Two Ways to Paint, or Teach Economics

Going through MWG, Stigler's Theory of Price, and Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State, at the same time has brought out many similarities and differences between them about what it means to do economics. More clearly, my process has highlight the differences in teaching economics.

I sound like a broken record, but Rothbard's process seems fundamentally distinct from either MWG or Stigler, even if his results are not very different early in the books. While reading chapter 3 in Rothbard, I developed an image of two painters that helps me think about it.

Sarah Solis Carvalho (Painting)

Sarah Solis Carvalho (Painting) (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

One has an immense canvas to paint and starts in the middle, which is the heart of the painting (human action). He spends a relatively long time on the center, compared to its size, because it is the key. Everything revolves around that point. Slowly, he works out, step by step, but everything connects to the layers inside of it. Everything draws the eye back in. The picture might look simplistic to people who do not see the pattern and its beauty.

English: Oil painting by Victorian painter Wil...

English: Oil painting by Victorian painter William Powell Frith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other painter has an equally huge canvas, but creates two focal points. He starts by building one focal point in isolation (consumer theory) and then the other (producer theory). At this point, they could be two paintings, sold separately. Slowly, the painter starts to connect the two focal points. However, the two points never fully blend.

When viewing one side of the painting, the viewer's eye starts at one focal point (producer theory) and moves from there. Everything on a side is connected with that point. When viewing the other side, the viewer's eye does that same, but with the other point. It is very hard to look at both points at the same time. However, the picture is coherent. The sides do not clash, but are distinct. The picture might seem hectic and overly complex when first glanced at.

Are the painters different, the paintings different, or are these just two ways to do the same thing?

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