…it might still be a resource for those that were more selfish all along. (“Selfish” defined momentarily.)

Over at the Austrian Economists, Roger Koppl cites a study by Bruno Frey and Stephan Meier that suggests that an economics education does not make one more selfish, contrary to the claims of folks such as, say, David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture (who I years ago heard interviewed by my then intellectual “mentor” Michael Medved – hey, I was a pizza delivery guy at the time). This in the context of a blog post by Steven Horwitz posing the question of whether economics professors were relatively more aware of the negative externality of leaving their chalkboards unerased for the incoming instructor.

Though Koppl is correct, strictly speaking, the actual results of the study cited conclude that both business and economics students were less pro-social (and thus more selfish) than students of other disciplines to begin with.  True, the effect of the education itself was not seen. (Pro-social behaviors here include “voluntary work, helping needy people, donating money and protecting the environment.”) But this is probably even worse for the essence of Koppl’s argument, in that the behavior stems from the very personality types that make up the economics students (cum professors) in question. 

The sample size was ~37,000, and drawn from the student body at the University of Zurich. I can only imagine the awfulness of the consequences of such self-serving behavior in the city with the second highest standard of living in the world.

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