Microeconomics for Planners, 11.203, will ground you in basic microeconomics - how markets function, how to think about allocating scarce resources, what profit maximizing behavior means in different kinds of markets, how technology and trade reshapes all of this, etc. Along the way, it will also give you a sense of several of the major economic issues in the presidential campaign. We will consider activities that markets don't directly capture - the value of a historic preservation district or the costs imposed by pollution - in November and December during Gateway: Planning Economics, 11.202.
We are ultimately concerned with living standards - both the average standard of living (which reflects economic efficiency) and the distribution of living standards. As such, we will begin with a brief discussion of the U.S. wage and income distributions that will serve as a reference point for some of the other topics in the course. As the course proceeds, we will examine various real world issues including what went wrong with California Electricity Deregulation, the healthcare cost problem, how offshoring and technology are reshaping the labor market, and how firms can expect to make any money selling products over the web where prices are so easily compared. If the course does its job, you will begin to get a sense of when economic analysis can help in thinking through planning and development problems. You will also be better able to read the daily newspaper.
Under the new MCP curriculum, this is a modular course with the last formal lecture in the 9th week of classes and a two-hour final starting one week later.
In addition to lectures, the instructors will conduct weekly one-hour sections. Our plan is to spend half of each section reviewing the material in lectures and helping with homework, while the other half is devoted to working through some current economic problem taken from the news - a messy, real world problem rather than the focused problems in the homework. While attendance is optional, you probably should attend both at least through the first exam.
We will also offer an extra weekly section for students with weak mathematics backgrounds. Nonetheless, the section will help students who are nervous about asking "dumb" questions - why a graph is drawn in a particular way, etc. - so they can get off to a strong start. If you feel shaky about math, drop in on the session and assess whether for you the extra help is useful.
Course materials, problem sets, etc. are available on this Web site. In addition, the site contains links to a set of visual teaching tools that have been developed by Myoung-Gu Kang, a DUSP PhD student. The tools section contains tools that are designed to help understand the relationship between a problem expressed in words and its graphical representation.
Grading for the course will be based on graded weekly problem sets (10%), two examinations during the course (20% and 30% respectively), and the final exam (40%). You may want to form a study group to discuss problem sets, etc. If you do this, you should make a serious attempt to work the problems on your own before your group meets. Otherwise, there is a danger that you will get to the right answer based on another person's understanding and so you won't actually learn the material.
|Weekly Problem Set||10%|
|First Midterm Examination||20%|
|Second Midterm Examination||30%|
Our textbook is:
Nicholson, Walter. Intermediate Microeconomics and Its Applications. 9th ed. Stamford, CT: Thomson Learning, 2003. ISBN: 030259169.