Spring 2007 Economics 218, honors

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Spring 2007

Economics 218, honors

Microeconomics: Theory and Business Applications

Deirdre McCloskey

Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication

Jessica Cerepa, Department of Economics
9:00-10:40, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Behavioral Sciences Building (BSB) 369 (we may find a better classroom!) 4 credits. You must have had Math 160 or 165 or 180; and Econ 130 or both Econ 120 and 121. No exceptions. No credit for this course if you’ve had credit in Econ 220.
Ms. Cerepa will be dealing with problem sets and the like. The normal ways of getting in touch with me are (1.) talking to me at the classroom before or after class, which can be extended to a longer meeting or (2.) e-mail to deirdre2@uic.edu. Abnormally, in dire emergencies, home phone 312-435-1479, allowing for the likely waking hours of an elderly, very uncool woman.
We ask: How does the system of prices work in an economy, and what does the theory have to do with the practical business world?
The objectives of the course, by which you should judge me and yourself, are to help you make progress in:

  • Understanding how economics can be applied to the social world (typical example: allocating places in a course like this one by price would be more efficient than the present system by seniority and standing in line).

  • Getting absolutely clear how a few bits of theory actually apply to a life in business (typical example: regardless of what accountants say, you will make more money if you do not distribute fixed costs; regardless of what finance people say, you will make less money if you follow stock tips and “technical analysis.”)

  • Thinking about the business world beyond Max U, Prudence, Profit-making.

  • Reading difficult writing intelligently. This means getting the essence out with as little effort as possible, and as quickly as possible.

  • Writing well. Show that you’ve read Economical Writing with care.

We’ll read every page of the textbook, and my book on writing (the meager royalties from my books will be contributed to the UIC endowment, so I don't profit from assigning them). Each problem set is due on the day mentioned. The class will follow the outline exactly, no exceptions, so you can rely on it. The reading is about 50 pages a week, none of it beach reading, and always containing a good deal of graphical analysis, which you have to learn how to do. So allocate enough time for serious, college-level studying. If you can’t allocate reading time of at least two or three hours for each meeting of the class, with a few hours a week devoted to problem sets (that’s about 7/8 hours a week outside class time for this course), you aren’t going to do the job well, and won’t get much out of the course (or out of college!) Reconsider your priorities or your constraints. Sell your car. Come to class. Right now that's your business.

In class I’ll apply Chapter N to this and that, amplifying, summarizing, testing. You'll want to have read it before the class so that you can follow what I say and ask intelligent questions---and answer them. The problem set is due at the beginning of the class that happens after we have discussed Chapter N. Occasionally I'll call on people to read their answers, as a review.
If you have any disability that would affect your performance in the course—and especially one that I might not notice—do please tell me about it. As a lifelong stutterer, believe me, I know how you feel. Let’s deal with it now.
The texts are:

  1. Donald [don't ask! Or see Crossing: A Memoir (1999)] McCloskey, The Applied Theory of Price. Second edition only. New York: Macmillan, 1985. Available in class, xeroxed, for a moderate price, comparable to the prices you'll get on amazon.com for a secondhand copy.

2.) Deirdre McCloskey, Economical Writing (Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, 1999), ISBN 1-57766-063-3, about $10. Available only at College Books at 1076 W. Taylor, corner of Taylor and Aberdeen. Follow the rules in the book and you’ll be able to please your boss with how you write. For now, to do well in this course and in life: pretend I’m your boss.

Every class you will need to turn in a carefully written answer to one or two or three of the problems at the end of the chapter, assigned at the end of the previous class, after we've discussed the chapter in class. We'll grade the problems, sometimes with more care than at other times. But you never know. Sometimes we’ll just check to see if you turned it in and didn’t copy from someone else and made a serious, professional attempt at a report on the question (that, btw, is what your boss will want you to do in The Real World). Sometimes we’ll get into it more deeply. Style matters, as it does in the business world: good writers get ahead. You must show in your problem sets that you are reading Economical Writing. If you do a rotten job you’ll have to do it over again, with two more problems to do as well. We’ll keep tormenting you until you learn how to do a professional-looking report to a boss.

That means every class. No exceptions. Start immediately.
No deaths of grandmothers or dogs eating homework to intervene. In particular I get very cross when students say that “work” made it impossible to study. You’re in college: that’s your real work.

