HC 231H: The Fundamentals of Economics

Professor: Glen Waddell

4.00 credits

• CRN 13099: Tuesday & Thursday, 0815-0945 @ ALL 140

The theory of economics does not furnish a body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique of thinking which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions." – Keynes

In this class, we will have two fundamental areas of focus in our time together. First, we will come away with an understanding of how economists analyze decisions - this “apparatus of the mind" Keynes refers to. In so doing, we will spend time unpacking some of the classic readings in economics... the rich and carefully constructed thinking games that defined economics before calculus-based theory became the convention. It is arguable that a few papers will venture to the exclusive interest of economists, but its pursuit would be an exceptionally worthwhile undertaking for a group of engaged undergraduates. Through these readings, we will develop and refine our understanding of human behavior and decision-making, touching on scientific methodology, the nature of the economic problem, value, property rights, regulation, sex, social cost, and crime. Given our emphasis on this \technique of thinking," our scope can be as broad as are the interests of those who enroll.

As our second area of focus, we will break down some of the most-sophisticated empirical methodologies currently available to social scientists. Abstracting away from some of the more-technical aspects, we will develop a solid intuition and respect for data, for the appropriate assignment of causality in developing inference, and for sniffing out sloppy empirics. Articulating these methods at an intuitive level will challenge students to think critically about the role of evaluation and empirical evidence, and produce in them the ability to evaluate empirical evidence in their own fields. (Having skills in calculus and statistics is fine. Neither are required, though.)