I am nobody important.  My background is in wildlife biology and computer programming, not economics.  I certainly do not claim to be an expert.

That being said, I consider that my lack of formal training might be as much of an asset as a liability.  Many times people coming from different fields are able to provide insights that those trained in the field do not think of because they have been trained to think in a certain way.

I have taken several college level economic courses.  They did not teach me the points of view that I put forth in this blog.  I attended conservative land grant colleges in conservative states.  Montana State as an undergraduate, Colorado State for a Masters Degree and Purdue University in Indiana during three year of an aborted PhD program.  My economics professors were conservative and tended to the point of view that unregulated free-markets would always provide the best solution and I believed them at first.  In time, however, as I studied the scientific method and statistics, and spent a lot of time considering the question “What constitutes a valid conclusion?”,  I realized that there was a disconnect between the economics I had learned and believed and what I observed in the real world.

As an example, my economics professors at MSU were adherents to the principals of free-market environmentalism.  They believed that the best way to determine the optimal use of nearby Yellowstone National Park would be to sell it and let the free-market determine it.  They made a compelling argument with lots of graphs, math, and detailed analysis all premised on some common assumptions.  Still, I knew that some management activities such as logging and grazing were so drastic outside the park that the boundary could be seen from the space shuttle and I knew that if the park were sold those activities would be the ones paying the highest prices and the boundary would dissapear as the park were destroyed.  That left me with two possibilities.  Either A) my professors were right and the optimal purpose of Yellowstone National Park would be to clearcut it and graze it to provide a small amount of lumber and hamburgers or B) that something major was missing in my professors arguments.  Fortunately I also had some very smart friends with whom to discuss this issue and together we realized that some basic principals were ignored.  Incomplete knowledge, externalities, and the tendency for people to prioritize short-term personal gain over long-term benefits to society.  These things would almost invariably lead to a less than optimal result in a completely unregulated free-market.

This insight was the beginning of my interest in economics and the basis for the principals I discuss in this blog.  Although I do not claim to be an expert economist or current in the esoteric details of economic theory, I suggest that many economists get so hung up on those esoteric details that they miss the big picture.  All that knowledge and elegant differential equations are useless if the big picture is wrong.


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