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Economics, 3rd Edition

Economics, 3rd Edition

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Economics, 3rd Edition

Course No. 550
Professor Timothy Taylor, M.Econ.
Macalester College
Share This Course
4.6 out of 5
113 Reviews
82% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 550
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. Featuring approximately 100 images, the video format includes on-screen graphics such as statistics, portraits of key figures such as Adam Smith, and graphs and diagrams that provide a visual representation of crucial concepts such as inflation and supply and demand.
Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

We are all economists—when we work, buy, save, invest, pay taxes, and vote. It repays us many times over to be good economists. Economic issues are active in our lives every day. However, when the subject of economics comes up in conversation or on the news, we can find ourselves longing for a more sophisticated understanding of the fundamentals of economics.

  • How can I get an overview of the entire U.S. economy?
  • Why do budget deficits matter?
  • What exactly does the Federal Reserve do?
  • Why do most economists favor international trade so strongly?

Economics, 3rd Edition, will help you think about and discuss these and other economic issues that affect you and the nation every day—interest rates, unemployment, personal investing, budget deficits, globalization, and many more—with a greater level of knowledge and sophistication.

Designed for those who haven't already purchased our 2nd Edition economics course, this enlarged and reorganized 3rd Edition includes updated statistics and discussions of more recent events. It also features expanded coverage in areas of great public interest, such as anti-trust issues, corporate responsibility, and international financial crashes.

Master the Basics of Economics

These lectures require no special or advanced knowledge of mathematics. Instead, you will learn economics through intuitive explanations and in plain English, from an instructor who has won teaching awards at Stanford and the University of Minnesota.

Professor Timothy Taylor's first 18 lectures focus on "microeconomics," or looking at economics "from the bottom up." You will study the behavior of individuals, households, and firms; and how they interact in markets for goods, labor, and saving and investment. Topics in microeconomics include:

  • How does supply and demand operate in the free market to determine the prices of the goods we buy and the salaries we are paid?
  • How are interest rates determined? And what effects do they have on so many decisions we make—such as what house we will buy?
  • How do businesses compete with one another? What is a natural monopoly? What role does government have to play in encouraging and regulating competition?
  • Defining "public goods"—things like national defense and education—that we all benefit from whether we contribute to them or not. The difficulty of encouraging citizens to support production of public goods can be understood through a game theory problem known as the prisoner's dilemma.

The second half of the course covers "macroeconomics," or studying the economy "from the top down."Here you will examine the factors that help economists evaluate the economy on a national and global scale. Among these macroeconomic issues are:

  • Common ways the government taxes and spends, and how these actions affect the total demand and supply in our economy
  • The relationship between employment and inflation, and the different perspectives on this problem advanced by the two main schools of economic theory—the Keynesians and the neoclassicists
  • International economics: What are the arguments for and against international trade? How are exchange rates determined and what do they really mean to us as individuals and the economy in general? What are the future prospects for the global economy—which nations are likely to do well and which will lag behind?

Throughout this course, Professor Taylor helps you apply what you are learning to many of today's most frequently discussed and misunderstood issues. Has the world economy become truly borderless, and does globalization take jobs away from American workers? Why do markets for car and health insurance often seem so costly and controversial? What are our prospects for heading off the Social Security and healthcare crises that loom in the coming decades?

Learn to Think Like an Economist

One of the 20th century's top economists, John Maynard Keynes, once said, "Economics is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique of thinking which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions."

You will learn that economics is essentially a way of thinking about big problems that face our society, and that economists sometimes think very differently about these issues than the rest of us do. You will practice thinking like an economist about a succession of topics that are in the news virtually every day, such as:

  • Is it realistic to view pollution as a moral wrong, as some environmentalists do, and try to eliminate it completely? Or can pollution actually have benefits? What would we have to give up if we tried to totally eradicate pollution?
  • How should the government decide whether or not to block a proposed corporate merger?
  • Should we control rents so that people can afford housing? Or should government subsidize low-income housing, or offer families rent vouchers? Which strategy would an economist favor? Which would a politician most likely choose?

In these lectures, you will appreciate the difficulties involved in formulating economic policies that are both effective and satisfying to everyone—consumers and businesses, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor.

