Introduction to Political Economy


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General course information and requirements

Semester: Spring 2017
Course: Economics 103, Introduction to Political Economy (3 credits)
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites, but students that already have credit for both ECON 215 and 216 cannot get credit for this couse.
Instructor: Dr. Stonebraker
Office: 401 Thurmond
Office phone: 323-2488
E-mail address:
Office hours:  M 3:30-4:30 pm, T and W 12:30-1:30 pm, R 12:30-1:30 and 3:30-4:30 pm, F 9 am-12 pm  (no appointment needed)
                        Other times are available by appointment. 

Course objectives:
Students completing this course should gain a general working knowledge of how a market-based economy allocates resources and should learn to recognize and analyze the economic concepts underlying a wide variety of contemporary issues. The course links to the following University-Level Competencies:
Winthrop graduates think critically and solve problems: The course will challenge students to think critically about a wide range of social and economic problems.
Winthrop graduates understand the interconnected nature of the world and the time in which they live: The course will help students appreciate the connections between the U.S. and global economic world as well as seeing how basic economic concepts can be used to analyze issues studied in a variety of academic disciplines.
We use a web-based textbook that consists of a series of short readings on course topics.  You may read the material on line, but most of you will find it more convenient to print hard copies of the readings.  The readings are listed in the appropriate sections of the course outline below.  To access the readings, just click on the titles.  You can print them individually or in groups. I also have provided links below to a number of instructional YouTube videos that you might find useful to better understand course topics.
The grading will be straight letter grades: no plusses or minuses. Three exams will determine most of your grade. The exam with the highest score will receive more weight than the exam with the lowest score.  A Constitution assignment and two short reflection papers will determine the remainder of your grade.  The weight for each assignment is:

Click here for a spreadsheet that will calculate your course average.
Exam questions will stress analysis rather than factual information and will be based both on the material presented in class and the web textbook readings. You will be expected to write short essay/explanation answers and to solve graphical and numerical problems. Students caught copying/cheating will be dealt with harshly. The final exam will include some specified review material.  Calculators will not be permitted during exams; college students should be able to do arithmetic. The approximate grading scale will be:

        86 - 100%      A
        72 - 85%        B
        60 - 71%        C
        50 - 59%        D
          0 - 49%        F
Make-up policy:
Make-up exams will be given to students with what I judge to be a valid excuse. Needing more time to study is not a valid excuse. If you can't make an exam I expect to be notified as quickly as possible, preferably before the exam. Students who do not notify me in a timely manner should not expect a make-up exam.
Constitution requirement:
Because this course fulfills Winthrop's Constitution Requirement, you will be expected to read the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments, and material about current constitutional issues and the Federalist Papers.  You will be expected to complete an assignment covering this material and the first exam will contain questions designed to test your general understanding of the structure and contents of these documents. 
To access a copy of the Declaration of Independence, click here.
To access the U.S. Constitution and Amendments with interpretive comments, click here.
To access material about current Constitutional issues, click here.
To access material about the Federalist Papers, click  here.
Reflection papers:
Part of the purpose of this course is to demonstrate that basic economic concepts can be used to analyze issues and choices in a wide variety of areas. Each of you will write two short papers that use economic concepts covered in the course and apply them to events in your own life. For detailed instructions, click on: Reflection Paper Instructions.
Cell phones and electronic devices:
DO NOT use cell phones in class. That means no texting and no checking messages; even under the desk where you think I will not see them.  Laptops, tablets or similar electronic devices may be used for note-taking or specified course activities with the instructor’s permission. Students using these devices must turn off the wireless function and close all applications/windows other than the allowed document or application. Each time a student is caught violating this policy I will deduct one point from his/her final average.
Attendance policy:
You should attend every class on time and are responsible for all class material whether or not you attend. Students will lose two points from their final average for every class missed in excess of three (except for required, official Winthrop activities such as class trips or varsity sport participation). An exception might be made for students forced to miss more than three classes because of documented medical problems.
Class will start promptly each day. Students will be assigned one absence for every two times they arrive late. If a student signs in for another, both students will be given three absences.
Course withdrawal:
Wednesday, March 8 is the last day to withdraw from a full fall semester course.  (Automatic N grade is issued.)  Students may not withdraw from a course after this date without documented extenuating circumstances.
Students with disabilities/need of accommodations for access:
Winthrop University is committed to providing access to education.  If you have a condition which may adversely impact your ability to access academics and/or campus life, and you require specific accommodations to complete this course, contact the Office of Accessibility (OA) at 803-323-3290, or, Please inform me as early as possible, once you have your official notice of accommodations from the Office of Accessibility.
As a student you should expect me to take my class responsibilities seriously.  You should expect me to deliver quality instruction in each class, to start and end each class on time, to be responsive to student perspectives and questions, and to treat each of you with respect.  As an instructor, in addition to adherence to Winthrop’s Code of Student Conduct, I expect similarly responsible behavior from you. 
How to succeed in this course:
I asked my previous students.  If you want their advice click here.

