Description of Course Goals and Curriculum
Analysis of the operation of the national economy, with emphasis on the causes and consequences of recessions and booms, inflation and unemployment--and possible policy responses to each. Attention is also paid to the banking and financial systems, the financial crisis, and international influences on the U.S. economy.
This course covers the basic principles and concepts of a national economy, as well as the causes and effects of different economic policies. Supplemental readings usually provide different professional opinions on various types of policies. This is all meant to develop students’ economic understanding and enable them to form their own opinions as it relates to national and world economic policies.
The course involves only very basic algebra, so it is more important for students to understand how to set up the equations in the first place. The math-y questions relate to the different variables associated to the composition of an economy as a whole. These include things like investment, exports/imports, tax cuts/raises, etc. and how they all relate to the entire economy as a whole, in the form of GDP.
Professor Blinder uses the economic concepts and ideas taught to focus specifically on the Great Recession of 2009. This helps students apply what they learn to a very real-world example, helping make the class seem meaningful. The aim is to have students understand that there was no one cause of the Great Recession, but a collection of a variety of problems that built up over time.
These goals are clearly embodied in the final written assignment. It is important to not just focus on memorizing the facts and consequences of economic policies, but putting your own opinion into what you learn.
Learning From Classroom Instruction
In lecture, Professor Blinder provides many real-life examples of economic concepts and principles in action. A lot of the information can be found in the textbook, so it is very important to pay careful attention to the meanings rather than the facts, in order to help you formulate your own opinions about what kinds of policies are good/bad. The lecture slides are uploaded to Blackboard, but not all content covered are on the slides so do not rely solely on them.
In precepts, students work on different problems and go over the solutions as a class. Students can ask questions to clarify any issues regarding general concepts and how to solve specific problems. It is very important to understand all of the material covered in precept, as that is the bulk of what are on the exams.
Learning For and From Assignments
Problem sets focus on a couple important concepts learned from the week, and usually have the same structure in terms of breaking an economy down into its components. A couple of questions will differ from week to week to cover the particular topic learned that week (“what would happen if ___ was changed in this economy?”). Problem sets can usually be finished individually, but it is useful to talk to classmates or go to office hours to hear how different people approach and think about a problem.
The questions on the midterm and finals are not very different from those on problem sets or precepts; the tests are not meant to trick you. They will often be slight variations of previous problems. Therefore, it is important to understand every part of each problem set and precept. When looking at a past problem, ask yourself, “what would happen if this scenario were changed to that?”
The supplemental readings may not seem important or worth reading at first, but they are immensely helpful for the writing assignment. When reading supplemental materials, students should note which opinions they agree/disagree with, as those can be referenced in the writing assignment. However, do not turn it into a research paper - be sure to add your own opinions in addition to referencing other economists.
A great way to develop economic understanding is to talk about economics. Reading an article from the NY Times, looking at current events, and discussing them with people are a few good ideas. If the other person does not have the knowledge and economic background required for the conversation, the student can strengthen his or her own understanding by explaining the important concepts.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
Introductory economics is a very popular course at colleges across the country. Whether you want to major in economics or something else, if you have an interest, this course deserves consideration. It is not incredibly time-demanding, although the most value will be obtained by putting in a moderate amount of time to understand the concepts.