Economics Everywhere: From Cowrie Shells to Edison, from Mohair to Mickey Mouse

Economics isn't just about numbers: It's about politics, psychology, history, inventions, and countless other aspects of human endeavor. As a result, it never lacks for interesting, surprising, or amusing content. The following are a few of many examples:

  • Thomas Edison's first invention was an automatic vote-counting machine. But he found he couldn't sell it, so he vowed only to make inventions people would buy.
  • The idea of using a "basket of goods" to measure inflation goes back a long time. During the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts paid its soldiers the amount of money that would buy the following basket of goods: 5 bushels of corn, 68 and four-sevenths pounds of beef, 10 pounds of wood, and 16 pounds of leather.
  • The first federal minimum wage law, passed in 1938, was intended to keep jobs in northern United States from flowing to the south, where wages were much lower. It intentionally put millions of low-skilled black workers in the south out of work.
  • The item that served as money over the broadest geographic area and the longest period of time was the cowrie shell. It was in use as early as 700 B.C. in China and was subsequently used in India, Africa, and southern Europe. It was an acceptable way to pay taxes in some African nations well into the 20th century.
  • The argument that a product should be protected against foreign imports because it is vital to national security is often abused. In the 1950s, the American mohair industry successfully argued for protection—which exists to this day—on the basis that military uniforms contained mohair and without support for the industry American soldiers risked going to battle naked.

In other lectures, you will learn how various ways to measure and analyze the economy were first developed—for example, how America's first statistical definition of poverty was formulated by one person, Social Security Administration employee Mollie Orshansky, in the 1960s. Professor Taylor takes you through the intricacies of patents, copyrights, and product advertising, with examples ranging from America's top corporations to Sonny Bono and Mickey Mouse. You will even see that economic analysis can be applied to behavior that doesn't seem related to economics at all, such as why so many Americans don't vote.

Be an Economics Conversation Starter. Or Stopper.

If you complete this course and devote some thought to its subject matter, you'll be able to hold your own any time the discussion turns to economics, whether it's at your office, in the news, or at the dinner table.

If you hear someone say, for example, "A tax on gas could be a good way of encouraging people to drive less," you'll be able to add, knowingly, "Perhaps, but of course, it all depends on the elasticity of demand for gasoline."

"I should warn you though," Professor Taylor says, from personal experience, "that comments like this can either lead to a really much more intelligent and informed conversation, or they can lead the conversation to an abrupt and uncomfortable halt."

Please note:

This course is not intended to provide financial or investment advice. All investments involve risk: Past performance does not guarantee future success. You acknowledge that any reliance on any information from the materials contained in this course shall be at your own risk.

