Economics 201: Microeconomic Principles

Sections 009 and 014
Fall Semester, 2014
Towson University

Purpose / Description / Attendance and Preparation / Online logistics  
Grading / Requirements / Academic integrity / Course outline

Instructor: Howard Baetjer, Jr., Lecturer, Department of Economics
Office: Stephens 104B
Phone: Office: (410)-704-2585
             Home: (410)-435-2664 (No calls after 9:00 p.m., please)
Email: hbaetjer@towson.edu
Website: http://pages.towson.edu/baetjer/

Office hours: Mondays and Thursdays 5:00-6:30, and by appointment
Required Texts:

  1. James D. Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Russell S. Sobel, and David A. Macpherson, Microeconomics: Private and Public Choice, 14th edition, Orlando, Florida: Harcourt College Publishers (2013).  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."
  2. 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.
  3. Instructional material on Aplia.com (described below)

Additional readings will be distributed in class or made available through our Blackboard and Aplia sites.

Recommended Reading:  

The Price of Everything, by Russell Roberts - This novel is a wonderful exploration of the economy as a spontaneous order, and a fun story as well.  If you read only one extra book, I'd like it to be this one, because this book so clearly and enjoyably reinforces the main ideas of the course.
 
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 Invisible Heart
, by Russell Roberts - This is a romance (yes, it's true) that teaches a lot of good economics.  I recommend it highly, especially for the romantics among you.

Free Our Markets, by Howard Baetjer Jr. That’s me. I published this last year. The first seven chapters will echo and reinforce much of what we cover this term. I’ll gladly lend you a copy if you would like to borrow one.

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.cengagebrain.com/shop/search/9781111970215 . I have not explored this but you might want to. 
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 well-being improves dramatically as time passes. Outside of a relatively free market economy, most people live poorly and their well-being stagnates.  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.

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.

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 Sections:

Course Catalog Description: Economic reasoning of individual choice in household and market decisions.  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; Core Curriculum Requirement II. 6.

 

Fulfillment of University Core Curriculum Requirements: Economics 201/203 is a part of the university’s Core Curriculum for social and behavioral sciences. On completing the course, students should be able to:

·         Articulate relevant basic assumptions, concepts, theoretical constructs and factual information of the social and behavior sciences.

·         Demonstrate an understanding of relevant social and behavioral science methodologies. 

·         Apply appropriate problem-solving skills in discipline specific contexts.

·         Apply disciplinary knowledge from the social and behavioral sciences to contemporary ethical or social issues.

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.

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 (7720 York Road, Suite 232, tel. 410-704-2638.).

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, as noted in the online Academic Calendar, is November 5.  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).

Online logistics:  This course makes use of three different online systems, the course Blackboard site at http://blackboard.towson.edu/, Aplia.com, and Facebook.  Use of these is required.  Get started right away:

Blackboard: We will make occasional use of Blackboard, a web-based system for facilitating academic course delivery. In particular, on the course Blackboard site I have posted outlines (and some PowerPoint presentations) for every class presentation of the term. You may go get them and download them or print them as you please. They are in Course Documents.

Also at the course Blackboard site in Assignments you will find the detailed instructions for all the reading, video-watching, and short paper writing assignments of the term. The due dates for these are specified in the Course Outline at the end of this syllabus.

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 http://blackboard.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 11% 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:
  
DMHL-EJ9K-RLCX

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 clicking the Customer Support link at the top right of any Aplia page. (I think it’s always there.)

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.

See “Course Requirements: Online quizzes,” below, for further information on what you’ll do with Aplia, how I grade it, policy for missed assignments, etc.

Facebook: We’ll also have a Facebook group. This group is for the use of students enrolled in my sections of micro principles this fall. Members may use it as they see fit for course purposes. Please be courteous and helpful to one another. Here is its address: https://www.facebook.com/groups/435521929923142/. At your first convenience, please send me a request to join this group.

Grading Procedures: Grades for this course will be based on students’ scores on (1) online quizzes (on Aplia) on the assigned textbook readings (2) occasional in-class quizzes, and writing assignments both in-class and out-of-class, (3) two hourly examinations, and (4) a cumulative final examination.
 

Online quizzes on Aplia
In-class quizzes and short papers
1st hourly exam
2nd hourly exam
Final exam
Total

  11%
  10%
  24%
  24%
  31%
 100%

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:

93 - 100
90 - 93
87 - 90
83 - 87
80 - 83
77 - 80
70 - 77
67 - 70
60 - 70
  0 - 60

 A
 A-
 B+
 B
 B-
 C+
 C
 D+
 D
 F

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.

This term I want to give students the chance to do more Aplia exercises for credit after we have discussed the relevant ideas in class. I’m still working out how to do this. I’ll give you further information, and perhaps ask for your suggestions, at some point during the term.

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 write 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, if I clobber your grade for poor writing.)

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: Papers submitted after I have graded the rest of the batch (or sent them out for grading) may not be accepted. If you want to submit a paper late in hope that it will be graded and counted, please deliver it to my faculty mailbox (ST 101) as soon as you can. 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.)

Format:

·         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 cbewriting@towson.edu . 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/writing/index.asp.

If you need help with basic grammar and punctuation, you have two options.  You may contact the university’s Writing Center at http://www.towson.edu/writingcenter/.  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.

