Economists Have No Defense: A Critical Review of National Defense in Economics Textbooks

26 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016 Last revised: 11 Mar 2016

Christopher J. Coyne

George Mason University - Department of Economics

David S. Lucas

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 4, 2016

Abstract

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

Coyne, Christopher J. and Lucas, David S., Economists Have No Defense: A Critical Review of National Defense in Economics Textbooks (March 4, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2742391 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2742391

Christopher J. Coyne (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

David Samuel Lucas

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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