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. And now the pandemic has impacted our economies and lives in ways we could not have expected. Inflation was low, now it is high; unemployment was high, now it is low; interest rates are low but rising, and stock markets are high but falling.

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? 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 access to 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 Class 2.