Course Outline


To access individual readings, just click on the listed blue titles (the files will appear as HTML web pages). If you print the readings, it may be convenient to print several at one time.  For a combined copy of all the readings for the first exam as a .PDF (44 pages), click here.  For a .PDF of the readings for the second exam (78 pages), click here, and for a .PDF of the readings for the final exam (59 pages), click here. I also have listed a variety of YouTube instructional videos that might supplement the text and lectures.  Just click on the links to watch the videos.


I. Basic Concepts: Markets and Efficiency
A.  Scarcity and choice
      The Joy of Economics
B.  Production possibilities and opportunity costs
      What to Produce
      Video: Production Possibilities Curve (or Frontier)
      Video: Shifting the PPC
C.  Comparative advantage and trade
      How to Produce
      Video: Nobody Knows How to Do Anything
      Video: Comparative Advantage
      Comparative Advantage: Sample Problem
D.  How do we choose?
         1. Demand and supply
             Demand and Supply
             Video: Determinants of Demand
             Video: Shifting the Demand Curve
             Video: Supply Shifts
             Video: Market Equilbrium
             Video: Demand Shifts and Equilibrium
             Video: Supply Shifts and Equilibrium
             Demand and Supply: Sample Problems
         2. Elasticity
             Elasticity of Demand and Supply
             Video: Determinants of Elasticity
             Video: Elasticity and Total Revenue
         3. Applications
             Demand and Supply Applied: Exchange Rates
             Video: Exchange Rates
             Demand and Supply Applied: Buy Low and Sell High
             Demand and Supply Applied: Housing Bubbles

EXAM #1: Approximately Wednesday, February 15 

E.  Efficiency and fairness
      Marginal Cost and Supply
      Video: Demand as Marginal Benefit
      Market Efficiency
      External Effects
      Video: Externalities
      Public Goods
      Video: Public Goods
      What's Fair is Fair
      Rational Ignorance
      The Role of Government
II. Microeconomic Issues
A. Love and marriage
     The Untied  Knot: Marriage on the Skids
     Monogamy: A Cure for the Modern Arms Race
     Exploitive Relationships
     Empty Cradles
B. Sickness and death
     Saving Lives Can be Dangerous
     Medical Care
     Video: Crash Course on Health Care Economics
C. Higher education
     Starving Artists
     Funding Options
     Educational Lemons
EXAM #2: Approximately Wednesday, March 29 

 D. Religion
     That Old-Time Religion
     Sacrifice and Stigma
III. Macroeconomic Issues
A GDP: Equilibrium and growth
     Equilibrium GDP
     Video: GDP
     Video: Real and Nominal GDP
     Video: GDP Deflator (or Price Index)
     Video: Aggregate Demand and Supply
     GDP: Sample Problems
     So Much to Do
B. Unemployment and inflation
         1. Causes and effects
             Unemployment and Inflation
             It Isn't Easy Being Green
             Video: Unemployment
             Video: Flexible Wages and Natural Unemployment
         2. Fiscal policy
             Government Finances: Just the Facts
             Spending and Tax Policy
             Video: Fiscal Policy
         3. Money and monetary policy
             Money: What and Why
             Role of Money
             Video: Structure of the Fed
             Macroeconomic Policy: A Quick Review
C. Current macroeconomic issues
     The National Debt: So What?
     Social Security: Apocalypse Soon?

                 Section #1:  Monday, May 1 at 11:30 a.m.
                 Section #2:  Thursday, April 27 at 8:00 a.m.

I reserve the right to modify this syllabus with cause if unexpected circumstances occur.

Are you interested in seeing current macroeconomic data? Click the links below for current data on:
     Gross Domestic Product
     National debt
     Distribution of income
     International currency exchange rates

Last modified 01/03/17