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Economics for Kids

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05/22/2007


Summer is a great time for kids to pursue a different kind of learning. Economics, for example. For the most part, they don't teach this stuff in school, and when they do, it's usually about the glories of government management.

Economics is not to be neglected in education! The student either will either receive guidance or fall victim to fallacy.

Now, it's not the case that the sooner you read Human Action the better. Certainly levels of abstract reasoning require a certain age and maturity, and for books such as this, or Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State, college age is the right time.

But there is a way to teach economics in order to prepare kids for intellectual battle. They do need this education, for kids these days encounter soft-socialist reasoning in many aspects of life. They encounter massive environmentalist propaganda from an early age. Teachers and the media will tell them that their parents are evil for taking long showers, or shopping at Wal-Mart, or for failing to drive an electric car.

A great place to start is with an understanding of price movements. Kids (to say nothing of adults!) often notice gas prices rises and falling, for example. Why does this happen? Is it the greed of the gas-station owners at work?

For starters, we recommend Whatever Happened to Penny Candy $32, an easy but informative read by Richard Maybury. It comes with a helpful study guide. It explains supply, demand, and goes into some detail (always entertaining) about monetary inflation. This is the start of a good economics education that links up the cause and the effects of certain ubiquitous phenomena. It helps the child think through several stages of reasoning, and puts them way ahead of others in this respect. Everyone knows that kids love coins: this helps them understand how coins are depreciated by government and where paper money comes from.

For slightly older kids, the novel form serves as an excellent path to economic enlightenment. We can heartily recommend Henry Hazlitt's brilliant novel, Time Will Run Back $25 . The plot begins in a fully socialist society in which the new leader, who finds himself in that position only by accident, begins to rethink the economic basis of the system. He begins to wonder whether the economy is doing well at all, and how they might discover this. This sets the leadership on a path to thinking about prices and calculation, and the very meaning of productivity. Trading is introduced when the leadership can't see anything wrong with the idea of trading rationing tickets, and shortly markets appear, and everyone seems to be better off as a result. The whole socialist system unravels piece by piece, to the benefit of the whole society.

This novel is an excellent introduction to the problems of economic systems, and can be a great benefit to young people who are curious about the meaning of economic analysis. It is, in fact, suitable for all ages. And a good follow up to this book is a non-fiction work by Hazlitt, The Conquest of Poverty $20 , which deals directly with the whole question of how societies come to be poor or rich. The details about life before the age of capitalism are riveting, and show what a mistake it is to take wealth for granted (as people are wont to do).

Another good series here, meant particularly for junior and early high school, is by Bettina Greaves: Free Market Economics: A Syllabus $21 and Free Market Economics: A Reader $22. Both were commissioned back in the 1970s by Leonard Reed. He pushed hard to get these finished so that a solid economics education could be available in an accessible format for young people. They worked remarkably well, even to the point of educating a whole generation. We've brought them back for modern readers in a large format. They will provide a full year of study for a young person, and introduce nearly all fields within the discipline. They also expose the reader to a wide range of top-quality literature.

Finally, for the student preparing for college, we draw your attention to An Introduction to Economic Reasoning $15 , by David Gordon. It teaches the intelligent young reader how to think about economic problems in a manner consistent with the Austrian School tradition. Its chapters on action, preference, demand and supply, value theory, money, and price controls emphasize deductive logic, the market process, and the failures of government intervention.

As the only text of its kind, this book is engaging, funny, filled with examples, and never talks down to the student. It is perfect for homeschoolers, but every student, young or old, will benefit from it. Indeed, a student familiar with its contents will be fully prepared to see through the fallacies of the introductory economics texts used at the college level.

This summer is a great time to begin a solid economic education!

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