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36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    How Economists Think
    This lecture identifies ways in which economists think differently about human motivations, tradeoffs, and the workings of markets. It also introduces a number of terms: microeconomics, macroeconomics, opportunity cost, marginal analysis, and more. x
  • 2
    Division of Labor
    The division of labor means that almost no one produces all or most of what they consume. Since Adam Smith over 200 years ago, economists have explained how the combination of a division of labor and exchange of goods and services increases productivity. x
  • 3
    Supply and Demand
    Any market involves both buyers, or "demand;" and sellers, or "supply." The supply and demand framework predicts that markets will tend toward an equilibrium price, where the quantity supplied and the quantity demanded are equal. x
  • 4
    Price Floors and Ceilings
    Price floors, such as government support for farmers, set price minimums, while price ceilings, like rent control, set a maximum price. Both can hold prices away from equilibrium, and make demand unequal to supply. Price regulations impose costs on consumers or producers, and create inefficiency. x
  • 5
    Demand for orange juice is elastic—when its price rises, consumers can switch to other juices. Demand for gasoline is inelastic—when its price rises, drivers can't switch to other fuels. Elasticity is useful in evaluating how public policies will work. x
  • 6
    The Labor Market and Wages
    In the labor market, individuals are the suppliers, businesses are the demanders, and wages are the price. This lecture examines labor markets by discussing some prominent issues, like the minimum wage and how payroll taxes for Social Security affect wages. x
  • 7
    Financial Markets and Rates of Return
    There is a longstanding prejudice against capital markets in western culture—after all, charging interest used to be considered a sin of usury. This lecture focuses on the demand side of the capital markets, or primarily the demand for financial capital from businesses that seek to invest in plants and equipment. x
  • 8
    Personal Investing
    The supply side of the capital market is an ornate name for a more basic question: How can I get rich through financial investments? While this course is not intended to provide financial or investment advice, this lecture looks at the four major investment concerns—return, risk, liquidity, and tax status—and then considers a range of investments, and their tradeoffs. x
  • 9
    From Perfect Competition to Monopoly
    Competition between firms falls into four categories: perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. This lecture discusses these paradigms, and describes how prices, output, and profits are likely to differ in each. x
  • 10
    Antitrust and Competition Policy
    Antitrust refers to government policies to prevent monopoly and encourage competition. They include blocking proposed mergers between firms; forcing firms to change unfair practices; and in some cases (like AT&T in 1984) requiring large firms to be split into smaller ones. x
  • 11
    Regulation and Deregulation
    In some industries—like airlines, banking, and electricity—government has sought to regulate prices charged and/or quantities produced. This lecture discusses the situations when government regulation works best, and when it does not. x
  • 12
    Negative Externalities and the Environment
    "Negative externalities" are situations in which the buying and selling of goods creates consequences—like pollution—felt by third parties who are not part of the original transaction. Regulation can be inflexible and costly. Economists have instead proposed market-oriented policies. x
  • 13
    Positive Externalities and Technology
    The market can produce too few "positive externalities": good things like scientific research, innovation, and education. Policy solutions for this situation include patents, copyrights, direct government support, and tax credits to industry. x
  • 14
    Public Goods
    Public goods, like national defense or basic scientific research, are "nonexcludable" and "nondepletable." Potential sellers cannot exclude people from using them, and they are not used up as more people use them. Markets often do a poor job of producing public goods, so there is a case for government action. x
  • 15
    Poverty and Welfare Programs
    Economists have preferred anti-poverty strategies that favor cash and wage subsidies over trying to set prices low or wages high for the poor. However, recent welfare reform emphasizes another feature—that people take jobs as soon as possible. x
  • 16
    Inequality is the gap between those with high incomes and those with low incomes. Since the late 1970s, inequality has increased in the United States. This lecture discusses the possible causes, whether some government response is appropriate and, if so, what kind. x
  • 17
    Imperfect Information and Insurance
    Imperfect information, such as how much to charge for auto insurance when information about the risks of auto accident is imperfect, can raise havoc with markets. It raises two issues—moral hazard and adverse selection—that are fundamental to arguments over health insurance in the United States. x
  • 18
    Corporate and Political Governance
    Shareholders may have trouble constraining the actions of top corporate managers and voters can have difficulty controlling politicians' actions. So skepticism is warranted about whether firms will seek efficient production, or whether politicians will act in society's best interest. x
