Most economists will tell you that you make decisions on this personal level by acting as what they would call a "rational maximizer," comparing, whether explicitly or implicitly, what you expect to gain from your decision against what you expect to give up.
You weigh comfort and convenience against the rising cost of gasoline. The need to maintain your home's "curb appeal" against your need for sleep in a much-too-busy life. Your raw craving for that burger against the realities of an expanding waistline
Go Beyond the "What" to Explore the "Why" of Today's Most Important Economic Issues
Carefully balancing the statistical data—the "what" of each trend or issue—with insightful explorations of how those trends or issues took their present shape—the "why"—Professor Whaples repeatedly takes the numbers that have long been the bane of those intimidated by economics courses and explores their implications in very human terms.
Showing us the human side of the numbers with which economics must be unavoidably concerned is second nature to Professor Whaples, who earned degrees in both economics and history in the process of becoming an economic historian. Honored as both a scholar and a teacher, he is intimately concerned with the real-life consequences of economics for flesh-and-blood people. In fact, his 1990 doctoral dissertation on the shortening of the American workweek was written from both economic and historical perspectives, and was honored by the Economic History Association as the "Outstanding Dissertation in American Economic History" for that year.
Professor Whaples begins the course with a thorough grounding in the basics of economics and the most important measuring sticks by which professional economists gauge an economy's performance. He always moves toward the human side of the equation, letting us see the translation of basic economic forces into the realities of our own lives.
The first lecture is a typical example of his approach. Terms such as rational maximizer, marginal cost, and demand curve fall neatly into place within the real-life example of padding over to one's thermostat on a cold winter's morning to decide where to set it, gauging where the cost–benefit tradeoffs might be—a process very similar to the one being performed at the other end of this transaction, by the marketplace players that provide our heating fuel.
As Professor Whaples so brilliantly shows, tradeoffs are a fundamental part of a system of economic forces that has been in play since long before the word economics even existed, from the moment the first want had to be balanced against the first inventory of resources, forcing someone to make a choice.
Modern Economic Issues is also about the economic implications of making those choices at the level of public policy. By showing the full range of economic factors that can come into play as a result of a given policy, and how our economy works, this course can help you become an even more insightful judge of policy recommendations and of the leaders and policy makers who advocate them.
Moreover, you will understand how professional economists view the full range of tradeoffs inherent in any decision. And you may well learn to supplement your own analyses as you make the real-life economic choices each of us faces every day, becoming an even wiser consumer and manager of your own economic future.
Course Lecture Titles
1. What Economists Know and Don’t Know About Economic Policy
2. Economy Up or Down? How to Tell
3. Economists' Views of the Future
4. Productivity and Productivity Growth
5. Inflation—Why the Measure Matters
6. Unemployment—How the U.S. Differs from Europe
7. Economic Inequality
8. The Fallacy of Trade Barriers
9. Trade Imbalances and Saving
10. Budget Deficits—Historical and Future Perspectives
11. Taxes and the Income Tax Code
12. Rx for Social Security
13. Mitigating the Economic Concerns of an Aging Population
14. Financing World Class Health Care
15. Supply, Demand, and the Future of Oil
16. Pollution—Tax or Trade?
17. Global Climate Change—Costs and Benefits
18. Minimum Wages and Poverty Rate
19. It Pays to Be Married
20. Pay Gaps by Sex and Race
21. Economic Impact of Immigration
22. Labor Unions—Contemporary Role in the U.S. Economy
23. Productivity Trends in Schools
24. Higher Education: Supply and Demand
25. Wal-Mart and Productivity Growth
26. Corporate Governance in a Successful Economy
27. Zero-Sum Game of Conspicuous Consumption
28. Economic Upside of Postal Reforms
29. Standard Market Practices—Can They Be Applied Everywhere?
30. Economics of the Baseball Industry
31. Examining Economic Response to Terrorism
32. Helping Poor Countries
33. Economic Upsides and Downsides of Urban Sprawl
34. Economic Costs and Benefits of Gambling
35. Economists’ View of Overeating
36. American Economy in the 21st Century