Social Science Education


Basic Economics (B3)

Instructor:            Dr. Conant 
Office:                 HH 273
Telephone:           237-2163
Office hours:        10:00 - 11:00 MWF or by appointment

Course Objectives

    The basic purpose of this course is to provide you with the broad conceptual framework necessary to understand the workings of the American economic system and the varied and fundamentally economic nature of many business and public policy issues.  A basic understanding of economic concepts is essential before you can appreciate the implications of your interactions within the complex structure of your businesses, governments, and communities.  The evolution of human institutions, both private and public, have been stimulated by dynamic economic forces.  Without an understanding of these changing economic forces and their consequences, individuals will lack a true understanding of why their institutions are structured the way they are.  All individuals are economic "actors", and the world is their "stage".  Whether you wear the hat of a consumer, a business decision-maker, a governmental decision-maker, or a voter, you will be making economic decisions that will affect the quality of your life and that of your fellow citizens.  The secondary objective of the course is to acquaint you with the Indiana Academic Standards for Economics.  A variety of economic education materials used in 6th-12th grade social studies classrooms will be used to help you learn to integrate economic concepts and lessons into courses in other social science disciplines such a US and World History, Geography, Government, Social Systems, International Studies, and Current Issues courses.

Econ 100:  A Social and Behavioral Foundations Course

    This class serves as a foundation course in the Social and Behavorial Sciences portion of GE 2000 (and remains a B3 course in GE 89) and as such must meet certain objectives.  Broadly speaking, these objectives require that the course expose you to the methods and uses of social sciences in a way that gives you an understanding of the way the world works.  Because this is an economics course you will acquire that understanding through the particular perspective of the economist.  We will discuss how basic economic concepts such as opportunity cost and marginality can be used to analyze decision making in your daily lives as well as to analyze current policy issues.  We will focus our attention on how markets distribute goods and services within a modern society.
    We will make certain assumptions about people (that they are rational and self-interested)( and show, under those assumptions, how markets work.  We will use the economic methodology of modeling market activities to come to conclusions about how well markets serve our general interests, and where relevant, discuss the limitations of that economic methodology so as to place economics in a contest with the other social sciences disciplines.
    We will show how a market serves as a communication system by which consumer "tell" producers what goods and services they want and what they are willing to pay to get them; and producers "tell" consumers what they will be willing to accept to furnish those goods and services.  We critically analyze whether an unfettered market serves will in this capacity and cite several circumstances and conditions where it is unrealistic to expect such a market to succeed.  It is then that we can talk extensively about how political and social institutions influence markets and how those institutions influence people.
    By seeing how markets work, and sometimes fail to work, you will gain a new perspective on your role as a citizen in helping craft the political and social institutions that make up a modern society.

Why good citizenship requires economic literacy:

    The aim of the popularization of economic studies is not to make every man an economist.  The idea is to equip the citizen for his civic functions in community life.

    The conflict between capitalism and totalitarianism, on the outcome of which the fate of civilization depends, will not be decided by civil wars and revolutions.  It is the war of ideas.  Public opinion will determine victory and defeat.

    It would be a fateful error for the citizens to leave concern with economic studies to the professionals as their exclusive domain.  As the main issues of present-day politics are essentially economic, such a resignation would amount to a complete abdication of the citizens for the benefit of the professionals.

    The plain citizens are mistaken in complaining that the bureaucrats have arrogated powers; they themselves and their mandatories have abandoned their sovereignty.  Their ignorance of fundamental problems of economics has made the professional specialists supreme.  If the citizens are under the intellectual hegemony of the bureaucratic professional, society breaks up into two castes; the ruling professionals and the gullible citizenry.  Then despotism emerges, whatever the working of the constitutions and laws may be.

Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (1944)

    Exams (3)            (60%)
    Quizzes                (15%)
    Assignments         (25%)

Makeup Policy
Exams may be made up IF prior permission is granted, or a signed doctor's excuse is provided.

Attendance is expected on a regular basis.  Chronic absence from class will be considered as evidence of a lack of effort and participation.  Since the examinations are based on both text and the classroom discussions, those students who do not attend class regularly are at a significant disadvantage on exams.

