Mike Nery ’95 wrote in:

I agree completely that the economics department should offer accounting. I took accounting as a winter study elective, but given how vital accounting is, it should be a required class for the major. Maybe if more people understood accounting, the US Government would have to use accrual accounting when talking about Social Security (yeah I know I’m dreaming).

Overall, I thought the econ curriculum was unhelpful. Although I knew by the end of my sophomore year that I wanted to go into finance, I ended up majoring in psychology. I took all of the econ classes that I needed for the major except for two. Truthfully, I wish I had taken fewer. With few exceptions (a Game Theory class taught by a mathematician that blew my mind), I found most of the professors to have little understanding or experience of real-world finance.


1) It is tough for me to have informed opinions about the economics department since there has been so much turnover in the last 15 years. Fortunately, un-informed opinions are always available!

2) I would bet that the vast majority of Ephs in business would agree that accounting should be offered at Williams. I am not sure that it should be required, but that is mainly because of my bias against requirements. Certainly, the material in an accounting course would be used several orders of magnitude more often by graduates than, say, the material in ECON 252: Macroeconomics.

3) I suspect that the economics department would probably reply with something like: “Sure, we don’t teach accounting, but Williams doesn’t teach sheet metal fabrication or typing. Williams is not a trade school. Many topics, however useful they may be in the ‘real world,’ are not a part of the liberal arts curriculum.”

4) In my view, the real reason that accounting is not offered at Williams is because economics, as a field, is biased against accounting. Economists do not learn much, if any, accounting in graduate school and so are uninterested in studying it later and ill-equipped to teach it. Of course, that problem could be overcome with a little effort. Accounting as a field of study is every bit as rigorous in theory and well-grounded in application as economics.

5) My suggestion (to David Zimmerman, chair of the Economics Department) would be: offer accounting once and see what happens. It could easily be made a part of a class on security valuation or some other more traditionally economic topic. A great textbook for such a class would be Financial Statement Analysis and Security Valuation by Stephen Penman.

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