In Defense of Funny Diagrams (Wonkish)

Photo from Unsplash

The New York Times – Paul Krugman

Published: February 6th, 2016

Difficulty rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Credibility rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.


This article discusses the diagrams the author believes should be taught in ECON 101. The author debates between production possibility curves and the Edgeworth box. It talks about the author’s reasons for saying the diagrams should be taught, his personal experience, and how it creates a useful baseline for new students.


Paul  Krugman is an American economist who is the Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a columnist for The New York Times. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2008


  • none

Analysis of Potential Bias

The author acknowledges that the entire article is his own opinion and that his bias plays a part in his advocating for more diagrams and the choice of production possibilities over the Edgeworth box for students of ECON 101. The author is also considered an expert in the field of economics.

Article Decryption

The author believes that production possibilities should be taught in ECON 101 but not the Edgeworth box. However, students wanting to pursue further studies in Economics should be exposed to the box. Pictures are oftentimes the best way to convey global insights about the economy because it allows students to think about all possibilities instead of small changes.

The author believes production possibilities should be taught because it gives students a way to think about what efficiency means (explaining inefficiency in production, you put a point inside the PPF, explaining inefficiency in allocation, you talk about choosing the wrong point on the PPF.)

The author feels that too many majors and/or grad students were shortchanged on the use of diagrams. They can do game theory, they can solve sets of equations, but their sense of how the pieces fit together is lacking.  It’s true that the competitive general equilibrium doesn’t precisely depict the real economy. But it’s still a useful baseline to describe how things should be, which helps to showcase how economies really are more.

Leave a Reply