Economics 203: Honors Microeconomic Principles
Instructor: Howard Baetjer, Jr., Lecturer, Department
Office: Stephens 123H
Phone: Office: (410)-704-2585
Home: (410)-435-2664 (No calls after 9:00 p.m., please)
Office hours: Tuesdays
3:30-6:30, and by appointment
- James D. Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Russell S. Sobel, and David A. Macpherson, Microeconomics: Private and Public Choice, 13th edition, Orlando, Florida: Harcourt College Publishers (2010). Please note that our publisher has printed for us a special version of this text containing only the chapters assigned in this course, and including the corresponding Coursebook (study guide) chapters also. This text is referred to in this syllabus as "GSSM."
- Coursebook to Microeconomics: Private and Public Choice. The assigned chapters from this Coursebook are bundled into the special text available for this course at the university bookstore.
- Instructional material on Aplia.com (described below)
- The Invisible Heart, by Russell Roberts. This is a romance that teaches a lot of good economics.
- The Price of Everything, by Russell Roberts. This is also a work of fiction with important economic lessons.
Additional readings will be distributed in class or made available through our Blackboard and Aplia sites.
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt - This has been the single most useful book in my entire economics education. It has short chapters, no graphs, and remarkably clear explanations of basic principles.
The Choice, a fable of free trade and protectionism, by Russell Roberts
The Wall Street Journal - A great way to keep up with current economic news and to improve your ability to apply economic theory to the real world
Other Resources -- The textbook website: http://www.wadsworth.com/cgi-wadsworth/course_products_wp.pl?fid=M20b&product_isbn_issn=9780538754330&discipline_number=413&token=. This website has interactive quizzes, flashcards, and key terms. Some of you might find it worth a look. The Economics Department’s Web Site: The economics department has an excellent web site. Its internet address is http://www.towson.edu/econ/. In particular, note the "Research Resources" entry, which contains links to a wide variety of economic data and news sources. You will not need to use such data in the course, but if you'd like to look something up, you can probably find it here.
Purpose of the Course: The course has two purposes. The main goal is to help students appreciate the immense value of the market economy to mankind. Within a relatively free economy, most people live well, and their lot improves dramatically as time passes. Outside of a relatively free market economy, most people live poorly. The main goal of the course, then, is to help students understand why and how economic freedom fosters human well-being. The related, second goal of this course is for students to learn the economic way of thinking and begin to use it to make sense of the social world.
This honors course follows the pattern of my Econ 201 course, but it requires both additional reading and writing on the additional reading. Lectures will go more deeply into the assigned topics than is possible in Econ 201, and class discussions are generally richer and more flexible, with more student participation than is normal in Econ 201. Honors students can expect to develop their writing and reasoning skills in this course and to practice applying the concepts they learn in the course to public policy issues of the day.
Course Description: Economics has been aptly described as "the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life." That is our topic for the term. More particularly, this is a course in microeconomics, also called "price theory." We will study the behavior of individual people and organizations, in both the private and public sectors, as they make their decisions and interact with one another. An essential part of human interaction through markets is the price system. Prices -- prices set freely on the market -- are precious. We'll study how prices are determined and how ever-changing prices allow the world's people to coordinate our activities very well, even though we are all pursuing different goals and nobody is in charge.
We will also discuss the role of the essential underlying institutions of the market economy: private ownership and freedom of exchange.
Class time will be spent on roughly equal amounts of lecturing by the instructor, small group problem solving and discussions, and whole-group discussions. In class, if you don't understand a particular point (or if you disagree with it), speak up so that we can discuss it, or email me or see me about it.
Course Catalog Description, and Goals and Objectives Common to All Econ 201 and 203 Sections:
Course Catalog Description: Economic reasoning of individual choice in household and market decisions. Behavior of firms in competitive and noncompetitive markets, functioning of labor and capital markets, role of the entrepreneur and effects of government policies. GenEd II.C.2.
Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Economics 201/203, which satisfies the Category II.C.2 (Western Heritage: Social and Behavioral Sciences) General Education Requirement, builds on the logic of individual choice, using concepts like value and cost, to promote understanding of social institutions that arise from perceptions of mutual gain. These institutions include domestic and international markets for goods and resources, nonmarket arrangements like families and clubs, and political processes.
Although microeconomics is applicable even to non-Western cultures like isolated tribes, historically the science emerged to explain the undesigned coordination achieved by the extensive markets that result from Western political and philosophical heritage. Its most important role is still to provide a framework for understanding and critically assessing the markets that largely characterize Western civilization.
Learning Objectives: After successful completion of Microeconomic Principles, you will be able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of the factors that determine demand and supply, (2) demonstrate an understanding of the factors that cause a change in quantity demanded or supplied versus a change in demand or supply, (3) illustrate, by properly interpreting standard economic graphs, how markets (interactions of demand and supply) determine prices and the way in which resources are used, (4) understand and be able to explain the significance of the concept of “opportunity cost,” and (5) illustrate the use of the concept of “comparative advantage” and how it serves as the foundation for international trade.
Program Learning Goals: Achievement of one or more of the following College of Business and Economics “Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes” will be assessed in this course: “Use problem-solving techniques” (KSA 2a), “Use adaptable, flexible thinking” (KSA 2b), and/or “Know, apply, and integrate the content in one's major” (KSA 5a). A short in-class quiz, covering the KSAs from this list that are to be assessed this semester, will be administered to the class late in the semester.
Some Applicable University Policies:
Students with disabilities: If you have a documented disability and require accommodations, please contact me at the beginning of the semester and when given an assignment for which an accommodation is required. Please verify your eligibility through the Office of Disability Support Services (AD 232).
Repeating the course: According to University policy, all students may repeat any course once. If repeating, you are advised to inform the instructor. For a third attempt, the student must obtain prior written approval from the Academic Standards Committee. If students enroll for a third attempt without permission, they do so at their own risk.
Withdrawing from the course: Please note that the last day to drop the course is noted in the online Academic Calendar. Students who drop on or before this date will receive a "W" on their official transcript. Those who drop afterwards must receive a regular letter grade.
Attendance and Preparation: I expect students to have studied all assigned readings by the class meeting for which they are assigned, and be prepared to discuss those readings. Prepare carefully. Doing so will greatly increase the amount you learn.
I expect students to attend every class meeting. I take roll at every class. If for some good reason you must miss a class, I appreciate the courtesy of your letting me know why at your first reasonable convenience (preferably before the class you miss).
Though I earnestly want you to attend every class, attendance does not count toward your grade; no credit is given for perfect attendance, and no deduction is made for never showing up. Attendance counts only indirectly in that attending regularly will help you learn more and therefore score better than you otherwise would on the exams (not to mention the unannounced in-class quizzes and short papers due at class time).
Blackboard: We will make occasional use of Blackboard, a web-based system for facilitating academic course delivery. The university software is supposed to enroll you in this course's Blackboard site automatically when it enrolls you in the course. Please check that it has done so at https://bbweb.towson.edu/. There is a new Student Orientation website for Blackboard that walks students through basic skills (only a few of which you’ll need for this course). It’s available here: http://www.towson.edu/blackboard/studentorientationcourse.asp.
In Blackboard please check the accuracy of your email address by sending a test message to yourself from within the Blackboard system: if you can reach yourself that way, then I can reach you; if you can't, then correct your email address on Blackboard and try again.
Aplia: We will use the online service Aplia.com, in lieu of a workbook. Aplia has made a deal with our textbook publisher to bundle Aplia access with our specially-printed textbook at a reduced price. Look for the Aplia information shrink-wrapped in with your textbook; don't lose it.
The Aplia offerings I have chosen for you include tutorials, readings, practice problems sets, and graded problem sets. The graded problem sets on Aplia (there are more than twenty scheduled) are the assignments on which your online quiz grade is based, and the exercises and tutorials on Aplia are an excellent way to deepen your understanding of economics.
