Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing Assignment 2

Get me some numbers.

Last week I walked though one example of using basic economic tools and a little math to try to figure out how much trash the US would produce in twenty years.

I'd like for you to do something similar, but unique. For example: how much does it cost to recycle a can?

How much does it cost to house a drug dealer in jail?

How long will it take for the Gulf of Mexico to clean itself of oil?

How many trees are planted every year?

I don't want a list of answers to these questions. I want answers to your questions.
If you plan to write a paper instead of taking the final exam, use this as an opportunity to collect and share data you plan to use for that paper.

I don't want perfect calculations, just rough "back-of-the-envelope" type estimations, but interesting ones.

See what you can come up with. I will post interesting results on the blog.

If nothing else, you might have something interesting to talk about over Thanksgiving break...


We might not get a chance to discuss recycling in depth.

This podcast between Mike Munger (Duke) and Russ Roberts (GMU) digs into the issue in a fun, lighthearted manner.

Baptists and Bootleggers Build a Prison;

for illegal immigrants.
The Bootleggers: The private prison corporation.
The Baptists: People who want fewer immigrants.
The policy: AZ SB 1070.

Read the article and listen here.

Hayek Ch. 9

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Presentation of Miller Benjamin North Chapter 21

Please take the time to watch this presentation regarding The Political Economy of Collapsing Bridges:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Extra Credit Opportunity

Our next topic is environmental policy.
There are to be some lectures this week on campus related to environmental awareness. Among these is this event.

Annie Leonard, environmental activist and author of The Story of Stuff will be giving a free public lecture on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM in the JC Cinema. Interested in the environmental and health costs of consumption, Annie Leonard traces the journey of our stuff from manufacturing to disposal. A reception and book signing will follow the formal lecture, which is sponsored by the CHSS Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative, COS, and the Office of Sustainability.

For more information, contact the Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) office at or 703-993-4556.

I can't go, my daughter has an orthodontist appointment. But I wish I could. So, if you go, and provide a write-up of what happens, I will give you 5 extra credit points towards the midterm exam.
FYI, I have heard that several econ graduate students will be there to provide some fireworks. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Economics is written in a mixture of algebra, geometry, and prose. It is easy to see when an algebraic equation or graph is done wrong. The particular attraction of these forms of mathematics and their application in economics is the precision they provide to analysis. To draw a graph with the wrong shaped curves is to get a part of the grammar of the geometry wrong. Everyone in economics expects to have a graph improperly drawn marked off when graded.
Likewise, then with the grammar in our prose. I mentioned that several of the first books I read in economics contained no math whatsoever. Suppose the grammar in those books had been fraught with errors. They would have failed to be convincing. Sloppy graphs, sloppy algebra, and sloppy prose all signal sloppy thinking.
Math is a skill that has to be practiced for proficiency, and writing is the same. It is just as important that your writing be clear as it is that your graphs be drawn correctly, and that your algebra be valid.
The university offers free services to help with writing. You should take advantage of these. You should always, ALWAYS! have at least one other person proofread your work before turning it in.
I will tend to be more lenient on tests and other in-class work, but writing assignments with two week deadlines should be turned in completely error free.

A Few Thoughts

1. One of your colleagues generated a twitter account which can notify you whenever I post new content to the blog. This prevents you from having too check so often if I have not posted anything new. The account is:

2. After sharing my "rant" last night with some fellow econ-geeks they think that I was not out of line at all, if anything, right on the money, if only a bit rhetorical in my presentation, which makes things a little more entertaining. I have posted the rant on my other, non-class-related, permanent blog:

3. I have received most of your papers already. For those of you who turned in late, or haven't turned in yet at all, I am taking 1% off the grade for every hour it is late. That gives you practically 4 and a half days to turn it in for some credit still. I find that imposing a real increasing marginal cost creates the right incentives for students to get things done quickly.

4. Presentation:
Here is the last student-produced video for this week's material.

5. My videos. I managed to get a couple of more videos uploaded last night. (Groan) You will be responsible for all material covered in these. There are a few more things I would like to say about antitrust, but they will have to wait until after the exam. You should all have had sufficient exposure to Hayek's Use of Knowledge in Society by now, but I may still post my thoughts on the last portion of that essay at some point today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lecture Videos

You can watch and re-watch these as often as you find necessary.

Stay tuned as I update with more videos.


The Firm Part I

The Firm, Part II

Hayek's Use of Knowledge In Society, Part I

Hayek's Use of Knowledge In Society, Part II
(not yet uploaded)

Antitrust, Part I

Antitrust Part II

Antitrust Part III
(not yet uploaded)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reading # 16, New Link

The link for reading #16, Ungenerous Endowments, on the syllabus does not work.
Here is one that does, thanks to one of your resourceful colleagues.

Notes on the Exam:

1. There will be three sections. Multiple choice, Short answer, and Essay.

2. It should take you 1.5 hours to complete.

3. It will cover the readings and lecture notes.

- End of chapter questions in Miller Benjamin North are good practice.
- Daily quizzes should provide an idea of what kind of question I like to ask.
- I think BOTH the Bootleggers and Baptists, AND the Use of Knowledge in Society are very important for EVERYONE to know.

That's all for now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Miller, Benjamin, North Chapter 10

Please take the time to watch the video below.
We will also have an in-class presentation tomorrow.

Midterm: October 18

Yup, you read that right.
We will have our midterm on October the 18th. It should take the first 1.5 hours of class. We will have lecture after the midterm.
If you have questions about the exam, email them to me, and I will post relevant answers here on the blog for all to see.

Also, I'm thinking of doing a video-lecture for class next week, Oct 12.
The plan will be for each of you to watch the video lecture (about 2 hours long) in advance. I will divide the class into 3 groups. Then, on the night of the 12th, each group will be responsible to come in for 40 minutes for a discussion and question and answer time.
I want this time to be used to discuss the new material, but I will also save a few minutes to answer questions about the exam.