  • 19
    Macroeconomics and GDP
    Macroeconomics has four policy goals—economic growth, low unemployment, low inflation, and sustainable trade deficits—and two main tools: federal budget policy and monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. Gross domestic product (GDP) is the standard measure of a nation's economy. x
  • 20
    Economic Growth
    In the long run, the rate of economic growth is by far the most important factor in determining the average standard of living. The key factors behind economic growth are increases in physical capital, human capital, and technology, all of which depend upon a supportive market environment. x
  • 21
    The economist's view of unemployment focuses on why supply and demand in the labor market are producing unemployment. The underlying causes of unemployment can be split into two broad categories: cyclical unemployment, and the structural or natural rate of unemployment. x
  • 22
    Inflation is an overall sustained increase in the level of prices. The inflation rate is determined by defining a basket of goods, and then tracking how the cost of that basket changes over time. Mild inflation is not a great policy concern, but higher levels can cause problems. x
  • 23
    The Balance of Trade
    The trade deficit is perhaps the most misunderstood statistic in all of economics. The United States ran extremely large trade deficits in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, turning the United States into the world's largest debtor economy. x
  • 24
    Aggregate Supply and Aggregate Demand
    Economists commonly think about the macroeconomy through the model of aggregate demand and supply. It indicates how growth, inflation, unemployment, and the trade balance are related; why certain goals sometimes involve trade offs; and which macroeconomic policies to use. x
  • 25
    The Unemployment-Inflation Tradeoff
    Some of the biggest controversies in modern macroeconomics revolve around whether an unemployment-inflation tradeoff exists. This tradeoff, known as the Phillips curve, existed quite clearly in U.S. data from about 1950 to 1970, but then fell apart. x
  • 26
    Fiscal Policy and Budget Deficits
    This lecture reviews the main spending and taxing components in the federal budget, surveys trends in federal budget deficits and federal debt, and explains why budget deficits exploded, contracted, and then exploded again in the last 20 years. x
  • 27
    Countercyclical Fiscal Policy
    Spending increases or tax cuts can mitigate a recession, and spending cuts or tax hikes can fight inflation. In the United States, these countercyclical measures happen automatically to some extent, but some believe government should go beyond these automatic stabilizers. x
  • 28
    Budget Deficits and National Saving
    When government budget deficits are large and sustained, two possible effects can result. First, less financial capital may be available for private investment. Second, the United States may need to attract foreign investors. In the long term, neither is healthy. x
  • 29
    Money and Banking
    Economists define money as whatever serves as the medium of exchange, store of value, or unit of account. Money's various modern definitions— traveler's checks, checking accounts, savings accounts, money market mutual funds, etc.— reveal that money and the banking system are tightly interrelated. x
  • 30
    The Federal Reserve and Its Powers
    The Federal Reserve controls monetary policy, and has great power over the United States and even the world's economy. Yet it is run by presidential appointees and bankers, not by elected officials. Although there are plausible reasons, this remains controversial. x
  • 31
    The Conduct of Monetary Policy
    Controversies exist over exactly how the Federal Reserve should fight inflation. Should it focus exclusively on inflation, or also pay attention to such goals as shortening recessions? Should it act when stock market or housing prices may be forming a bubble? x
  • 32
    The Gains of International Trade
    Economists are deeply supportive of foreign trade; the average person is much more suspicious. The expansion of global trade in the post-World War II period has brought large gains to the United States and to the world economy. x
  • 33
    The Debates over Protectionism
    Pressures to limit imports are called "protectionism." This lecture reviews arguments for protectionism—saving jobs, protecting the environment, and others—and the reasons that most economists find those arguments less than compelling. x
  • 34
    Exchange Rates
    An exchange rate is the rate at which one currency exchanges for another. Exchange rates can be considered as a (misguided) symbol of national economic virility, when in reality they are just a price for currency. x
  • 35
    International Financial Crashes
    This lecture explores international financial crashes—such as those suffered by Thailand, Russia, and Argentina in recent years—and policies that may reduce their risk. But such risks will likely continue as international flows of financial capital expand. x
  • 36
    A Global Economic Perspective
    This lecture discusses global economic prospects over the next few decades. Even with a number of potential stumbling blocks, the chances for several billion people to be far better off are extraordinary. The United States sometimes seems to fear this richer world, but it need not. x