Absolutely as soon as possible, register for this course's corresponding course on Aplia, even if you cannot pay yet. Enroll in Aplia now, before paying for it, even if you have not bought your textbook-and-Aplia bundle yet, because you have a three week grace period in which to pay for Aplia, while your first graded assignments on Aplia are due just a few days after the first class meeting. Check the schedule on Aplia immediately for details.
Online exercises on Aplia count 10% of the course; that’s more than one whole grade level, so do your Aplia work diligently.
To get started in Aplia, please do the following:
1. Connect to http://www.aplia.com.
2. Check that your computer can handle Aplia properly: On the sign in page, click the "System Configuration Test" at the bottom right of the window; this takes just a few seconds and provides detailed information on how to update your system if necessary.
3. Return to the Sign In page and click the "Create a New Account" button under "New Users.”
4. You will then be asked to
enter your course key. The course key for this course is as follows:
5. From there on follow Aplia's instructions.
You will need to register in Aplia only once. After the registration process is complete, you will not need to enter the course key again. For technical problems or problems signing in, please contact Aplia by sending e-mail to email@example.com, or by clicking the Aplia Support link at the top right and bottom right of any Aplia page.
Once more for emphasis: Enroll in Aplia now; pay later if you wish. Your first graded assignments are due the first weekend and they cannot be made up later. You have been warned.
Grading Procedures: Grades
for this course will be based on students’ scores on (1) online quizzes (on Aplia)
on the assigned readings, (2) occasional in-class quizzes and writing
assignments, both in-class and out-of-class, (3) written work on The
Invisible Heart to be assigned, (4) written work on The Price of
to be assigned, (5) two hourly examinations, and (6) a cumulative
quizzes on Aplia
Grades are based exclusively on the competence in economics you demonstrate on these quizzes, papers, and exams. No extra credit work is assigned or accepted so please don't ask me about it. Final grades are determined strictly by the numbers, with no curve and no mercy. I do my best to determine all final grades without knowing what students have earned what grades.
The grading scale is as follows:
Grades in the A range are awarded only for excellent work, work that shows mastery of the subject.
Grades in the B range indicate good work, work that shows significant grasp of the subject.
Grades in the C range indicate satisfactory work.
We all know what D and F mean.
Course Requirements: Online quizzes: You will take these on Aplia.com. These quizzes are meant to motivate you to prepare well for class and to check that you have done the assigned reading. Accordingly, the deadlines for many of these quizzes fall before the classes in which we will go over the corresponding readings.
Every online quiz counts the same toward the course grade, no matter how many questions it might have. At the end of the term, your online quiz grade will be your online quiz average; it counts for eleven percent of the course grade. Because unavoidable problems sometimes arise (e.g., computer problems, network problems, illness, car problems, deaths in the family, late enrollment in the course etc.), in calculating this grade I drop your four lowest scores. This gives you four "free passes" to cover unavoidable emergencies that prevent you from taking the online quizzes by their deadlines. Note that sometimes more than one quiz will be due on the same day. Allow for possible emergencies by completing quizzes as far in advance of the deadline as you think reasonable.
In-class quizzes and short papers done at home: In-class quizzes will be explained when I give them. Assignments for short papers done at home are posted in the "Assignments" section of the course Blackboard site. Their due dates are specified in the Course Outline at the end of this syllabus. Most of those assignments are already visible to you on Blackboard in “Assignments.” Some new may be added. On all, please try to remember to put your name only on the bottom of the back of the last page of your paper. (This is so that I don't know who you are as I grade your work. Not knowing who has written a paper helps me avoid unconscious bias.)
Expect pop quizzes in class any time. Their purpose is to motivate you to study all reading assignments carefully as well as to check your understanding.
All take-home quizzes and papers should meet the following requirements:
Writing quality: Papers must be clearly written and use correct grammar and
spelling. They should be organized, edited, and proofread. Grammar,
punctuation, spelling and the like count for half the paper's grade. (See “Getting help on your writing,” below.)
