If you are not going to discuss it in detail, don’t bring it up.

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Paper #1
German Immigrant Servitude
Read through Farley Grubb, German Immigration and Servitude in America, 1709-1920 (New
York: Routledge, 2014), chapter 7 (pp. 131-143) or chapter 15 (pp. 276-302). Write your critical essay on some issue or issues found in one of these chapters. I’ve attached the pages from these chapters that are in this book so you can read and review them yourself to help you write this critical essay.

General Advice on Writing Critical Essays:

A critical essay should discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s arguments
and evidence. Are the author’s explanations convincing, are they complete, how are you
convinced, what evidence and economic reasoning is presented, is the evidence and economic
reasoning strong or weak? How is it strong or weak? And so on. Don’t just state an opinion.
Dissect the author’s presentation. Articulate your judgments, and support them with your own
reasoning, economic ideas, and use of the author’s evidence. Explain why or how you arrived at
your conclusions. Develop and elaborate your view in detail. You are not expected to be an
expert in any field, but you are expected to be able to reason. Finally, you can also use your
economic understanding (verbal and/or graphical/mathematical) to add to and develop the
author’s argument as a form of critical analysis.

For those having difficulty writing critical essays there are a few tricks that might help. It
is better to discuss a few related points in detail than to list many undeveloped ideas. Narrow
your discussion. Pick only the most important points and throw out minor ideas. If you are not
going to discuss it in detail, don’t bring it up. If you can write a five-page essay based on one
paragraph or on one page in the assigned readings that is ok. Make your essay a coherent whole,
rather than a piece of shotgun writing. Trace through, step by step, the logic of the author’s
argument. Are steps left out or is some kind of behavior not explained that is critical to the
author’s story? Explain how and why. Are there other reasonable economic explanations that the
author did not rule out? Explain how these competing explanations work. What kinds of
evidence are used to support the argument? Does the evidence really support the author’s
argument, or might the evidence fit some other (economic) explanation? Describe how it might
fit some other explanation. What missing evidence would the author need to make the argument
stronger? And so on….. Think of yourself as an economic lawyer. Either you must defend the
author and keep your client from the gallows, or you are the prosecuting lawyer, and you are
going to expose the author’s careless economic crimes, explode the author’s alibi, and separate
the trustworthy evidence from untrustworthy evidence. Most people find it easier to be the
prosecutor. Be creative in your application of economic thinking to the author’s argument, but
don’t violate economic reasoning in your thinking. For example, arguments that assert a change
in ‘tastes’ or ‘non-maximizing’ behavior are violations of economic methodology—don’t use
them. And remember, this is not a book report. Don’t just summarize the reading. Finally, just
because the author is your professor does not mean you should not be critical. Arguments and
evidence exist separate from the individual. A kiss-ass essay will get you a zero.

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