Occasionally, never announced beforehand, there will be a short in-class quiz on the day’s reading. These will be mainly about easily-graded concepts you should know if you’re doing the work. Usually they will be graded. I'll especially do this late in the course.
The problems, and class participation, the Business Problem (if I can find a good one: I'm beginning to doubt I can), the pop quizzes, and the two EXAMS (see below) will give me and you a good idea of the grade you deserve. There are so many grading opportunities in the course that you should not feel special anxiety about any one event. If you don’t show up you will probably fail the course. If you show up but do not contribute you will get a poor grade. Remember: 80% of success in business is showing up on time. And no one succeeds in business who doesn’t learn how to talk.

Schedule of Classes

Tues, January 16: Overview, with personal introductions. Read Chapter 1, "The Budget Line," for Thursday. Be ready to "recite" about it, that is, discuss it in class.

Thurs, January 18: Chp 1, "The Budget Line"
Over the weekend (1.) read Chp. 2, "The Consumer's Choice" [do it first because reading the next chapter often helps with the problem set on the previous chapter] then (2.) do the problem set assigned in Thursday's class, to be turned in at the beginning of Tuesday's class. This is the pattern for every class.
The problem set for Chp. 1, "The Budget Line," is p. 12, #6; p. 18, Exercise #1; p. 26, Exercise #2; p. 27, Problem 6.
Tues, January 23: Chp 2, "The Consumer's Choice" First problem set (on Chp. 1) due, written with care, on "The Budget Line"
The problem set for Chp. 2, "The Consumer's Choice," is p. 34, True or False # 3; p. 39, Exercise # 3; p. 44, Exercises 3 and 4.
Thurs, January 25: Chp 3, "The Measurement of Utility"

Second problem set due on "The Consumer's Choice," and so forth each time. We discuss Chapter N in class, then the next time you are responsible for (1.) a problem set on the chapter we discussed and (2.) intelligent discussion of the new chapter, N + 1.
Tues, January 30: Chp. 4, "Indifference Curves and Demand"
Thurs, February 1: Chp 5, "Trade"

By now you should be finished with Economical Writing and should be applying it to your own writing.

Tues, February 6: : Chp 6, "Using Market Supply and Demand"
Thurs, February 8: Chp 7, "Measuring Supply and Demand"

Tues, February 13: Chp 8, "Production Possibilities"

Thurs, February 15: Chp 9, "The Economics of Welfare and Politics"

Tues, February 20: Chp 10, "Consumer's Surplus"

Thurs, February 22: Chp 11, "The Firm"

Tues, February 27: Chp 12, "Cost Curves"

Thurs, Mar 1: Chp 13, "Competitive Industry"

Tues, Mar 6: Chp. 14, "Entry"

Thurs, Mar 8: Chp 15, "Taxes"

Tues, Mar 13: FIRST HOUR EXAM, Chps. 1-7 (Demand)

Thurs, Mar 15: SECOND HOUR EXAM, Chp. 8-15 (Supply)

Tues, Mar 20: [No class] Meet in your group on the Business Problem. . . if we have one.

Thurs, Mar 22: [No class] Ditto
---SPRING BREAK, March 26-30---
Tues, April 3: Chp 16, " Property Rights" The Business Problem due, if it happened. No late papers accepted. Write a serious report to your boss! All sign, all get the same grade.
Thurs, April 5: Chp 17, "Behavior of Monopoly"

Tues, April 10: Chp 18, "Measuring Monopoly" and Chp. 19, "Welfare of Monopoly"

Thurs, April 12: Chp. 20, "Monopolistic Competition"

Tues, April 17: Chp 21, "Competition among the Few"

Thurs, April 19: Chp 22, "Marginal Productivity"

Tues, April 24: Chp. 23, "MP in Use"

Thurs, April 26: Chp 24, "Misallocation in Factor Markets"

Tues, May 1: Chp 25, "Supply of Labor"

Thurs, May 3: Last Class. Chp 26, "Capital's Supply and Demand." Will there be an in-class quiz on this material? Who knows.

Quiz on Economical Writing

1.) “The President went to China, where the Chief Executive talked to the Chinese leader.” What’s wrong? Name it.