Hard copy submission: Papers must be paper—hard copy. I’m jealous of the time it would take me to print students’ papers for them, so please print your own and do not submit papers by email unless some extraordinary situation arises and you get my permission to submit the paper by email.
Lateness: Please deliver any late papers to my faculty mailbox (ST 101) or to the slot on my office door (ST 123H) as soon as you can. Please write on the paper both the due date and the date and time you submit it so that I can calculate the lateness penalty. You may be penalized 5% per 24-hour period (including weekend days) beginning the moment the paper is due, except in extraordinary circumstances. (Minor illnesses, printer problems, car problems, etc. are not extraordinary circumstances.)
· Print from a word processor or type; double-space; format neatly.
· Use a normal-sized font.
Getting help on your writing
Students are expected to write at a college level. Sadly, many students arrive at Towson poorly prepared to do so. That poor preparation is not usually your fault, but the fault of the dreadful writing instruction you have received in school. Be that as it may, you are in college now and I’ll expect you to write at a college level. Here are three programs that you can use to improve:
For help with organization and content, please make an appointment with the CBE Writing Proficiency Program, located in Stephens Hall 117, by calling 410-704-4379 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . The program is available Monday through Friday during the semester. Writing consultants in the program will review your work and provide feedback. See the Program website: http://www.towson.edu/cbe/student_resources/writingprogram.asp.
If you need help with basic grammar and punctuation, you have two options. You may contact the university’s Writing Support Center at http://www.towson.edu/cbe/student/writing/index.asp. Alternatively, you can find information on specific points of grammar and punctuation online at Towson’s Online Writing Support: http://wwwnew.towson.edu/ows/.
Late or missed in-class quizzes or exams: Quizzes and exams must be taken at their scheduled times except in extraordinary circumstances, with my specific permission. If some emergency prevents you from taking a quiz or exam on schedule, you must present a written (email is okay) explanation of the problem before the quiz or exam, or as soon as possible afterwards, so that we can make alternative arrangements.
Written work on The Invisible Heart and The Price of Everything: You will need to write six to ten pages on each book. I have not decided on details of this; we may work it out in class. I’m not happy with what I have assigned in past years and I’m still working on how to make it more useful and engaging for you.
Academic Integrity: This should go without saying, but let us say it anyway: Be honest. Present as your own work only your own work. Your character development is far more important than your grade. Practice integrity in your actions and you will build it in yourself.
I encourage you to work together because we all learn from talking over ideas with others. So feel free to work on problems together and to have classmates read your written work and make comments on it. BUT any work you submit must be your own. This requirement applies notably to take-home papers: feel free to talk the questions over with others all you want, but let the answers you submit be entirely in your own words. Others' contributions to your thinking should be identified as such.
I will deal severely with any sloppiness in this respect. Anyone who cheats will fail the course.
Cell phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices: Please use good judgment with these; make sure you don't disturb your classmates or me.
I request that cell phones be turned to silent or off during class, because the just-barely-audible drone of phones set to "vibrate" can be very distracting. Please never look at your phone during class unless you have some truly important reason to do so; losing a student’s attention distracts me. Feel free to use a laptop during class to take notes, but please use it only for work in this course. While you are in class, please give the class your full attention; that matters to me.
Please keep all electronics off during tests.
Recommendations for how to succeed (learn a lot and get a good grade) in this course: Do #1 right now and #2 - #7 in sequence every week. Do #8 as necessary.
The readings and writing assignments for each week are given in the table below. Writing assignments referred to in this outline are detailed in “Assignments” on our course Blackboard site. (If you don’t see one there, please let me know right away; that means I have fouled up.)
In addition to the reading and writing assignments in this outline, you are responsible for doing all exercises assigned for this course on Aplia. The Aplia assignment schedule is available only on Aplia.
