IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

A proposal for more sophisticated normative principles in introductory economics


  • Stephen Schmidt


Introductory textbooks teach a simple normative story about the importance of maximizing economic surplus that supports common policy claims. There is little defense of the claim that maximizing surplus is normatively important, which is not obvious to non-economists. Difficulties with the claim that society should maximize surplus are generally not addressed. Economists are thus frequently criticized by non-economists for having a poor moral foundation for our normative claims. We should tell a more sophisticated normative story that justifies the moral importance of surplus, but acknowledges that other moral values may conflict with generating surplus and that distribution is not always separable from efficiency. This would allow students to make more compelling arguments in favor of normative positions they accept, regardless of the values they hold.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Schmidt, 2017. "A proposal for more sophisticated normative principles in introductory economics," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(1), pages 3-14, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:48:y:2017:i:1:p:3-14
    DOI: 10.1080/00220485.2016.1252293

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:48:y:2017:i:1:p:3-14. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Chris Longhurst (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.