2.) Correct the following: Landes thinks “Europe is neat”. (Landes, p. 467)

3.) What mistake do both these sentences make? Mark it.
During the 19th century, the United Kingdom included Great Britain and Ireland.

Unfortunately, Landes is Eurocentric.

4.) How about this one: “England, Scotland and little Wales make up the island of `Great Britain’.”
5.) This paragraph has a problem. This author doesn’t even notice that she has this problem. This problem is the pointless overuse of a certain word. This word is being used essentially as a substitute for “the”—which we already have in English. Circle this problem word in this paragraph.
6.) “Not only is using the phrase `due to’ unnecessarily fancy, but it also is a sign of childish writing.” Comment?
7.) The writer of this brief paragraph does not understand a tiny little convention in typing. Missing it makes her prose hard to read. The ends of sentences are not clear, and the prose therefore blurs. What is her mistake?Did she just make it also in the previous sentence?When will she learn?!

8.) The process of the process of writing is a difficult process. The process of rewriting is important in the process. The key to the process is to eliminate needless words. What word does Professor McCloskey have in mind in this processs? Rewrite the paragraph making the necessary correction:

Top Ten Signs That Some People

Are Not Paying Attention to Aunt Deirdre’s Good Advice on Developing a Grownup Writing Style

10.) Using “the fact that” or “due to”
9.) Using “the former” or “the latter”
8.) Using “this” or “these” too much when “the” or “such a” would do
7.) Not spellchecking
6.) Not double spacing
5.) “Not getting the citation punctuation right” (p. 358).
4.) Not inserting that second comma in A, B, and C

3.) Still thinking that a semicolon is the same as a colon

2.) Still, using, too, many, commas,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


1.) STILL NOT USING TWO SPACES AFTER A FINAL STOP (period, exclamation point, question mark)

Add This to Your Handouts on Style, and Follow It!!!

  • “Buzz, buzz” (Diamond, p. 30). Note where the period goes: AFTER the citation.

  • No need for elipses before and after a quotation: “ . . . buzz, buzz . . .” (Diamond 30) is wrong.

  • A, B, and C. X, Y, or X. Note the comma before “and.” (And note where I put the period in that last sentence: Inside the quote marks—odd though it seems, that’s the printing convention.

  • No title pages. No padding.

  • No “In my opinion” (computer folks say, “IMHO”). The women especially need to watch this. It’s a good and sensible thing to do in conversation, this self-deprecation. It’s fatal to an argument in prose.

means “add a space.”

means “indent more” (as at the beginning of a paragraph).

means “Good point.”

If I circle something there’s something wrong with it—bad choice of word, or using a word contrary to the Holy Writ of Economical Writing.

Top Ten Signs That Someone Is Not Reading
That Brilliant Book
Economical Writing

1.) Using a comma after an introductory clause

2.) “this . . . . this . . . . this”
3.) Starting sentences with “However,”
4.) Using the word “process”
5.) Using “Not only . . . but also.”
6.) Not grasping the difference between a colon (:) and a semi-colon (;)
7.) Not reading out loud: silliness, rhymes, etc.
8.) No marks on the paper: no last proofreading
9.) Not using two spaces after a period or ! or ?
10.) Right justification

Rules of This House

In series use a comma before the “and”: X, Y, and Z. The trouble is that without it the reader finds it easy to think you mean “X and another thing combining Y and Z.”

Two spaces after a period, one after a comma. Repeat after me: Two spaces after . . . .

Get the word “stated” out of your active vocabularies. “The book stated” is a childish way of saying “Landsburg claims.”

Don’t use “they” as singular to avoid a choice of “he” or “she”; often enough you are not even in that bind: “In order for a business to prosper they need to find a market” should of course be “it”: “In order for a business to prosper it needs to find a market.” When you do have a he/she problem pick one and go with it.

Relative pronoun (“that”) for people is “who” or “whom.” “If one is known to someone who [not “that”] works for the FBI . . . .”

No comma is needed after an initial phrase such as “Considering the options [no comma here, despite what your teacher in 8th grade told you!!] the B choice is best.” Or “In summary, the economy blah, blah.” Sometimes—rarely—the comma will be useful if otherwise the sentence would be confusing. But this will almost never be the case if the next phrase starts with “the” or “this.” (See the example at the end of the next item.)

