Posted by: New Class Traitor | January 31, 2013

Economics explained while standing on one foot

There is a Talmudic legend about a pagan approaching Hillel the Elder, offering to convert to Judaism if Hillel could explain the Torah to him while standing on one foot. (In “an elevator speech” might be a modern idiom.)

Hillel answered: “That which is hateful unto you, do not do unto any other. That is the whole Torah: all the rest is commentary/corollary. Now go forth and study that.

Similarly, if anybody were to ask Steven Levitt/Shlomo HaLevy to explain all of economics while standing on one foot, his answer might well be something like:

People respond to incentives. This is the essence of economics: all the rest follows from that. Now go forth and study it.


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