Judd W. Patton, Ph.D. (Biography) Bellevue University Online
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What Is Your Economic IQ?
Could You B A Sisyphus?

Dr. Judd W. Patton 

     “A widespread understanding of the operations and problems of the U.S. economic system is essential if Americans are to meet their responsibilities as citizens, voters, and participants in a basically private enterprise economy.”  So proclaims a 1966 U.S. Senate resolution.  This leads to an obvious question:  What is your (the reader’s) Economic IQ (Intelligence Quotient)?  Can you carry out your responsibilities as a U.S. citizen based on your understanding of our free-market economy, or would your economic understanding be akin to Sisyphus?

     Who is Sisyphus, you ask?  Well, in Greek mythology Sisyphus was a wicked king condemned to hades (hell) to perform the unending task of rolling a heavy stone up a steep hill, only to have it roll down again when it reached the top.  Clearly his efforts were futile and to no good purpose.

     Sisyphus suffered severely.  In the economic realm, by analogy, Sisyphus may symbolize individuals who impede economic progress.  Their thinking contains economic fallacies, myths, and half-truths that cause them to follow  our political leaders blindly or advocate unsound, counterproductive, dead-end economic policies.  Unknowingly, they perpetuate obstacles to the detriment of themselves and their fellow citizens by their low Economic IQ’s.  Like Sisyphus, the fruits of their labor bring no reward or accomplishment, just unending aggravation, futility, and failure to the economy.

     Unfortunately, many people today follow in the footsteps of old uncle Sisyphus. As someone said, “ If ignorance paid dividends, most of us would make a fortune on what we don’t know about economics!” But unlike Sisyphus, those with low Economic IQ’s are not condemned to continue in futile efforts to achieve individual economic betterment and public policy success.  Every person, no matter what their station in life, can dramatically increase their Economic IQ if they are so motivated!  It just takes a systematic plan and three keys.  It’s as easy as one, two, three to unlock the door to a higher Economic IQ. 

Key #1:  Learn to Use Time-Lapse Thinking

     The art of economics consists in tracing some act or policy not merely as to its immediate economic effects, but also as to its long-run effects.  Like watching a flower blossom in a few seconds through the magic of time-lapse photography, one must learn to see the “hidden” long-term effects of economic actions.  For example, many actions seem beneficial in the short run.  Drinking excessively, using one’s credit card to consume beyond one’s means, or the governmental printing of money to cover huge deficits, all may seem justified in the short run.  Regardless, thoughtful time-lapse thinking reveals the disastrous nature of these actions.  Those with high Economic IQ’s always grasp the “day of reckoning” in such human actions.

Key #2:  Learn to Think Without Tunnel Vision

       The art of economics also consists in tracing the consequences of any act or policy not merely for one special interest group, but for all groups.  In other words one’s perspective or vision, by analogy, must include that which is directly in front of one’s eyes and that which is in the peripheral areas as well.  For example, a protective tariff can clearly be seen to benefit a domestic producer.  It limits foreign competitors.  But the complete economic perspective notices the detrimental effects on: (1) U.S. consumers (they will pay more for products), (2) foreign producers (their incomes will decline), and (3) U.S. exporting firms (foreign demand for U.S. products will decline).  Only tunnel vision can justify the beneficial nature of protective tariffs.  Learn to avoid such thinking at all costs.

Key #3:  Study Good Economics

     Finally, initiate a planned, systematic course of study.  Study good economics by free-market economists and writers, and avoid bad economists, writers and pundits who ignore the first two keys!

     Here is my advice.  Start expanding your Economic IQ by reading a classic work on economics by Henry Hazlitt entitled, Economics In One Lesson.  It’s available from the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Mises Institute and Amazon.com. The Mises Institute has an outstanding Study Guide on Economics. Go to: www.mises.org.  The FEE Web site is: www.fee.org. Click on their Online Bookstore and use it, along with the Mises Study Guide, as part of your master plan to improve your economic knowledge, understanding and wisdom, and say “good-bye” to Sisyphus forever!

     Economics is the proper study of every individual.  Be a committee of one to raise your Economic IQ, starting today!

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