Get “I believe” and “I think” out of your writing. Putting yourself into the writing—using “I”—is fine if your opinion is the point. When it’s not, keep yourself out of the picture. As Strunk and White say, “To deliver unsolicited opinions is to suggest that the demand for them is brisk.” To put it another way, you are being asked for FACTS and ARGUMENTS, put into a good STYLE, not opinions.

Citations in the author/page style are fine, but do the punctuation correctly. The period goes outside the citation: “is ten to one (Jacobsen, 282).” Not: “is ten to one. Jacobsen, 282” with no period at all after the parentheses.
Always staple papers. Little carelessnesses like turning in two sheets with the corners folded, 4th-grade style, get your reader off to a bad start. Imagine that reader as your boss. She’ll fire you, believe me.
Always spellcheck anything typed. Type when you can (harder with math a diagrams, but write neatly then).

How to write an e-mail.

E-mail is still developing its forms. I want you to succeed, which starts by not annoying people when you send them e-mails. It’s not undemocratic to treat people courteously. The most courteous format, the one that treats the person you are e-mailing to with the correct degree of respect, is that of the traditional, written letter, in this order:
[date and return address is supplied automatically, so you don’t normally need it in an e-mail, unless you are asking for ordinary mail contact. You’d be surprised how many times people ask for things to be sent by mail yet give no place to send them to.]
Mailing address of the person if you are imitating the letter form more exactly—e.g. for a job application. Giving the address adds more formality.
Dear Title and Last Name of Person [e.g. Dear Professor McCloskey. No “Hi Professor McCloskey” or any variants you might think up; stick with the regular forms, which in English have pretty much reduced to “Dear.” We’ve lost the older forms of address to senators and kings, Your Excellency and that sort of things. Obviously with a close friend none of this matters, but you don’t need advice on how to deal with close friends: I want you to succeed with strangers]: {little detail: if it is a formal letter use a colon—that’s “McCloskey:” --- but if it’s a letter to a friend, or meant to be a non-business letter use a comma---“Deirdre,So the rule is, if you’re using someone’s last name you must not be a close friend, so in that case use the colon. By the way, at good universities professors are embarrassed to be called “Dr.” (you can tell a weak professor by his insistence on being called “Dr.”); but they do like to be called “Professor.” In my case, “Professoressa,” if you please [ç joke, joke: it’s the Italian feminine].
Introduce yourself in one short sentence if necessary, but only if necessary, and anyway in a fashion relevant to what you are doing: “I am applying for the position advertised in your department of marketing” or “I am a student in your [name of course].” Never, never say (in an e-mail or any other time), “You don’t remember me, but.” You should act in a self-respecting fashion.
[Do not apologize for “disturbing” the person, or “taking up his time,” or say “I know you’re busy, but.” If you’re writing to the person it must be someone who should be “disturbed.” Otherwise you shouldn’t write at all, correct? So there’s no need to apologize. Professors, for example, are paid to answer reasonable questions posed by students.]
State your question or other business. You need not be desperately brief if the matter is complex, but of course brevity is good. Normally there should be some point to e-mailing the person: you should end by asking her to do some particular thing, for example (submitting a grade, recommending you for a job, granting you an interview for a job, etc.). Tell her what to do, politely. But don’t grovel. It’s wise to keep a somewhat formal tone in a letter to a stranger. Use rather elevated diction [I’m doing it right now: instead of, “Talk a little bit fancy”]. It is also wise to keep your temper—though sometimes a letter is meant to injure or outrage.
In a formal business letter (one that used the colon, remember!) always end with
Your Full Name
That will do fine for any business situation (other formal “closings” as they are called—such as “Yours truly,”--- have fallen out of fashion). For a close friend you of course can do anything: “See you around, you jerk,” [but always add that comma before a new line and your name]. But for less than close friends you can choose among “Yours,” [close friends, even lovers], “Regards” [someone you’ve met and have a reasonably warm relationship with], “With warm regards” (a warm acquaintance, not a close friend), “Love” (women only are allowed to use this to someone other than a very close friend or relative; men use “Warm regards” in the same situation).

Your name (legible!):

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