Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Lecture, Open—Year

Economics explores the ways in which people organize themselves to sustain and enhance their quality of life and well-being. Societies throughout history and across the globe have developed numerous ways of coordinating economic activity through a variety of institutional arrangements. This introductory course will introduce basic economic concepts and contemporary issues from a variety of schools of thought, including insights from neoclassical, Keynesian, Marxist, institutionalist, and behavioral economists. We will use the tools developed in the course to explore some of the central questions of economics. Why is capitalism the dominant economic system throughout the world? Why are some countries poor while others are rich? How do institutions shape economic outcomes? How do people and firms make choices about what to buy and produce? How does the level of competition between firms in a market impact their decisions? What are some of the causes and economic consequences of unemployment and inflation? How do we measure economic activity in a society to include market and household production, as well as considerations for environmental degradation? To what extent can policy makers impact key economic indicators? We will also look at the causes of the 2008 global financial crisis and subsequent weak recovery, the recent European economic crisis, the fiscal position of the US government, and other issues that economists and policy makers are debating now.