Core Econ: a free economics textbook
Today I want to tell you guys about core-econ.org, a free (although you do have to register) textbook my buddy Suresh Naidu is using this semester to teach out of and is also contributing to, along with a bunch of other economists.
It’s super cool, and I wish a class like that had been available when I was an undergrad. In fact I took an economics course at UC Berkeley and it was a bad experience – I couldn’t figure out why anyone would think that people behaved according to arbitrary mathematical rules. There was no discussion of whether the assumptions were valid, no data to back it up. I decided that anybody who kept going had to be either religious or willing to say anything for money.
Not much has changed, and that means that Econ 101 is a terrible gateway for the subject, letting in people who are mostly kind of weird. This is a shame because, later on in graduate level economics, there really is no reason to use toy models of society without argument and without data; the sky’s the limit when you get through the bullshit at the beginning. The goal of the Core Econ project is to give students a taste for the good stuff early; the subtitle on the webpage is teaching economics as if the last three decades happened.
What does that mean? Let’s take a look at the first few chapters of the curriculum (the full list is here):
- The capitalist revolution
- Innovation and the transition from stagnation to rapid growth
- Scarcity, work and progress
- Strategy, altruism and cooperation
- Property, contract and power
- The firm and its employees
- The firm and its customers
Once you register, you can download a given chapter in pdf form. So I did that for Chapter 6, The firm and its employees, and here’s a screenshot of the first page:
The chapter immediately dives into a discussion of Apple and Foxconn. Interesting! Topical! Like, it might actually help you understand the newspaper!! Can you imagine that?
The project is still in beta version, so give it some time to smooth out the rough edges, but I’m pretty excited about it already. It has super high production values and will squarely compete with the standard textbooks and curriculums, which is a good thing, both because it’s good stuff and because it’s free.