What my economics module taught me
After finishing and submitting my last assignment today, I have put together this blog that has been a lot of fun. I had never anticipated that a rushed decision to pick an economics module would bring so much fun and joy and enable me to learn so much.
So, here I begin! …
1. Economists are not bad people haha. They are people who like to do kindness with wisdom. They like to quantify the value of things and then try to maximise the efficiency. They’re not heartless people who only care about pumping up their GDP numbers (as I always thought) but actually greatly consider societal implications of their decisions as well as the philosophical elements of their aims and policies
2. They define everything “social”. Economics is a social science and I feel like I better understand what that means now. They define little things like what kinds of values we can get out of things (direct, indirect, option, existence etc.). They consider risks, and ways of maximising efficiency and sustainability as well. Like very small things that you wouldn’t bother to mention because you’d take it as a given, they’d care to define and I quite like that now. Easy to rule something out as “obvious” but by giving every word equal importance, they do a good job at solving the problems of the world of economics
3. They do the maths. It is not all essays and playing with the words as I had thought. I did this somewhat in my project proposal lol and indeed the feedback was that some numbers are required. This world is complex, and so are the societies but these people don’t still just play wordy games but really use maths to their advantage to make sure their decisions are, whilst being as fair as possible, also backed up scientifically
4. These people are very good at thinking about how societies work. This was indeed the hardest part; to think like economists. They’re very good at understanding how societies work and are much quicker at thinking about the various factors that could affect x or y. In my case, this would work with a transition metal complex, we can sit down and discuss all sorts of things in terms of, for example, their coordination chemistry but it was hard thinking about little things about society. Easy to sit with mates and moan about the economy but only when you study it do you realise what a tough business it is to manage one
5. They do think about money a lot; but a bit like we chemists think about the mole. Money is not their ultimate goal but instead only a basis for them to compare values lool. This was such a shock when I found out that money is a thing they use to compare objects because how else are you able to compare the value of Dairy Milk with Toblerone? There’s got to be a common unit of measure that you can use
6. Just like in chemistry, they have their formulae to remember and many theories and policies etc. but it also comes down to the personal interpretations of the economists. Whilst numbers may be telling you one thing, there are other elements that come into play when it comes to implementing policies like the competition between efficiency and sustainability or an approach may be mathematically wise but ethically unfair. It was wonderful to be doing a module where my opinion mattered otherwise, imagine standing in the lab moaning your crystals turned out yellow rather than purple. The experiment truly DOES NOT care about your sentiments
7. They write very long papers. Like, very long papers. I love the chemists for this. I have read so many papers be it as part of lectures or for reports etc and they are so quick and digestible. The chemistry may be difficult (it really is!) but the papers respect the readers’ time
8. They love using big words and abbreviations (a bit like chemists here). Big words don’t necessarily form a part of chemistry; our aim is always to be very concise and straightforward about what we’re talking about. It may be that the economists try the same but accidently end up using large words and convoluted sentences. First week was stress and I thought I would never understand them but it slowly got better
9. They love their triangles. There is a random triangle somewhere showing you the deadweight loss or some other form of tax and then there is the Pareto optimal that is something I love to say because it sounds really cool, like Pareto optimal, so cool. These graphs were tough and I did have to ask for help with these and spend some time online trying to make sense of what these legends i.e. economists mean when they say WTP – willingness to pay; don’t laugh guys
Aside all the banter and jokes, I will only say that after doing the module, I only respect this field more. Whether I pass the environmental economics module or not is a discussion for another day but I am very happy that I even chose to do the module and certainly feel better informed about the approach of economists when they tackle the problems of society.
It was greatly helpful knowing some economists as you can ask them for help if you struggle. I greatly enjoyed my time in lectures as well as often they made you think so much and I enjoyed using a little bit of my brain thinking deeply about something other than chemistry. We don’t have seminars in chemistry and therefore I was naturally looking forward to them and they were just what I had pictured – small groups engaged in intellectually rewarding conversations. I may be an introvert very quiet but nothing is more fulfilling than sitting down in a room and listening to so many interesting points being raised and people coming up with wonderful questions and suggestions and the lecturer there to facilitate the discussion and of course I contributed! I did several times and I absolutely loved both listening and sharing.
I also had to do a group presentation and even here my friends came to my rescue. Delivering it was so much fun since I feel very passionately about the environment therefore I felt like I could relate and knew about the topic and think I spoke well and we got a good mark for the presentation too so this is another skill that I got to develop alongside and especially with presentations and public speaking, you can only get better by doing more and more of these.
Finally a special mention that the lecturers were wonderful!!! I cannot emphasise enough how my experience with this module and the department was made even better by the lecturers. It was truly wonderful.
This blog is more about what I learned but I only did a 15 CATS worth of a module therefore it would be a statistical disaster to say that I am 100% convinced that economics is what I have written in this blog. It could be something completely different or something greatly similar. This blog is about what I took away from the module other than lots of environmental economics and if you’re an economist who agrees/ disagrees with anything I’ve written above, please do share your thoughts in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you! 🙂