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Your professor

Timothy Taylor

About Your Professor

Timothy Taylor, M.Econ.
Macalester College
Professor Timothy Taylor is Managing Editor of the prominent Journal of Economic Perspectives, published by the American Economic Association. He earned his Master's degree in Economics from Stanford University. Professor Taylor has won student-voted teaching awards for his Introductory Economics classes at Stanford University. At the University of Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of...
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Economics, 3rd Edition is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 113.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More! More! I like the professor very much - he is clear, detailed, well spoken. Yes, needs new data. I want more. Please create a course called "The Great Debates of Economics" and give the **evidence as pertains to "trickle down economics", raising the minimum wage, state-subsidized higher education, tax-incentives for any favored activity from marriage to retirement saving to home ownership. Explain all the tax loopholes. Why do some powerful companies get massive tax deductions? What is the actual outcome benefit of extending 529 benefits to K-12 private school tuition? So many provisions of the new tax law are debatable at best, self-serving tomfoolery at worst. Help us understand.
Date published: 2017-12-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty Good I bought this course as a highschool freshman trying to learn more about Econ, and this course did a pretty decent job of providing me with lots of info. I wouldn't recommend buying this course at its full price, but if you're looking for a way to grasp a basic understanding for economics (both macro and micro), then you might want to consider this course. The professor that taught it, Timothy Taylor, was engaging enough, and he was pretty clear and concise when he explained the topics.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Course! Needs to be Updated!! I am really enjoying listening to the audio-book version of this lecture series from audible. The lecturer is easy to listen to and easy to understand. However, this lecture series was evidently recorded in 2005. A lot of significant things, unexpected things, have happened in the US economy since then and listening to Professor Taylor discuss how recent recessions have all be so minor, one might discount his authority. The Great Recession and the consolidation that's happened since have changed a lot of narratives. This lecture series feels kinda out-of-date.
Date published: 2017-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic I purchased this series through I could not be more delighted with it. Dr. Taylor does a terrific job of covering the various topics. He presents useful examples, definitions, and explanations at a level suitable to a novice such as I. He also discusses matters that are often reduced to shouting points between political extremes with fairness to various points of view and without propagandizing or proselytizing. If the 2005 copyright is any indication, the material is about ten years old. He speculates about what might happen in real estate markets in the future. It would be interesting to listen to the lectures again updated with information from more current events. Excellent piece of work.
Date published: 2016-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommend audio version not video I am getting from the course just what I was hoping to learn. I am one third of the way through the course and it seems to be a good, in depth overview of economics but does not get mired down in details. I have to agree with other reviews that Professor Taylor’s presentation is not exactly a dynamic presentation, but the information flows smoothly and is concise. All of the Great Courses I have purchased have been on DVD. I regret spending the extra money for the DVD on this course. I would strongly encourage getting this course but discourage buying the video version. I am happy with the course and I am looking forward to finishing the rest of it.
Date published: 2015-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Is there anything else I can say? I'm always reluctant to blather on about a course when I see there are already more than 100 reviews, but The Teaching Company apparently wants me to, so I will. I know a considerable amount about economics, but I still learned a lot from this course. And I loved the professor: how many people can tell economist jokes?! He also has unusual ways of thinking about things: how many people would look at illegal drugs as an economics issue? Some of the issues he discusses have been altered by recent events: one of the reasons we have high true unemployment is that current unemployment benefits are so generous and long-lasting that people don't need to work if they have an employed spouse, and perhaps even if they don't. I also found it interesting that he had to preface Lecture 8 (personal investing) with a disclaimer that he was not offering personal advice! I found it appealing that many of his references are to technical papers that are available online. His reading lists are splendid: he discusses each one at some length. There is an excellent glossary and short biographies of many important economics (yes, there are several). I strongly recommend this course to anyone who decides he or she needs to know something about economics.
Date published: 2015-07-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Introduction that Needs an Out-of-Date Label Though I was already familiar with most of the concepts, I took this course primarily as a refresher and to improve my economics terminology vocabulary. The course achieved exactly what I was looking for, so I was not disappointed. That being said, this course needs to be updated. Most of the Great Courses that I have taken so far are fairly timeless—e.g., the history of World War I has not changed much in the last five years. While the basic concepts presented in this course are timeless, most of the statistics and some of the concepts were badly out-of-date. This course was recorded before the start of the Great Recession, so the economic data presented is nearly a decade old and fails to include one of the largest economic disturbances of the last hundred years. It would have been very helpful to hear the professor's point-of-view on the events leading up to the Great Recession and how the economy has recovered since then. As an example of how the course is out-of-date, there is section in the course where the professor talks about how the last several recessions had been relatively mild—obviously, that has changed. The out-of-date aspect of the course was particularly noticeable in the last two lectures, which focused on the "current" economic growth of international markets. As a side note, the professor gained a lot of credibility during one of the lectures when he discussed the then-current housing bubble and expressed his fears that the bubble might burst in a terrible way, as it actually did just a short while afterwards. The course covers microeconomic concepts such as supply and demand as well as macroeconomic concepts such as the role of the Federal Reserve. The course is generally apolitical often presenting both the liberal and conservative view of the same economic issue. The primary goal of the course is to make the listener begin thinking like an economist, and I believe the course makes good strides toward this goal. This course is not for you if you are looking for current economic information. If, however, you are looking for a course with a broad overview that does a good job of teaching terminology and putting concepts into context, then this is a great course. The professor is clear and intelligent and organizes the material in a logical and concise manner. The professor ties concepts together between lectures and builds on lessons. There is little to criticize, and much to learn, except for the glaring "out-of-date" label that should be plastered on the front cover.
Date published: 2015-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Extremely informative for average person The course is from 2005, but I found plenty of worthwhile information in it that I feel it was still well worth the price (I got the audio version). If I had bought this course back in 2005 I am sure I would have given it 5 stars across the board. But it being 10 years old when I bought it, I can't do that because it is dated. I consider myself to be something like the "average" person when it comes to economics - that is, not very knowledgeable. I took one economics course at a university back in the late 1990s: I remember supply and demand curves and the equilibrium point, and that's about it. For someone like me, this course is hugely informative. One feature I like about the professor's delivery is that he will give alternatives on how to implement an economic approach (whether personal investing, labor wages, pollution reduction policies, etc.), and explain the advantages and downsides of each. This helps the learner understand why things are done the way they are and how they could be improved in some instances. If a 4th edition is coming out I would suggest holding out for it. But if a 4th edition is not coming out, I'd suggest that the 'average' person not pass up the chance to learn what is in this course.
Date published: 2015-05-17
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