks, mlb

  • mlb: My two-part article will be on Amateur Economists within the next several days.

  • [...] asks: “Looking around, it seems to me as if one of the greatest economic problems is one of [...]

  • [...] levels. Read his full bio at and submit your economics-related questions to his post “Got an Economics Question?” world hunger, agriculture, world economy, economics, politics, government, current affairs, [...]

  • Chris

    Is there a dominant economic worldview in the Western society? If so, what is it? If not, what worldviews are the most popular/employed? Thanks.

  • If we consider the European economic world post-Adam Smith, then the majority of those principles seem to be based on a perspective of “scientific” models.. The specific, Christian based priciples both then and now seem to posit that economic man is
    a rational, self-centered, perfectly informed individual who wants wealth and avoids unnecessary labor.

    From this spring concepts such as “rational expectations,” “maximization” etc.

    Since, with few exeptions, the “science” of western economists is dominated by Europeans, it makes key assumptions about the nature of mankind.

    See more discussion of this issue in my next blog,

  • I have a question: what is the difference between the Austrian business cycle theory and monetarism, and which one do you think is a more accurate description of how the economy works?

  • [...] Home » Blogs » Monetarism or the Austrian School: Which Is More Effective? No Widgets Here Monetarism or the Austrian School: Which Is More Effective? October 14, 2008 by Stephan Zimmermann sr_adspace_id = 4730607; sr_adspace_width = 300; sr_adspace_height = 250; sr_adspace_type = “graphic”; sr_ad_new_window = true; At a most appropriate time, Sukrit asks: [...]

  • A. Mironko

    It is a society of greed that spoiled the fun regardless if it is free market of centrally governed economy.

    For about two decades with a brief drops, now and then, the economy was doing well; at least we thought so. We were all for free market economy.

    Collapse of credit and real estate markets brought most of individuals, families, corporations and even countries to their knees – all participants. Now the slump is so deep that even government will not be able to solve it alone. If we continue that way China will own the USA.

    Besides all of that, the “wall street” crowd still basks in cash bonuses courtesy of taxpayers to whom they do not give loans anymore. “Good” supervision/regulation by government of a financial “players”. Now the same governments that ’snoozed at the switch” pretend to know how to solve it?

    The vicious circle will perpetuate itself – rich are getting richer while poor are getting poorer – regardless of the rules, free market economy or centrally governed one. Nothing has nor will change, only perceptions.

  • New York

    * Socialism = Preventing Race to the Bottom
    * Capitalism = Promoting Race to the Top

    We need BOTH Socialism and Capitalism (either implicitly or indirectly) to build and sustain a great Nation.

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