Ryan Griggs Comments on Episode 1

Friend of Crash Course Criticism and Austrian scholar, Ryan Griggs, has written his own critique of the first episode of Crash Course.

Something I had not considered, Ryan observed Mr. Clifford’s choice of words in calling scarcity and cost “assumptions”:

Let’s start at beginning. Jacob identifies two “assumptions” in economics, the first of which is “scarcity.”

Scarcity is not an assumption. Scarcity is a reality.

Men (and women) have unlimited ends and limited means with which to achieve those ends. These means are necessarily scarce. This is a fact of life, not an assumption.

Jacob’s second assumption is that “everything has a cost.” Well clearly, if means (including time) are scarce, then men must ordinally rank (1st, 2nd, 3rd…) the ends they would like to achieve in the order that they would like to achieve them. In other words, the individual must choose one end over another, over another, and so forth. The first end foregone (2nd ranked end) is the cost of obtaining the first-ranked end. Therefore, scarcity implies cost, because man must choose one end–instead of another–to achieve first. Therefore, cost is a fact of life too, not an assumption.

Ryan also details a subject I have only touched on, but not delved into: the classification of economics as a social vs. physical science.  He writes:

A famous economist writes, “it is a mistake to set up physics as a model and pattern for economic research” (Human Action, p. 6). The scientific method (verificationism) is appropriate for the physical sciences, because it’s subjects aren’t human. This sounds silly, but it’s implications are vast. Chemicals, electricity, rocks, and other elements of nature do not act. Humans are unique in that they are capable of cognition, identifying ends and ranking them according to their preferences. This fundamental distinction means that the method of study in the physical sciences is not appropriate for the social science of economics. After all, its subjects–humans–are inherently different than the subjects of the physical sciences.

Please read Ryan’s full post at his blog.

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