Economists Have No Defense: A Critical Review of National Defense in Economics Textbooks
26 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016 Last revised: 11 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 4, 2016
National defense is the textbook example of a public good. In order to understand how economists present public goods to undergraduates, we analyze 50 texts from across three widely taught undergraduate economics courses: principles of economics, intermediate microeconomics, and public finance. We find that textbooks overwhelmingly present national defense as a public good and rarely mention the possibility of government failure. This leaves students with an incomplete and biased exposure to the government provision of public goods. We reconsider some of the main assumptions associated with the standard treatment of national defense as the quintessential public good and discuss opportunities for educators to better prepare students as economists and citizens.
Keywords: Undergraduate Teaching, National Defense, Public Goods, Government Failure Public Choice, Public Economics, Principles of Economics, Intermediate Microeconomics
JEL Classification: A22, H11, H41, H56, H57
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation