Modern Economic Issues

Course No. 5610
Professor Robert Whaples, Ph.D.
Wake Forest University
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3.9 out of 5
73 Reviews
56% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 5610
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Course Overview

How do the major economic issues that dominate today's news—questions about gross domestic product or budget deficits or trade imbalances—impact the average citizen? Why are health insurance and college tuition increasingly expensive? What can be done about soaring energy prices?

In Modern Economic Issues, Professor Robert Whaples has crafted a course designed to answer just these sorts of questions—a primer in 21st-century economics for the non-economist. He first presents the results of a survey of professional economists around the country on what they consider today's most urgent economic issues—the ones all of us most need to understand. Professor Whaples then puts his award-winning teaching skills to work to shape an accessible course, explaining not only those urgent issues but also the raw data economists use to describe their shape and impact.

The result is a course that finally makes the connection between the economics you may have studied in school and the economics of the lives we experience every day.

For example, how do you make the decisions—big and small—that make up your daily life?

What factors come into play when you're deciding whether to buy this car or that one, or even commute by bus? Mow the lawn or take a nap? Grill a burger with a bubbling slice of cheese or eat a simple salad?

Most economists will tell you that you make decisions on this personal level by acting as what they would call a "rational maximizer," comparing, whether explicitly or implicitly, what you expect to gain from your decision against what you expect to give up.

You weigh comfort and convenience against the rising cost of gasoline. The need to maintain your home's "curb appeal" against your need for sleep in a much-too-busy life. Your raw craving for that burger against the realities of an expanding waistline.

Learn to See the Tradeoffs in Every Decision We Make

And make no mistake about it: There is almost always something to give up, a tradeoff that is inherent in every decision we make in life—a concept memorably expressed by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman's famous reminder that "there's no such thing as a free lunch."

But this same kind of personal analysis is just as applicable to the major issues of public policy, where the needs and wants of a nation and its people—whether financial security, safety from terrorism, or even an available kidney for someone desperately waiting on a transplant list—involve tradeoffs. Tradeoffs that are sometimes obvious and sometimes not.

Issue by issue, Professor Whaples explains those tradeoffs, guiding you through and then past the numbers, teasing out the full range of differing societal costs and benefits that will be part and parcel of any policy option our leaders choose to implement.

What does it mean, for example, if Wal-Mart decides to open a store in your town? Should your local government be enthusiastic, or should it be concerned? Should your own feelings be the same, or are your personal priorities different? What will the presence of the world's largest corporation really mean to you as a consumer, to smaller stores worried about competing, or to your local job market?

Whether dealing with the traditional sorts of topics most of us are used to seeing in an economics course—Social Security, inflation, unemployment, immigration, taxation, and the like—or issues perhaps surprising, such as gambling, major sports franchises, and even overeating, Professor Whaples offers a steady flow of insights about how the American economy really works, and how the consequences of policy decisions can have a longer reach than we might imagine, sometimes ironically so.

For example, Americans are having far fewer children than we used to—the so-called "birth dearth"—because the Social Security safety net removed one of the reasons cited by economic historians for having large families in the first place: the need to be supported in one's later years.

The irony, of course, is that it is this very decline in births that Social Security helped bring about that has itself become a looming threat, with a dwindling number of adults in their working years now available to support the increasing number of retirees who will be dependent on the system.

Go Beyond the "What" to Explore the "Why" of Today's Most Important Economic Issues

Carefully balancing the statistical data—the "what" of each trend or issue—with insightful explorations of how those trends or issues took their present shape—the "why"—Professor Whaples repeatedly takes the numbers that have long been the bane of those intimidated by economics courses and explores their implications in very human terms.

Showing us the human side of the numbers with which economics must be unavoidably concerned is second nature to Professor Whaples, who earned degrees in both economics and history in the process of becoming an economic historian. Honored as both a scholar and a teacher, he is intimately concerned with the real-life consequences of economics for flesh-and-blood people. In fact, his 1990 doctoral dissertation on the shortening of the American workweek was written from both economic and historical perspectives, and was honored by the Economic History Association as the "Outstanding Dissertation in American Economic History" for that year.

Professor Whaples begins the course with a thorough grounding in the basics of economics and the most important measuring sticks by which professional economists gauge an economy's performance. He always moves toward the human side of the equation, letting us see the translation of basic economic forces into the realities of our own lives.

The first lecture is a typical example of his approach. Terms such as rational maximizer, marginal cost, and demand curve fall neatly into place within the real-life example of padding over to one's thermostat on a cold winter's morning to decide where to set it, gauging where the cost–benefit tradeoffs might be—a process very similar to the one being performed at the other end of this transaction, by the marketplace players that provide our heating fuel.

As Professor Whaples so brilliantly shows, tradeoffs are a fundamental part of a system of economic forces that has been in play since long before the word economics even existed, from the moment the first want had to be balanced against the first inventory of resources, forcing someone to make a choice.

Modern Economic Issues is also about the economic implications of making those choices at the level of public policy. By showing the full range of economic factors that can come into play as a result of a given policy, and how our economy works, this course can help you become an even more insightful judge of policy recommendations and of the leaders and policy makers who advocate them.

Moreover, you will understand how professional economists view the full range of tradeoffs inherent in any decision. And you may well learn to supplement your own analyses as you make the real-life economic choices each of us faces every day, becoming an even wiser consumer and manager of your own economic future.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    What Economists Know about Economic Policy
    We introduce the course's basic structure and explore the grounding of economics in the concepts of scarcity, tradeoffs, and efficiency—and the operation of the marketplace. x
  • 2
    Economy Up or Down? How to Tell
    We look at several ways economists evaluate economic health and performance, and the problems some critics have with key indicators such as unemployment, inflation, and gross domestic product. x
  • 3
    Economists' View of the Future
    Will future generations live in a better world, or will things fall apart? This lecture explains the forces pushing long-term economic growth, and outlines the main hazards to the smooth economic sailing that economists foresee. x
  • 4
    Productivity and Productivity Growth
    The key to growth in an economy is growth in productivity. We look at how this happens, and note some recent trends, before concluding with some key policy questions: How can we boost productivity growth? Is it worth the trouble? x
  • 5
    Inflation—Why the Measure Matters
    We explore how inflation is measured and the problems that inflation or deflation can cause and examine the underlying causes, before turning to economists' thoughts about what policy makers ought to do. x
  • 6
    Unemployment—A Global Perspective
    How is the unemployment rate measured? Who is more likely to be unemployed? This lecture discusses the tradeoffs involved in various policies designed to influence the unemployment rate. x
  • 7
    Economic Inequality
    Economic inequality is higher in the United States than in many other economically advanced nations. We look at why and explore the lack of consensus on how to reduce inequality. x
  • 8
    The Fallacy of Trade Barriers
    Building on insights first put forth by Adam Smith, this lecture explores why 92 percent of economists in a recent survey agreed that barriers to trade "usually reduce the general welfare of a society," and why such barriers have nevertheless persisted. x
  • 9
    Trade Imbalances and Saving
    We confront another worry many people have about international trade: Why does the United States seem to chronically run up huge trade deficits? Our task will be to understand what has caused such deficits and what can and should be done about them. x
  • 10
    Budget Deficits—Past, Present, and Future
    Combined federal, state, and local government spending in the United States exceeds the gross domestic product of every other country in the world, leaving annual budget deficits that usually run into the hundreds of billion of dollars. x
  • 11
    Taxes and the Income Tax Code
    This lecture examines the primary sources and types of taxes used in the United States, and then it considers principles of efficient and fair taxation developed by economists. x
  • 12
    Rx for Social Security
    Critics complain that Social Security is a poor investment that will not be able to pay off on its current promises, that it depresses savings, and that it systematically shortchanges certain groups. We look at each of these criticisms and examine proposals to overhaul the system. x
  • 13
    Economic Answers for an Aging Population
    According to a survey of professional economists, the greatest challenges that Americans face in the future are tied to aging. We look at the many factors that come into play, including not only the Social Security funding gap but also productivity, innovation, and savings. x
  • 14
    Financing World-class Health Care
    Only a fifth of Americans think our health system works well. In this lecture we examine the successes of this system and explore the root causes of inefficiencies in the health care industry. x
  • 15
    Supply, Demand, and the Future of Oil
    Is there any way to insulate ourselves from price swings and dependence on foreign oil? Is there any effective way to pull down the price of energy? This lecture examines these crucial questions. x
  • 16
    Pollution—Tax or Trade?
    Reducing pollution levels has obvious benefits, but it also has costs. Though cleaning up our atmosphere certainly has been worthwhile, there are many cases of misallocated resources at the margin. We look at economists' preferred solutions to the problem of pollution. x
  • 17
    Global Climate Change—Costs and Benefits
    This lecture considers the likely economic impact of rising levels of greenhouse gases—which most economists believe will be surprisingly small—and explores the economic tradeoffs inherent in any good solution to pollution and climate change. x
  • 18
    Minimum Wage and the Poverty Rate
    This first labor-market-oriented lecture begins by reviewing how wage rates are determined, before turning to a pro-and-con exploration of the important public policy initiative of raising the minimum wage. x
  • 19
    It Pays to Be Married
    Though average incomes in the United States are about the highest in the world, 37 million Americans still live below the official poverty line. This lecture explores the nuances of how poverty rates are determined and what prevents them from falling, examines the impact of marriage, and considers ways of combating poverty. x
  • 20
    Pay Gaps by Sex and Race
    Pay gaps in the United States are present virtually everywhere. This lecture explores economists' understanding of pay gap disparities not only along gender lines, but also along racial and ethnic lines. x
  • 21
    Economic Impact of Immigration
    This lecture begins with changes in the economic characteristics of immigrants coming to the United States, then moves on to the central question in the current immigration debate: How do immigrants affect the labor market and government expenditures? x
  • 22
    Labor Unions in Contemporary Economics
    We examine the historical and current role of labor unions in the U.S. economy, including their impact on compensation, productivity, investment, profits, and job satisfaction, before closing with a brief discussion of recent proposals to change laws affecting organized labor. x
  • 23
    Productivity Trends in Schools
    Though economists anticipate a bright future, they do spot a few clouds on the horizon, including the challenge that is the focus of this lecture: an underperforming educational system that has been the focus of many conflicting suggestions for reform. x
  • 24
    Higher Education—Supply and Demand
    The good news is that American universities are the best in the world. The bad news is that they are also expensive, with tuition continuing to soar. This lecture explores the factors behind exploding tuition levels. x
  • 25
    Wal-Mart and Productivity Growth
    Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation, yet in recent years it has become a dirty word in some circles. This lecture uses the tools of economics to examine how the chain's presence affects consumers, competitors, labor, and suppliers. x
  • 26
    Corporate Governance in a Strong Economy
    Not all companies have been as successful as most economists would consider Wal-Mart to be. Management all too often crosses the line and breaks the law. We look at the dark side of corporate life and how it affects our economy. x
  • 27
    Zero-Sum Game of Conspicuous Consumption
    Contemporary critics argue that the quest for status through what economist Thorstein Veblen a century ago labeled "conspicuous consumption" is a zero-sum game, wastes resources, and is a sign of an inefficient economy. This lecture examines this argument and considers what might be done. x
  • 28
    Economic Upside of Postal Reforms
    Do the problems of the U.S. Postal Service actually arise from its unique monopoly position? This lecture explores the history of the Postal Service and its performance history, and it closes by looking at different approaches from around the world. x
  • 29
    Is Everything a Commodity?
    At their best, competitive markets can make for the most efficient allocation of resources. But where should we set their boundaries? Case in point: Thousands die each year waiting for organ transplants, but is paying people for organ donations a good solution? x
  • 30
    Economics of the Baseball Industry
    This lecture examines whether or not the presence of professional sports franchises justifies publicly subsidized stadiums, before moving on to a closer look at Major League Baseball in general. x
  • 31
    Examining Economic Response to Terrorism
    What are the short- and long-term impacts of terrorism on an economy? We look at the relationship between the two and consider ways to reduce terrorism, including a controversial proposal to establish a market to predict terrorist events. x
  • 32
    Helping Poor Countries
    Two centuries after the dawn of the era of modern economic growth, a number of regions have been left behind. This lecture examines the magnitude of their poverty, economists' understanding of why they have failed to prosper, and what might be done to change things. x
  • 33
    Upsides and Downsides of Urban Sprawl
    We look at urban sprawl, beginning with how it is measured and the primary factors believed to cause it. In asking whether urban sprawl is ultimately good or bad, we close by considering the wisest policies to adopt in the face of evidence about its mixed impact. x
  • 34
    Economic Costs and Benefits of Gambling
    What is the impact of casinos on consumer well-being, employment, and income levels? We try to determine whether or not casinos are a useful economic development tool, and consider ways to reduce the substantial social costs gambling can also generate. x
  • 35
    Economists’ View of Overeating
    While overeating may not seem an economic issue, most economists believe it is. We explore the economic forces that explain why Americans and people around the world have gotten heavier, the costs this imposes, and public policies that might address the problem. x
  • 36
    American Economy in the 21st Century
    We look at questions raised by these lectures, and conclude by recapping the most important points of the course and the most important advice economists have offered on the key challenges facing the American economy, now and in the future. x

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Your professor

Robert Whaples

About Your Professor

Robert Whaples, Ph.D.
Wake Forest University
Dr. Robert Whaples is Professor of Economics at Wake Forest University. He earned a double B.A. in Economics and History from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Whaples is the director of EH.Net (, which operates the Economic History Services website to provide resources and promote communication among scholars in economic...
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Modern Economic Issues is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 73.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Survey of Issues in Economic Policy Suppose that you're curious about how economists think and that you're willing to be surprised, perhaps even open to having your opinions changed by their opinions. And let's also suppose that you're interested in seeing a good situation--that of the United States--made a littlle bit better. If these characteristics appliy to you, then this carefully researched survey of perennial economic issues by Wake Forest Professor Robert Whaples is well worth your time. Along the way you will learn in clear and simple language why the U.S. runs a deficit on its current account, why U.S. tax and transfer policies have led to less capital formation (and lower wages) than would otherwise have been the case, why Wal-mart is great, and why professional sports franchises are of dubious value for a city. You will learn why specialization in products that a country (or person) is relatively better at producing--known as the principle of comparative advantage-- raises income for all countries (or persons). And you will learn this through the use of exceedingly colorful bread and fishes that will serve as a touching reminder of your elementary school days. There is a charming, do-gooder earnestness about these lectures and a sense about the instructor that he is the real McCoy, which compels you to watch them. Persist and you will be amply rewarded for your persistence. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2009-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Still Relevant This course is interesting and worthwhile. As someone who likes concrete, researched data, I appreciate Dr. Whaples surveying professional economists about the topics he covers. While I agree with other reviewers that this course should eventually be updated (it was recorded prior to the current economic downturn), it still covers many fundamental issues that will be with us after the economy improves, such as the U.S.’s unfunded Medicare and Social Security benefits, immigration, pollution, and energy. Dr. Whaples speaks clearly and at a decent, even pace. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2009-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Teaches how economists think. The first few lectures were redundent overviews of other Economics courses offered by the Teaching Company, but the review told in a different way did not hurt. I found these lectures to be well researched and I very much enjoyed the presentation by Professor Whaples. I found his survey of other economists helpful to see the general thinking before our present economic downturn. I also found it useful to see how to think economically about issues, and not let the emotional side get into the picture. It is useful for me to consider the economic side first as I make a financial decision, then add in the emotional factors to decide if they have enough value to change my decision (such as the "should we get rid of the penny" debate -- economically, yes, but too many people still love having the penny around too much to get rid of it just yet). This course has been helpful to me in being able to admit more easily when a decision is based more on my preference than purely for the greater economic benefit, and that is a good skill to improve on. It would be nice if the Teaching Company could invite Professor Whaples back for one last lecture to see if some of his perspectives have changed much in light of the recent downturn in our economy. Even so, I think the basic principles Professor Whaples taught are still valid today -- that we are only willing to spend so much for certain things, and therefore companies can only charge what people are willing to spend.
Date published: 2009-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Still Insightful, especially during the Recession I loved this course. Prof. Whaples shows why Economics is useful to understand so much but also can't be viewed as psychics - many of his rosier predictions came crashing down in the Summer of 2008, but he does foreshadow this at times when talking about US overspending, poor inventment rates and credit issues. It's useful to understand how people and leaders/advisors look at and understand various issues facing today's society. Prof. Whaples' explanations tend to favour his classical economic view but he does show cases for the other side many, many times. It's also nice to see a lecture set on difficult topics that doesn't rest strictly on the professors emotional views or his/her 'feelings' (which is what I tend to get in real college courses).
