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Course Information

Instructor Info:Smita Ramnarain
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) WLH
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) WLH

Is capitalism the best economic system for meeting human needs? Can microeconomic theory help us figure out what to do about climate change? Will macroeconomic theory get us out of the recession? In this course, we will use these questions to frame the study of our economic system and the theories most often used to explain its workings. In the first part of the class, we will assess the merits and problems of capitalism as a system for producing and distributing goods and services. To contextualize the study of capitalism, we will learn about economic systems that have preceded it and economic thinkers that have theorized about it. In the second part of the class, we will study neoclassical microeconomic theory and its contributions to our understanding of how goods are--and should be--produced and distributed. We will ask whether these theories can help us understand climate change, perhaps the greatest economic and environmental challenge of our time. In the third part of the class, we will study neoclassical and Keynesian macroeconomic theory, assessing its usefulness in understanding and alleviating the current economic crisis. Theory introduced in parts two and three correspond to that taught in introductory level courses in micro- and macroeconomics and will prepare students for intermediate level work in both fields.

Course Objectives:
  1. Provide an overview of  the history of economic thought and prevailing theoretical approaches (mainstream and heterodox) in economics
  2. Improve analytical thinking and problem solving skills by using economic theories and models to explain and predict economic relationships.
  3. Advance critical thinking to evaluate economic models in their ability to portray the real world or to address major economic challenges.
  4. Improve your abilities to evaluate views and opinions related to economics and develop their own perspectives based on sound reasoning.
  5. Improve your understanding of economic issues and events.
Evaluation Criteria:

The following are requirements for receiving an evaluation, in no particular order of importance (i.e. they are all important!). Failure to meet these requirements will result in ‘no evaluation,’ without any exceptions. Late work will not be accepted and incompletes will not be given for this course since there will be plenty of time for each large assignment. Please consider carefully whether you can do justice to the course before signing on.

Written work/ problem sets. Completion of four long problem sets, each pertaining to particular sections of the course and timely submissions of these in class. These are all mandatory for an evaluation. Failure to submit any one will result in a ‘no evaluation.’

Attendance. Only two absences over the course of the semester will be allowed. If you plan to miss a class, and you are within your two allowed absences, you are excused. Any more absences, for whatever reason and whether or not you share these reasons with me, are to be considered unexcused, and will be mentioned in your evaluation. If you have more than four absences, you will not receive an evaluation regardless of the reason for the absences. This is really not out of a desire to be unreasonable; the course is structured in a way that emphasizes participation and discussion. Indeed, this element constitutes a significant percentage of the grade. So, come to class, listen, and participate. Really!

Further, I may or may not take attendance in every class. That is, attendance recording will be randomized. If you are absent for a particular class (and it is your third time being absent) and that happens to be a class in which I take attendance, it will be mentioned in your evaluation, regardless of what the reason for your absence is, or how sincere you have been with your work otherwise. I will not hear any justifications post-facto.

 Reading before class. You are expected to come to class having read the assigned material. For most classes, there will be a short homework assignment (see 5 below) on readings due, so you will have to read for this class.

 Pop-quizzes will be administered as per need, also to ensure reading. These will take place in the first few minutes of class (so please don’t be late) and will be counted towards an evaluation. They will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

 Short homework assignments. Most classes will involve a homework response, which you will bring with you to class and hand in at the end of the session. The homework response will consist of a series of short answer questions. This is a measure to ensure close reading of the assigned material and class participation and will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

 For pop-quizzes and short homework assignments, at least 8 Pass grades in total are needed for an evaluation. [Incomplete and shoddily done responses/pop quizzes receive a Fail]. For HW responses, I will accept handwritten work, as long as it is neat and legible.

 Informed participation in class discussion. You will have to make a substantive (meaty) contribution to class discussion – as an individual or in a group – at least five times in the course of the semester. Participation in class activities will be an essential aspect of any evaluation you receive for this course.

Group exercises & group presentations. Group work is an essential part of the course. You will often be divided into smaller groups and asked to work on a given topic as a group and present results to class. Please pull your own weight in group exercises, both in terms of putting together the presentation as well as in-class performance.

Course evaluations will be based on your (1) regular and active class participation (see expectations above); (2) sincerity in keeping up with readings (3) timely completion of assignments; (4) ability to engage critically with the course material; (5) ability to make clear and well-supported arguments in writing; (6) ability to interpret and produce graphical representations of quantitative information; (7) ability to make connections to other work; and (8) preparedness for future work in this area.

Additional Info:

Please note that the venue of our meeting has changed from FPH 106 to the West Lecture Hall. See you all there!