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"A" Students in Ec 10 Mingle with Mankiw

By Laurence H. M. holland, Crimson Staff Writer

Freed Professor of Economics N. Gregory Mankiw spent the fall semester teaching Ec 10 students about the power of incentives. So it is only fitting that he also exercises it.

In what has become an annual tradition, around 100 students who earned A’s in Social Analysis 10, “Principles of Economics,” last semester were treated to a reception hosted by Mankiw in the Faculty Club yesterday afternoon.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman famously said that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” but for students who earned the highest mark in the course last semester, there was a free mid-afternoon snack.

“It was good food, and it was interesting to talk with the professor,” Steven T. Cupps ’09 said.

The former Bush administration economics adviser was in high demand at yesterday’s event. “There was a big huddle of students around Mankiw asking him questions,” said Adina B. Pomerantz ’09. “There was an assortment of cheeses. The brie was really good.”

According to Cupps, conversation was limited almost entirely to economics. “It was almost like an office hours, with cheese,” Cupps said.

But at least a few students managed to take advantage of the more informal setting.

“I asked [Mankiw] why he went with his middle name,” Pomerantz, who is also a Crimson editor, said. “He said it was because there were a lot of Nicholases in his family.”

Mankiw, who is in his first year teaching the course, was introduced to Ec 10 students almost exactly a year ago, when the course’s previous head, Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein ’61, invited him to last year’s reception.

As Mankiw left the reception yesterday, he cited Feldstein’s precedent as the main reason he held the reception.

“I’m continuing all his traditions,” Mankiw said.

Mankiw said that since Ec 10 was a “fantastically successful institution” under Feldstein, he operates with a general principle of “if Marty did it, keep doing it.”

Mankiw said that despite the exclusive nature of the party, he found nothing inherently wrong with the tradition.

“Grades create natural divisions among students,” Mankiw said. “Rewarding people who have done exceptional work is not objectionable in and of itself.”

“It doesn’t create a divide any more than mentioning grades ever creates a divide,” said Cupps, who added that he thought other departments should consider holding similar events.

“Other large courses should look to do it,” Cupps said. “Typically, people who do well are interested in the course. So give them time with professors and other people who like the course.”

—Staff writer Laurence H. M. Holland can be reached at lholland@fas.harvard.edu.

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