ECONOMICS FOR EVERYONE
This is an exciting time to be studying economics!
The “Great Recession” of 2007/2008 echoed for almost a full decade in high unemployment in European countries, in lower earnings and wage rates in the United States, and is even more strongly imprinted in excessive debt, low employment, and outright despair in other countries like Greece and Italy. Inflation is low, unemployment is exceptionally high (particularly among young people), and exchange rates keep bouncing around.
Twelve years later in the United States, the unemployment rate has fallen from exceptional highs to an historic low, yet the middle class is full of anxiety as globalization has come to be seen as more of a threat than an opportunity, as the computer revolution continues to fundamentally change the way people in all rich countries work and interact with others, and inequality keeps rising!
And of course, the challenging times we have been living through since early 2020 have rocked the economy in a way not witnessed in our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our parents. COVID19 is a major health shock that has sent the economies of many countries into a tailspin, with citizens and policy makers alike struggling to respond in a way that offers support and hope.
Every responsible citizen should have an understanding of the basic principles of economics. Without it how can you possibly understand some of the critical debates in almost every rich country: is a government budget deficit a good thing or a bad? how can governments create more jobs? why are interest rates so low, and should inflation be a worry? Is inequality something we should celebrate, or something to question?
This is the first class of a course that is designed to meet the needs of students interested in public policy who may have had only limited exposure to economics. But almost anyone can follow along. Upon completion of the course successful students will be familiar with the basic principles of economics, and be able to apply them critically to issues dealing with American and international public policy.
Your next steps?
Download the course outline, and get the three required books. Then watch one prominent macro-economist—Joseph Stiglitz—explain his views of what caused the Great Recession and what government should do about it in this presentation given about one year after the meltdown was unleashed in the autumn of 2008. Pay attention to the vocabulary he uses: list words that are not familiar to you, try to discern when he is speaking about “microeconomics” and when he is talking about “macroeconomics”, think about the logic he uses and what this says about the way economists think. Here is a list to help guide you.
Our studies start next week with a discussion of what we mean by “economics,” and what is the essence of the economic approach. To be prepared for our discussions read the readings listed in the course outline for February 11th.