The prime reason I learned German in high school was because it was compulsory. The second reason was the opportunity to break down the communication barrier with over 80 million people. It was only after I travelled to Germany after high school that I realised hundreds of millions of foreign students learn English for the same reason. Ever since, I’ve wondered about the value of those years of German classes, other than boosting my high school marks. Obviously there are monetary benefits through better employment opportunities. However, there are also monetary opportunity costs – how much would one earn had they taken up chemistry instead, or simply spent the time working? Learning a language also presents a myriad of intangible and some perhaps unexpected benefits, and costs. So what is the overall value of learning a second language?
Every Victorian knows who Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin is, who Nathan Buckley is, and who James Hird is. Even non-supporters know these names, because AFL is so ingrained in Victorian culture and lifestyle that is almost impossible to avoid them. However if you ask an average Victorian who James Horwill is, there is a good chance that you will be given a blank expression as a response.
It is no startling revelation that people of the modern age are larger than their counterparts from only a few decades ago, and I’m not talking vertically. Cutely chubby, big-boned, and pleasantly plump – there is certainly no shortage of terms we use to describe the surge of our waist sizes and pot bellies.
Good choice! What caused you to click through though? Was it a conscious decision? Also, if you think it was an intentionally conceived action, how do you actually know?
While you may not have spent several minutes comprehensively analysing the costs and benefits of reading this article in order to make an entirely rational choice, there was, if only subliminally, some form of decision-making process behind your decision.
Economists analyse the oft-quoted remark on the ironic significance of names in the famous soliloquy “What’s in a name … a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. This is a poetic illustration of the argument that it is not the name of things that matter but rather what they actually are. Whilst it is true that a rose would emit the same volatilised chemical compounds if it were named something else this does not necessarily mean names do not matter.
Take the labour market for instance. Would equally qualified employees with different names receive the same or different treatment when applying for jobs? Furthermore, does this mean there are economic costs and benefits associated with certain names?
In The Batman Handbook, Scott Beatty sagely advises that to be as good a crime fighter as the world’s greatest detective, you need to ‘Learn everything you can in every discipline, no matter how obscure’. His list of essential subjects, however, does not include economics. This is a tragic oversight, not just because I’m saddened to hear that Batman might not have learned economic theory, but because economics suggests that Batman himself is not the solution to Gotham’s crime problem. Why? Three reasons.
By Collin Li
When an economic debate descends into something along the lines of “the economy exists in order to benefit the people – not the other way around,” you should reply:
But what is an economy other than many millions of people interacting daily?
Let’s not understate the reach and application of economics – it infects every facet of society.
(By definition in economics, individuals in a marketplace trade according to their “utility” – a term used to capture the personal values of each individual, thus allowing the individuals to maximise their well-being in the marketplace.)