Classroom participation is expected.  This is an issues oriented class, and classroom discussions are an important component of the learning process.  An unwillingness to participate will be considered as evidence of a lack of effort and participation.  Participation will be an important factor in determining borderline grades.


Month Mon Topic Wed Topic Fri Topic
Aug     21 Course Intro 23 Chap 1-Economics & Opp. Cost
  26 Chap 1 28 Q1-Chap 2
Supply & Demand
30 Chap 2
Sept 2 Labor Day 4 Chap 2 6 Q 2 - Chap 2
9 Chap 20- Health Care 11 Chap 32 - Farm Policy 13 Chap 34-Rent Controls
  16 Chap 3-Elasticity 18 Q3-Chap 3 20 Chap 4 -Interest
  23 Chap 18 - Tobacco & Alcohol 25 Chap 17-Drugs & Prostitution 27 Exam 1
Oct 30 Chap 5-Costs 2 Q4-Chap 5 4 Chap 6-Market Structure
  7 Q5-Chap 6 9 Chap 38-Antitrust 11 Chap 19-Environment
  14 Chap 7-MacroData 16 Q6-Chap 7 18 Fall break
  21 Chap 10-Deficits & Debt 23 Chap 13-CPI 25 Exam 2
  28 Chap 8-AS&AD 30 Q7-Chap 8 1 Chap 9-Federal Spending
Nov 4 Chap 11-Fiscal Policy 6 Chap 12-Monteary Policy 8 Chap 14-Int'l Trade
  11 Chap 26-Poverty & Welfare 13 Chap 27-Social Security 15 Exam 3

Nov 18 - Dec 6 - Focus on Teaching Economic Concepts in US and World History, Government, Geography, Economic Systems & Development, and International Courses.

The Benefits of Studying Economics

    Your college education is only the beginning of a long road that will have countless twists and turns.  There will be ample time to change jobs and careers.  It is for precisely this reason that economics is a good subject to study.  You need to prepare yourself to take advantage of whatever opportunities become available.  Economics provides a good foundation for confronting change because it teaches a disciplined way to analyze and to make choices.  The following sections present some of the reasons for studying economics.

Economics Deals with Vital Current Problems

    The stud of economics covers inflation, unemployment, monopoly, economic growth, pollution, free market vs. bureaucracy, poverty, productivity, and other issues in the headlines.  Economics is a problem-based social science, and the problems with which it is concerned are among the issues that fill newspapers and pervades politics.  Economics is relevant not only to the big problems of society, but also to personal matters, such as one's job, wages, unemployment, the cost-of-living, taxes, and voting.

Economics Uses Theoretical Models and the Scientific Method

    Some students become impatient with the seemingly endless array of conjecture and descriptive material that characterize many of the social sciences.  Economics is a social science that models for organizing facts and for thinking about policy alternatives.  Because economics deals with prices and numbers and because so many of its quantities are objectively measurable, economic theory is more fully developed than most other kinds of social theory.

Economics Prepares Students for Community Leadership

    A knowledge of economics and an understanding of current economic institutions and problems are essential not only for certain occupations, but for leadership roles as well.  Economics can serve as an avocation as well as a career foundation.  As someone knowledgeable about economics, you may play a leading role in a political party or a civic club organization.   You will be an informed commentator on current issues in any setting.  Few disciplines are equal to economics in preparing one to be an interested, interesting, and understanding observer of passing events and a leader in making decisions.

An Economics Major Opens Up Many Career Options

    Economics, unlike some majors, leads to a great diversity of career opportunities.  These include careers in business, law, journalism, teaching, politics, finance and banking, government service, public and private overseas service, and labor leadership.
    Employers, especially business firms, who are looking for liberal arts graduates often favor economics majors because these students have been through a rigorous sort of training.  The demands of majoring in economics tend to drive away the less ambitious, and attract the better minds.  Thus, a degree in economics may prove to be a valuable credential.  The payoff goes beyond getting a job; the salaries of economists tend to be higher than those of other social scientists.


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