Date published: 2009-06-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Dismal Science: Cold Logic and Equivocation If I was to write this review in a similar manner to the way the field of economics is presented in this course, it would go something like this: On the one hand, the professor presented his material in a clear, well structured way, but on the other hand, it was difficult to come to a conclusion on several topics because of the conflicting views of economists; then again, this is apparently the way economists really are, so the course is depicting them and their subject accurately. In a survey of 5 TC customers of this course, 33% said the course is useful, 51% said it was good but outdated in light of the recent economic downturn, and 16% said it was the "best course ever" because that's what they always say. I think my frustrations are more to do with the equivocation inherent in Economics (which seems so bound up with politics that its impossible to separate them), rather than the standard of this TC course. It's the field itself that scares me: professional economists can't agree on much, and don't seem to be able to predict anything reliably (witness the Professor's optimistic comments throughout this course), yet they have so much influence! The course is good in that it exposes this. The stats do get rather tedious after a while, too.
Date published: 2009-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modern Economic Issues I am constantly referring back to this course. I have never found such a wealth of information regarding the pressing concerns of the modern world, as I have found in this course. Anyone who is in government, or studying public policy would greatly benefit from the insights provided in this course.
Date published: 2009-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The World Seen Through Statistics Dr. Whaples does an excellent job showing his audience how economists see the world: everything is broken down into statistics and assumes human activity is driven almost exclusively by profit motive. What I took away from the course was the almost abstract, clinical manner in which economics evaluates social activities without much consideration given to the human subjective values that also needed to be considered. For example, when discussing professional sports teams, Dr. Whaples provided economic data that showed that these teams typically do not provide much monetary payoff to the hosting city. What was overlooked was the subjective, emotional rewards that many in the community feel when collectively supporting a team that represents their area. People take pride in the sense of victory felt if the team wins, not in how much revenue was accrued that day. That said, Dr. Whaples does a very good job bringing to bear economic analysis to a wide range of topics. His lectures are very well organized and clearly taught. Most lectures can stand alone if the viewer is interested in reviewing just that specific topic. Dr. Whaples seems to have had the misfortune of taping his course just prior to the current economic crisis as the wisdom and competence of our economic "experts" is being questioned as their economic modeling seems at odds with reality. For the past few years, many average Americans have chaffed at the discontect between Wall Street and Main Street -- economists kept telling them that the economy was doing well while personal circumstances and common sense told a different tale. This course reinforced my sense that economic models -- like all models -- are just that, and reality doesn't always adhere to them. How much economic theory will or will not change in the future remains to be seen. In the meantime, Dr. Whaples's course does a very good job examining the world through the lense of economics as we have understood this discipline up to this point.
Date published: 2009-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprise! I don't hate economics any more. If you're like me and kind of hate everything on the news about economics and have no clue about any of it, you will love this course. This was one I took for my own good, not out of a pleasurable interest. I quickly became enthralled with the whole presentation and truly enjoyed it. Excellent speaker who seemed to be geared toward people like me rather than to freshman econ-majors. He made it very interesting.
Date published: 2009-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Presentation - severely outdated First the good - Dr. Whaples is an excellent teacher. He explains concepts clearly and succinctly, giving you a good basic understanding of economic theory. His lecture subjects are always interesting and hold your attention. However...Dr. Whaples' Panglossian - "this is the best of all possible worlds" interpretation of our economy has, unfortunately been proven to be disastrously wrong. Everytime he would say that things should continue to get better, I felt like shouting, "Arrrggghhh!!!!" at my car CD player. As a result the course is sadly dated. In addition, Dr. Whaples, as an economist, sees everything, even social issues, from his narrow economic perspective. To take just one example: in his lecture on schools, there are factors other than the productivity measures he mentions that argue for smaller class sizes. His dismissal of the egregious ways Walmart treats its employees also rankled. And his belief in less government regulation has been proven wrong in light of recent events. Nevertheless, he's a good teacher and the course was always interesting even though it sometimes made me angry.
Date published: 2009-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from superb Well chosen topics, well explained, highly informative, entertaining, I have watched every lecture with great enthusiasm. Professor Whaples should prepare a new series of lectures and shed light on the recent global economic crisis.
Date published: 2009-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course - and Timely This is a terrific survey of the important economic issues facing our country today. While Professor Whaples is admittedly an upbeat, free market conservative with great confidence in the future prospects of the American economy, he does not urge a particular point of view. Instead, I think he goes to great lengths to provide all sides of contentious issues and to supply survey data to show where economists come out on each one. In addition, I disagree with the earlier reviews suggesting that the current recession has caused some of the lectures to be out of date. Not only is it worthwhile to know that most economists did not anticipate our current troubles at the time of the course taping in 2007 -- something to keep in mind when evaluating economists' current pronouncements -- but Prof. Whaples makes clear in more than one lecture that recessions can and do occur, are typically a surprise, and ultimately give way to growth after a wrenching period of readjustment. My only mild complaint is that Prof. Whaples appeared to read his lectures more than most TTC professors -- and from time to time he seemed a bit tongue-tied, which is likewise rare in my TTC experience. All in all, however, this course was thoughtfully prepared, the topics and information well-selected, and the lectures clearly presented. I highly recommend the course and will look forward to taking another course from Prof. Whaples in the future.
Date published: 2009-03-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and Approptriate Selection of Material I found this series to be quite enjoyable. I appreciate the effort to deal with contemporary issues in an academic light, and I very much will continue to look to the Teaching Co. for such discussion. This course, I think, presupposes some familiarity with Economics, as it summaries in just one or two lectures the fundamental assumptions of many Economists. While it may be useful for a listener not familiar with Economic Theory to gain some background first, I don't think that listener would be totally lost. For those familiar with Economic Theory, this is a good course for those looking to think about how broad theory plays out in specific issues.
Date published: 2009-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! This is an excellent course, one of the finest I have taken from the Teaching Company. It tackles a large, important subject and does so in a way that is both full of meaningful content and still quite understandable. I increasingly appreciate that knowing how human beings respond to economic incentives provides a very helpful way to understand things we see in the world around us, things that might otherwise seem random or arbitrary. This course provides a particularly nice presentation of that approach. Professor Whaples covers both obvious and non-obvious topics very nicely, showing how economics and economic thinking helps us understand how and why things around us work as they do. In this, I fully agree with previous reviewers. I am extremely disappointed, however, that other reviewers seem to believe that the existence of the current recession in the U.S. — or perhaps more likely some of the highly politicized "explanations" for that recession, which typically have little to do with economic reality — somehow invalidate the fundamental principles and learnings of economics, then treat that as a negative in evaluating this course. A recession, however painful, does not mean that markets don't work or that economic thinking is fundamentally flawed. The current crisis certainly highlights how well-intended, but misguided government action and regulation can have dramatically unintended consequences, and how people attempting to benefit from the new incentives so established can further magnify those consequences, driving the economy into "bubble" conditions, and necessitating a painful recovery from them, as has happened previously. But the best way to understand this situation and to analyze how best to minimize potential consequences of a recurrence is found precisely in the economic principles and findings Professor Whaples lays out so well in this course. That makes this a more, not less, appropriate and helpful course for our times. One reviewer prefers the earlier Timothy Taylor course. While I, too, enjoyed that other course, I prefer this one. Professor Taylor didn't cover as many issues in depth and, while very good about saying "some think this, while others think that" about certain issues, was too prone for my taste to leave things there, pretty much up in the air. Professor Whaples presents various interpretations of issues, as well, but then goes on to identify the consensus or widespread understanding, where one exists. He surveyed a number of professional economists prior to recording the course and is able to distinguish issues on which there's an 80/20 split of belief from those that are more evenly divided, and I find that adds very helpful perspective. Economists certainly don't agree on every policy issue, but there are many areas in which economic logic and experience lead them to a common understanding. Bottom line: great course, highly recommended!
