In your short article from 1992 titled “The Natural,” you wrote about the difficulty of teaching economics to undergraduates, due to the tendency to treat them as if they learned the subject easily, instead of making them push through all the difficulties of understanding the subject carefully. Has anything happened to change your views in the past 25 years?
No, because it's not about how hard they work, but about certain personality types or family backgrounds grasp the subject easier, naturally. It's like having a good arm for pitching a baseball, the term "a natural" coming from baseball talk. Some people see arguments from self-interest easier because they run their own lives on self-interest. And others, whether or not they have that (rather common) personality, grow up in small business or farms in which they learn the importance of price incentives and the results of chores and so forth in a way that a student does not who grows up in a household detached from the market (Mom and Dad "go to the office" to make their income, which is mysterious in a way that helping your father plow the back 40 is not).
You have written seventeen books and hundreds of scholarly articles in your long and productive career. Is there any one thing in your previous writing about economics that you would drastically change?
Yes. When I was a young professor I was certain that (1) people were motivated by profit only and (2) only quantitative evidence was real evidence. Without throwing out what can be learned from watching the profit and measuring things, I have grown to see that (1) and (2) are mistaken.