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Why Programmers Should Learn Economics

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01/05/2005

Joel On Software writes about why Computer Science college students should learn microeconomics:

Why should CS majors learn econ? Because a programmer who understands the fundamentals of business is going to be a more valuable programmer, to a business, than a programmer who doesn't. That's all there is to it. I can't tell you how many times I've been frustrated by programmers with crazy ideas that make sense in code but don't make sense in capitalism. If you understand this stuff, you're a more valuable programmer, and you'll get rewarded for it, for reasons which you'll also learn in micro.

I would only add that there are a number of other professions that could benefit from knowing what are "crazy ideas that... don't make sense in capitalism" like historians, sociologists, pastors, politicians, political scientists, ...

His take on micro versus (mainstream) macro is dead on:

...econ is one of those fields that starts off with a bang, with many useful theories and facts that make sense, can be proven in the field, etc., and then it's all downhill from there. The useful bang at the beginning is microeconomics, which is the foundation for literally every theory in business that matters. After that things start to deteriorate: you get into Macroeconomics (feel free to skip this if you want) with its interesting theories about things like the relationship of interest rates to unemployment which, er, seem to be disproven more often than they are proven, and after that it just gets worse and worse and a lot of econ majors switch out to Physics, which gets them better Wall Street jobs, anyway. But make sure you take Microeconomics, because you have to know about supply and demand, you have to know about competitive advantage, and you have to understand NPVs and discounting and marginal utility before you'll have any idea why business works the way it does.

See more from Joel along these lines. Also scroll down to see his take on why programming students should "Stop worrying about all the jobs going to India."

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