Date published: 2009-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pros: Prof Whaples takes at topic that many view as dry and arcane and makes it fresh and exciting. He does this by addressing not just the foundations of economics but more importantly the outcomes that affect the average American: unemployment, taxes, health care, etc. He also throws in topics that are not typically considered economics (baseball, terrorism, overeating, gambling) and gives an interesting analysis from an economic perspective. One of the best aspects of the course is that it teaches you to think like an economist (even about non-economic issues). Cons: Unfortunately, due to recent economic events, several of the lectures were out of date almost as soon as the course was published. Also Prof Whaples tends to present only one side of several issues. I preferred the older "Economic Issues" course by Tim Taylor because he would give several opinions on an issue and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Date published: 2009-01-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but Other Economics Courses Needed He is very methodical in his presentation and you can learn a lot from it but at times he gets on my nerves. I think the TC needs to have a variety of economics professors with different views that provide a well-rounded education. I liked how he took up specific issues like sports stadiums and Wal-Mart instead of only discussing theory.
Date published: 2009-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mixed Review I thought the handling of individual topics was well done, and some interesting perspectives were used in addressing a wide range of topics such as Wal-Mart, immigration, and funding sports stadiums. He also broke the topics down in manageable, east to understand segments; good teaching on that front. However, I also tend to agree with a previous reviewer that many of the presentations were colored by a wholesale devotion to some magical, unrestricted " market" and "free trade" ideology, and that no middle ground was worth considering. Despite that defect, much can be learned from the course about the methodology of economists in evaluating various topics. Overall, still worth purchasing, but with the caveat about the philosophy governing the approach.
Date published: 2008-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This must be an exciting time ... This must be an exciting time to study economics, but I'm not sure that this is the right time to learn it from a Teaching Company course. The certainties of the orthodox, libertarian, monetarist, free-market consensus are finally collapsing in the face of current events. It will be a while, I suspect, before there's a TC course that really engages the current turmoil in the discipline. Within its limits, Prof. Whaples' course is a very good one--he manages to cover a broad range of ideas, and to talk about them in an engaging way. He is clearly deeply steeped in the conventional orthodoxy that's currently under assault, but there are only a few subjects (including labor unions and gambling) on which his outlook seems to color his lectures strongly. He gives entirely creditable lectures on issues like economic inequality and conspicuous consumption, which engage the attention of more liberal economists. In the end, however, Prof. Whaples winds up dispensing much of the shallow, smug doctrine that many think has contributed to the current economic meltdown. And we're near, I hope, the day when it will be possible for a mainstream economics course to be presented without toeing the line. I look forward to a future course given by someone who remembers (or has rediscovered) why some people once thought it was a good idea to regulate banks.
Date published: 2008-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Citizen's "Must See" Economics is a hard subject to get even motivated self-learners "hooked on". To master it one needs to climb as steep an intellectual learning curve as in many of the "hard sciences", but the view from the top is not as "awe inspiring" (we are not talking "origin of life" or "time travel paradoxes" here after all). Professor Whaples' course goes a long way in addressing this "problem". First, it captures your interest by addressing compelling, real life issues (with which we deal first-hand, or about which we debate as citizens). Second, it addresses issues from first principles, dissecting them using rational economic thinking without having to resort to mathematical esoterica to drive a point home. When he addresses controversial issues, he always presents competing views. Professor Whaples' clear-headed analysis is a must for anyone who has relied on conventional wisdom -- e.g., what you get from the mainstream media and from (almost) all politicians -- as the basis for understanding economic issues.
Date published: 2008-12-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I have a long commute and I enjoy the opportunity to enrich myself and improve my education during an otherwise tedious drive.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I feel lik I was back in college- except I appreciate it much more!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New customer- but enjoying the courses. Plan to do more.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I would like to see more courses from this professor
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The first dozen lectures are really not necessary. They were covered in -depth by "Economics, 3rd ed." The last 24 lectures were quite informative and revealing.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An excellent course. Prof. Whaples did a great job of presenting complex and sometimes controversial material.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I enjoyed the professor's informal and sometimes personal approach to these issues.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done and comprehensive.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have taken many courses from the Teaching Company. All have been professionally excellent.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I wish that I had your courses forty nine years ago when I was a college freshman.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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