It’s 2009. I’m back in high school, halfway from dozing off in class, when a small piece of chalk whistled past my head nearly clipping my ear. Apparently the guy behind me was already fast asleep and our teacher Ms. Dela Mancha wanted to not-so-subtly show that she had taken notice.
“Good morning Mr. Cruz!” She angrily snarled. “Can you tell me what the first principle of economics was again?” (Obviously not their real names for privacy’s sake)
I, along with a quarter of the class, jolted awake as we either searched the chalkboard for answers or tried to look as pensive as possible while averting our gaze.
Now fast forward to today; armed with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economics and a few years of practical knowledge in the field, I can confidently tell you that the first principle of Economics states that people face trade-offs. It took me over five years to admit the fact that I really should have paid more attention to Ms. Dela Mancha’s economics class.
You see, Economics, out of all the social sciences has a reputation for being the most dull and the most tedious. It’s a constant torrent of graphs, numbers, and words that are needlessly complicated. It’s even academically called the “dismal” science; and for good reason too. To get to even the simplest of conclusions you would have to trudge through dozens of variables; establish a handful of assumptions, which range from baseline to the otherworldly; go through the inconvenient process of drawing and projecting things onto graphs; then come up with unnecessarily lengthy explanations to connect all the colorless lines and dots. It’s a field that doesn’t breed much optimism to say the least.
But, despite this, I found that it’s also the most rewarding and absolutely the most necessary field to be in. Beyond the brutally uninteresting and hard work of economics lies the real fulfilment. Through my little graphs and charts, I get the chance to know, first-hand, how people make decisions. How our collective choices as individuals and as societies ripple out into the world. In fact, it is even said that every major world event in history can be explained through economics. It won’t be an exciting explanation, I guarantee you, but it will be one that stems from hard-won, thoroughly researched, and peer-reviewed truths. It’s a science that doesn’t just build tolerance, but an immunity for that kind of mind-numbing work.
And even more importantly, econ has helped me in the most mundane of things too — like, say, reading the news. I found that having that grit to tackle boring work is downright essential in dealing with the news of this age. When we are offered endless amounts of articles and online news snippets, each with their own different facts and figures, and each with their own mistruths. It takes that same determination it took me to stand the bore of economic research, to now actually wade through the muck of misinformation and separate hard facts from convenient fiction. If I wanted easy and convenient news, with varying shades of truths to fit my own narrative, in today’s age, I’d have it. But it’d be an injustice to the student of econ inside me to not go through the arduous work, to get to the whole truth.
Sadly however, back in 2009, I didn’t have this sort of tolerance just yet. Because as Ms. Dela Mancha’s class droned on for 30 more minutes, I found my mind taking the easy and convenient way out. Lost in my own thoughts, just blocking out the incredibly monotonous sound of her voice out of my head. Unhappily thinking, in what world would I need to know what a market outcome is? Then it hit me.
“Good morning Mr. Alvaro! Can you tell the class how the government improves market outcomes again?”