Economics is one subject that puts many high school students to sleep. But the reward for staying awake in class is often unreliable and misleading information.

A new Mackinac Center for Public Policy survey of 16 economics textbooks used in many Michigan classrooms found so many serious errors that only 6 of them could be graded either an A or a B for their accuracy.

The most common error in the textbooks is the assumption that government spending is the source of economic growth and prosperity. The books often imply that government planners know more about our economic needs and wants than we do. One book even suggests that people would suffer terribly if government simply took the responsible step of balancing its budget.

Economists including Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek won Nobel Prizes for showing that private enterprise, not government spending, is the best producer of life’s necessities. Government’s role—which is also vital—is mainly to protect this productive enterprise.

Economic literacy among citizens is essential to our personal and collective prosperity. Michigan schools should ensure that the textbooks they use to teach tomorrow’s business and political leaders accurately portray private enterprise as the creator, and government the protector, of prosperity.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Joseph Lehman.

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