Struggling Students

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    Hi Professor Herbener,

    I just wanted ask you what your advice would be to struggling students of economics, who I’m sure you must have had at certain times?

    For example if they have a bad memory, or have special needs, or no matter how hard they try, and because they are learning on their own without a teacher, they just cannot catch on to what is being explained to them because maybe it’s not being explained in a way they can understand or for some other reasons.

    Would you just simply tell them that maybe economics is just not their field and they should just give up and learn something else?



    If a person is motivated to learn economics, he should aspire to progress as far as his interest and ability can take him. As everyone is unique in his interest and ability, a wide range of progress in learning economics will exist among different persons. I think all of us who have devoted some time and effort to learning economics have found at each step that we have been able to learn more readily from some authors rather than others. Progress, then, depends on reading widely to discover the authors who speak most effectively to a person at each step in the process of his learning.

    Here are three introductory treatments of economics as a discipline:

    David Gordon, An Introduction to Economic Reasoning:

    Robert Murphy, Lessons for the Young Economist:

    Shawn Ritenour, Foundations of Economics:

    If introductory treatments are too advanced, try monographs that focus on a few economics truths:

    The classic is Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson:

    Another is The Incredible Bread Machine:


    It seems to me that language is the key to learning. Every field is as accessible as another if you learn the language. When you reach a new term or symbol write it down and look it up. Your memory will come with usage, talk to a friend or coworker about the things you learn even if they can’t offer you much in return, just saying it will help commit it to memory. Start a youtube channel and find people in the comments section to argue with about economics. The thrill of the argument should help you focus on particular elements to study so that you are prepared for the next argument and so on.

    Bob Murphy’s Lessons for the young economist is a breezy and fun read with a very simple to understand glossary. If you are passionate about economics keep at it, you don’t even need to be good at it to be successful (just watch bloomberg or most of the Nobel winners). It is not easy to learn on your own but it is so much more gratifying when you do. Good luck.

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