Economics - Course Description

Thursday, August 1, 2013

After considering the worldwide network of organizations and activities involved in producing a simple product such as a bar of Swiss chocolate, we move to a study of pre-capitalist economics. From there we consider the work of Adam Smith and his idea of a self-regulating free-market system guided by “the invisible hand.”  We learn how supply and demand curves lead to an equilibrium point where overproduction and shortfall can be avoided, and about factors that affect supply and demand.  Mergers, oligopolies, conglomerates, and economies of scale are also considered in this context.  We familiarize ourselves with central features of 21st century capitalism and how it interacts with democratic institutions.  The tension between the consumer and the citizen in us.  Causes of the current economic downturn--such as subprime mortgages--are explored, as well as constructive inititatives for shaping the future.

3 Nov.  What did it take to create a bar of Swiss chocolate (from raw materials, to machines, to transportation, to organizational structure....). Handout: Heilbroner -- "the Economic Revolution"--to read for tomorrow.

4 Nov.  Factors that worked against innovative thinking in economics: tradition, authoritarian control. Earlier views on the morality of personal gain in contrast to today's. Reading for tomorrow: "Pre-Capitalist Economics."

5 Nov.   Land, Labor, & Capital. How were these viewed earlier and how did these views have to change for a market system to be viable?  Homework: map of middle east, look into history Israel.  Read Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations.

6 Nov. Map of Middle East. Adam Smith: Factors that effect a nation’s wealth.  The pin factory: an example of the division of labor. Three features of the division of labor that make it so effective.  Read for tomorrow: Heilbroner & Buchholz: the Laws of the Market.

7 Nov.   Adam Smith—The Laws of the Market: self-interest & competition as interacting co-factors that function as an "invisible hand" to create a self-regulating system that determines: what is produced, how much, price levels and income.

 

10 Nov.   Quiz.  Discussion of quiz and how things have changed since Smith wrote about free market economies. Reading: Sachs -- Free Markets

11 Nov.   Discussion of Sach’s reading.  Reading: Cassidy --Negative Spillovers;  Bakan -- Externalities

12 Nov .  Demand schedule and demand curve for prune juice.  Factors affecting demand and causing a shift in the demand curve.

13 Nov.   Supply schedule and supply curve. Factors affecting supply.  Supply and demand curves together creating the Equilibrium Point (E).  How surplus and shortage arise  relative to E.

14 Nov.   Big Capitalism. Economies of scale. Vertical and horizontal mergers. Conglomerates.  Changes in Fortune 500 from 1974 to 2010 to 2014.  Reading: "Paradox".

 

17 Nov.   Discussion how U.S. capitalism was before the 1970s and how it has become since.  The contrast between our interests as consumers and investors and our values as citizens. Reading: "Of Two Minds"

 18 Nov.   Democracy Overwhelmed

19 Nov.   Politics Diverted

20 Nov.   A Citizen’s Guide to Supercapitalism

21 Nov.   The Corporation as a Person.  When the Market and Mother Nature Hit the Wall.

24 Nov.  When the Market and Mother Nature Hit the Wall continued (mortgage-backed securities, credit-default swaps, AIG)

25 Nov.  When the Market and Mother Nature Hit the Wall (continued). Code Green

Faculty:                    Michael Holdrege, High School Sciences Teacher
Class Dates:           November 25-December 20, 2013
Curriculum Area:   Morning Lesson Block
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