Thursday, August 6, 2009
Internships, in Brief
This summer began for me in Rome, where I spent five weeks doing a study-abroad program. In my course on the Italian economy, the professor spent one day talking about internships in Italy: there, internships are for college graduates and often last for up to two years. Essentially, they allow employers to test-drive employees by paying them almost nothing but giving them the duties of a regular employee. I bring this up because it is the opposite of everything I’ve experienced at ESI. This internship has been a chance for me to learn about myself as well as economics, and it’s helped me to develop intellectually in a way that my classes (at least in recent memory) had failed to do. George Mason University has a fine economics department, but many of the professors teach the same anarcho-capitalist story in their undergraduate courses. Our reading group here never bothered to debate politics; we were learning simply for the sake of gaining knowledge, and this was a welcome change. Outside of the reading group, the work I did replaying and analyzing experiments was much more interesting than I had expected. I have been a participant in experiments at GMU, in class and otherwise, but in my first attempt to design an experiment I failed to understand the experimenter’s perspective. Close examination of other experiments has helped me better understand how to begin when designing an experiment and has given me a glimpse of exactly what can go wrong – or right – once you bring subjects into the lab. Considering the knowledge I have gained about experiments, economic science, and especially the human mind, I can say this internship has been, for me, an experience of learning in the purest sense of the word.
Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty