During my 10 years of teaching courses on introductory economics, I take more time in defining what economy is/ the concept of economy. I remember that the first years, as soon as the lesson started, I defined it as the following: “The economy is the science….” Independently if I used a classical definition, a neo classical one or a Keynesian one (if there were one), I always started in the same way. Currently, I take more than a lesson to come to a definition.
The reason for this process is that I have learnt how important the historical background that gives sense to the definition is. This is how the scientific method (in the definition) is formalized through the classical economy under the name of Adam Smith. Later, under the influence of the scientific positivism which gives stringency in the comparison and contributes objectivity of the scientific fact, split/detached from the person that is studying it. Of course, the latter, considering the economy as a social science, is just one part of the story. Judgment is always present, as a step of analysis of the found facts.
The question that we can ask is: Found where? In social sciences, it is not so simple to experience in the same way as in hard sciences. The possibility of making a “laboratory experiment”, where you sample an object of study and separate it from certain variables that may affect it, represents a very tough task or better say, an impossible one.
How can we say this in an economics lesson? How can I make the students, not only pay attention to what I am saying, but also understand the sense of the economy as a science without thinking that they are not senseless words that justify the presence of that teacher in front of them? Why not presenting it as if it were a game? How funny can this science be if we see it from the point of view of a game? If we remove solemnity, knowledge can be very funny! It does not imply removing stringency, but make it attractive, though. Science is at hand all the time and it has allowed us to develop as mankind.
A game that combines not only fun, competitive spirit, but also an active attitude from the players is chess. This is a game that represents a battle where the person who leads the crew (troops) has to display all the virtues to achieve the final objective that is to give checkmate to the rival. In order to perform this, we should have a strategy, a horizon, a light at the end of the tunnel that will take place with a number of tactics. Many players may think that to have a global idea of the objective of the game and certain knowledge of the movements of the pieces will be enough to play. This is partially true. What is also true is that they will need some study. These kind of non-professional players, do not know the world behind the chessboard, the number of books that has been published and the treaty that has been written by a great Argentinian chess player.
The game can be divided in three steps: openings, middle game and finals. The logical sequence of these steps shows the chosen strategy of the player. In order to perform it, it is necessary to use tactics, that is to say, a series of games that will make sense in relation of the rival’s plan.
The practice of this game has made some situations be repeated, that is to say, it may be that in a game we arrive, consciously or unconsciously, at a display of pieces that another player has arrived before. In this case, if we know how this player solved it, we can have the answer and win the game or become conscious of the imminent loss.
Now we know that there is a model in the chess game, but, how is this understood by the economy? If we read in any textbook, we will find that a model is defined as an abstraction, a simplified representation of the reality. A scientific method that limits a number of variables that interact to be studied and later to come to a conclusion in order to generalize at the end. That model is responsible for giving the economy the attribute of science to acknowledge it as a scientific method.
You can also divide, as we did in the case of chess, the economic models in three steps. The assumptions, that is to say, the initial conditions from which we start, we can say it is the beginning.
The development of the model can be said to be the middle game. Here comes the moment to display the pieces. Should I do it from the Queen’s wing or from the King’s one? What should I do if I see that after the beginning, my rival’s Queen’s wing has not been developed? Should I choose material loss (let my rival eat my pieces) for some time? That is to say, as I have my rival busy, I get closer to checkmate. After knowing which variables I count on, the ones that intervene in the model, I will have a panorama of what to do. How can the current resources be combined in the model to get to an optimum one? How can be done in order to arrive at a stable balance?
The resolutions of the models are quite close to the end of the chess game. In these ones, one should get to the optimum (get to the checkmate of the rival) or a stable balance (tables). No matter how complex is the model, It will always follow those steps. No matter the knowledge do we have of the science, we just have to accept the challenge of thinking and playing. The science and knowledge may turn to be fun; we have just to dare to face the study of them in another way, with enthusiasm and joy. Passion for knowing and learning.