I may assign additional handouts and web readings from time to time. If and when I do, I’ll announce them on our course Blackboard site and send an email to the email address Blackboard has for you.
"GSSM" stands for our textbook, by Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel, and Macpherson.
Reading and Writing Assignments
Syllabus; "I, Pencil" (handout); this course syllabus (online)
Do online reading and short paper assignment on Cox and Alm’s “Time Well Spent.”
Roberts, The Invisible Heart, chapters 1-4
Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel, and Macpherson (GSSM), Chapter 1, "The Economic Approach," and Chapter 2, "Some Tools of the Economist"
Roberts, The Invisible Heart, chapters 5-7
For Wednesday: do online readings by Dwight Lee on “marginal thinking.”
GSSM, Chapter 3, "Supply, Demand, and the Market Process"
Roberts, The Invisible Heart, chapters 8-11
For Wednesday: read excerpt from Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist (handout); do short paper on this reading
GSSM, Chapter 3, "Supply, Demand, and the Market Process," thoroughly study it again. Study closely pp. 74-77; these are the most important pages in book for this course.
Roberts, The Invisible Heart, chapters 12-15
First hourly test, Monday or Tuesday, October 1 or 2. Please bring a pencil.
Roberts, The Invisible Heart, chapters 16-17
For Wednesday: Read online Moore and Simon on "The Greatest Century that Ever Was" (no paper is required on this but there will be a question on it on the next test).
Aplia online experiment Sunday night, October 7, 9:00 p.m.
GSSM, Chapter 4, "Supply and Demand: Applications and Extensions," pp. 80-90 on price controls
Roberts, The Invisible Heart, chapters 18-21
For Wednesday: Do online readings on consequences of minimum wage laws, and submit minimum wage take-home quiz at class time.
Aplia online experiment Sunday night, October 14, 9:00 p.m.
GSSM, Chapter 4, "Supply and Demand: Applications and Extensions," pp. 91-103 on the effects of taxes and subsidies
For Wednesday: GSSM, Chapter 4, "Supply and Demand: Applications and Extensions," pp. 90-91 on black markets; do short paper on Holcombe's "The Drug Problem."
Do online reading and short paper assignment on Fred I. Kent's "Letter to His Grandson," and also review carefully GSSM pp. 40-46 on the ways humans improve our living standards.
Roberts, The Price of Everything, chapters 1-3
For Wednesday: GSSM, Chapter 5, "The Economic Role of Government"
Roberts, The Price of Everything, chapters 4-5
Second hourly test, Wednesday or Thursday, October 31 or November 1. Please bring a pencil.
GSSM, Chapter 6, "The Economics of Collective Decision Making”; also watch YouTube clips and do short paper assignment on “Politics Without Romance.”
Roberts, The Price of Everything, chapters 6-7
For Wednesday or Thursday: Special Topic 11, "Are We Running out of Resources?" and Special Topic 12, "Difficult Environmental Cases and the Role of Government."
Do short paper assignment on Special Interest Effect videos.
Roberts, The Price of Everything, chapters 8-9
For Wednesday or Thursday: GSSM, Chapter 16, "Gaining from International Trade"; also do online reading and short paper assignment on Frederic Bastiat's "A Petition."
Do online readings on Glenn Garvin's "View From the Garment Factory" and Russell Roberts’s “Does Trade Exploit the Poorest of the Poor?” There will be a final exam question on these articles. Also watch on YouTube “Is Your iPod Unpatriotic?”
Roberts, The Price of Everything, chapters 10-11
Do online reading and short paper assignment on "Something Else," by Frederic Bastiat.
Roberts, The Price of Everything, chapters 12-13
For Wednesday for Monday-Wednesday section 101 only: GSSM, Special Topic 3, "The Economics of Social Security"
Review; practice questions in preparation for final
Review; final lecture
Final Exam: Section 101, Monday, Dec. 17, 5:15-7:15; Section 011, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 10:15-12:15. Please bring a pencil, and please double-check me on this date and time against the university calendar.