(Subject line is a modified version of a Picasso quote.)
At least, that's the message behind this article which appeared in the NY Times today by Motoko Rich, titled "Fairies, Witches and Supply and Demand" (if you have run out of your 20 articles this month, try typing the article title into a Google search or getting a service such as "NYTClean"). Rich gives many interesting examples, and all it would take is some clever adaptations in order to distill these stories into educational content for first year undergraduates.
Near the end of the article, Rich confronts the obvious question: why is it so much more difficult to find children's textbooks espousing the excitement of competition and market exchange? His answer:
By and large, the economic lessons in children’s books lean left of center. “I think the writers are not particularly sympathetic to or don’t understand how a market works,” said Gary S. Becker, the Nobel laureate who teaches economics at the University of Chicago. “It’s not easy to convey that to a child. It’s not always easy to convey it to grown-ups.”For the most part, the economic concepts conveyed in the books reflect values like generosity and equity rather than competition. Raymond Fisman, an economist at Columbia University, said his 3-year-old daughter’s favorite books teach the importance of sharing and gift-giving, values that might not lead to the greatest wealth in the real world. But, he added, “I doubt that 3 is the age where you start teaching people the brutal economic truths of grown-up commerce.”
At first I thought -- wait a sec! I could do better than that! Not. So. Simple!
But then, after a bit of reflection on the hours I've spent glued to a Harry Potter book, or to some of my favorite games, or better yet, with my family, I came to the conclusion that No, Rich Has it Just About Right. ;)