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.

Towson University’s student academic integrity policy is laid out in the Undergraduate Catalog’s Appendix F. It is available online at http://catalog.towson.edu/undergraduate/appendices/appendix-f-code-student-conduct/.

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 unless you get my permission to have it on at that particular time.

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.

    1. Make up your mind to think. If you try to get by in this course by memorizing, you'll probably get a lousy grade and have no fun. If you aim really to understand the principles, you will probably get a good grade and enjoy yourself. What we are studying is great stuff with tremendous explanatory power in almost every area of life.
    2. Get enough sleep. It is remarkable how much better our minds work when they are rested.
    3. Study the required readings thoroughly. Do so while you are rested, in a quiet place, in a nice long block of uninterrupted time. Read actively: Underline and make marginal notes of key ideas, questions, useful illustrations and the like.
    4. Do the practice exercises on Aplia until you are comfortable with the concepts they cover.  Their interactive nature will help you learn more deeply than just reading allows.
    5. Answer a liberal sampling of the "Critical Analysis Questions" at the end of every chapter of the text. These are good questions for helping you get below the surface of the ideas and understand them in practical application. We'll discuss some of these in class.  Yes, doing all this work is time-consuming. But you'll learn thoroughly, and get a much better grade, if you work with and practice applying the concepts you'll be learning.
    6. Speak up in class. Ask questions whenever you don't understand something. Take a shot at answering my questions as often as you can, within the bounds of courtesy to others. Articulating your thoughts helps you develop them. Learn actively.
    7. Answer lots of questions in the Coursebook to the text for every chapter we study.  (Chapters from the Coursebook corresponding to the chapters assigned in the text are physically bound into the back of the volume specially printed for this course.) Do this promptly after studying the textbook readings for the week if you can, but definitely before the test on those chapters. Check your answers against the explanations given. Whenever there is a question whose answers you don't understand, ask a classmate about it, or ask me in class.  My students in past runs of the course have found this Coursebook particularly helpful in preparing for tests. 
    8. Come see me during office hours on anything that has you excited or troubled or stumped. I love teaching this stuff. You won't be a burden; I'll be glad to see you.

Course Outline

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 Facebook group page. 

"GSSM" stands for our textbook, by Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel, and Macpherson.

Week of 

Reading and Writing Assignments

Aug. 27

Syllabus; "I, Pencil" (handout); this course syllabus (online)

Sep. 1

Do online reading and short paper assignment on Cox and Alm’s “Time Well Spent.”

    For Thursday: GSSM, Special Topic 2, "The Economics of Social Security"

Sep. 8

Gwartney, Stroup, Sobel, and Macpherson (GSSM), Chapter 1, "The Economic Approach," and Chapter 2, "Some Tools of the Economist"

    For Thursday: do online readings by Dwight Lee on “marginal thinking” (no paper is required on these but there will be a question on them on the first test).

Sep. 15

GSSM, Chapter 3, "Supply, Demand, and the Market Process"

   For Thursday: read excerpt from Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist (handout); do short paper on this reading

Sep. 22

GSSM, Chapter 3, "Supply, Demand, and the Market Process," thoroughly study it again. Study closely pp. 64-66; these are the most important pages in book for this course.

Sep. 29

First hourly test, Tuesday, Sep. 30. Please bring a pencil.

   For Thursday: 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, Oct. 5, 9:00 p.m.

Oct. 6

GSSM, Chapter 4, "Supply and Demand: Applications and Extensions," pp. 69-77

   For Thursday: Do online readings on consequences of minimum wage laws, and submit minimum wage take-home quiz at class time.

Aplia online experiment Sunday night, Oct. 12, 9:00 p.m.

Oct. 13

GSSM, Chapter 4, "Supply and Demand: Applications and Extensions," pp. 78-90

   For Thursday: GSSM, Chapter 4, "Supply and Demand: Applications and Extensions," pp. 77-78 on black markets; do short paper on Holcombe's "The Drug Problem."

Oct. 20

Do online reading and short paper assignment on Fred I. Kent's "Letter to His Grandson," and also review carefully GSSM pp. 30-37 on the ways humans improve our living standards.

   For Thursday: GSSM, Chapter 5, "The Economic Role of Government"

Oct. 27

Second hourly test, Thursday, Oct. 30. Please bring a pencil.

Nov. 3

GSSM, Chapter 6, "The Economics of Collective Decision Making”; also watch YouTube clips and do short paper assignment on “Politics Without Romance.”

   For Thursday: Special Topic 10, "The Question of Resource Exhaustion" and Special Topic 11, "Difficult Environmental Cases and the Role of Government." 

Nov. 10

Do short paper assignment on Special Interest Effect videos.

   For Thursday: GSSM, Chapter 16, "Gaining from International Trade"; also do online reading and short paper assignment on Frederic Bastiat's "A Petition."

Nov. 17

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?” 

   For Thursday: Do online reading and short paper assignment on "Something Else," by Frederic Bastiat.

Nov. 24

   For Thursday: Thanksgiving Break

Dec. 1

Review; practice questions in preparation for final

Dec. 8

Review; final lecture

Final Exams: Section 009: Tuesday, December 16, 3:00-5:00. Section 014: Monday, December 15, 12:30-2:30.  Please bring a pencil, and please double-check me on these dates and times against the university calendar.