Thursday, August 24, 2006

Discussion Starter

Here's an interesting item to use to kick-start discussion about trade. The Adam Smith Institute has a bracelet supporting free trade. (Item no longer available on web site.) It touts "I buy goods from poorer countries."

I suspect it would create an interesting back and forth with many students. (Are the people in those countries better/worse off producing goods for the world market? What is the impact on people in this country who could produce the goods? What do we learn from comparative advantage?)

Your comments and experiences are welcome.

Posted by TSchilling at 5:49 PM Comments (0)

Economics and Mainland China

On my way to the train station this morning, I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and heard an interesting tidbit from a series they've been doing on China. This specific story was about China's Hot Real Estate Market. It seems real estate prices in some trendy parts of Shanghai have gone up 300% in three years. To counter this, the Chinese government has forbidden the release of more land for the development of luxury villas.

Now it seems to me that this may have the opposite results. By my thinking, putting a cap on the land available for development of luxury housing is the same as placing an artificial cap on supply (vertical supply curve?). This means that demand for this housing will shift to the existing stock of luxury homes, causing a further acceleration in property values. This becomes even more interesting when combined with a comment I heard earlier in the series (sorry, I don't remember which one). That story mentioned that at the time of the Tiananmen Square uprising, the central government essentially made a Faustian bargain..."stop agitating for political reform, and we'll allow you to get rich." Essentially, the communist party allowed a number of people with skill and access to get rich, in return for being allowed to be kept in power. To the extent that it has worked, it has created a significant upwardly mobile group in China. However, many of those in the countryside still remain very poor. The observation was made that the "workers' and peasants' revolution" may soon be at risk from those same workers and peasants who have not shared in the growing economy.

Overall, I find this issue worthy of discussion, especially within a context of teaching about economic systems, economic institutions, incentives, and of course modern world history.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Posted by TSchilling at 5:18 PM Comments (0)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Using Oil in Your Classroom (as an Example)

Just in case you haven't already been inundated with ideas for using oil in teaching economics, there are a couple of blog postings you might want to consider.

For a micro-economic view that focuses on BP oil, check out this post on Aplia Econ Blog. Good fundamental analysis of how a supply shock impacts a market.

For a macro-economic view, see this post on the same site. It examines the repercussions of the price change on the larger economy. Again, good sound fundamentals.

I do wonder if the lack of comments indicates that we (as educators) are overusing this example. Your comments are welcome.

Posted by TSchilling at 5:22 PM Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Invisible Hand and the Golden Rule

One of the books I read this summer is The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong. If you're not familiar with the book, it examines the development of several great philosophical/religious traditions through a period beginning about 900 B.C.E. and ending, roughly with the rise of Rome. Specifically it looks at the rise of Daoism and Confucianism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism (specifically Judaism) in the Middle East, and philosophical rationalism in Greece.

Of particular interest was common evolution toward an "other" based view that occurred in each of these areas. In each case, the philosophy evolved toward the idea of concern for others as a part of living a good life. Armstrong makes mention of the "Golden Rule" (doing unto others, etc...) evolving in each region. As this was repeated, I found myself thinking of the similarity between the Golden Rule and some of Adam Smith's ideas. I found some interesting parallels between them.

Indeed, I see Smith's philosophy (as put forth in The Theory of Moral Sentiments) and his political economy (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations) as longer discussions along the same lines. Smith's focus on others and their perceptions as motivators and beneficiaries of moral and economic actions speaks to the heart of the Golden Rule. We benefit when we act in a way that benefits others; and others, in turn, can benefit as we benefit. What parallels, if any, do you see between Smith and the idea of the Golden Rule? Is this an idea that can be used to raise student interest when we teach?

I look forward to your response.

Posted by TSchilling at 8:24 PM Comments (0)

TV Worth Watching...

One of my fortuitous "finds" when I was teaching high school economics was a video series shown on my local PBS station featuring Nobel winning economist, Milton Friedman. Now the series, titled Free to Choose can be found on the web. The pointers for the ten programs (each running about an hour) are also on the web site. The programs each have two parts. The first is a brief "documentary" meant to illustrate and explain a concept. The second part is a discussion with Dr. Friedman and other luminaries.

The programs were well done, and I was always surprised by my students who were usually as interested in the discussion as in the first part of each program. Anyway, it's nice to see them available again.

Your thoughts, as always are welcome.

***Update 12-4-2006***
You can now view the series at The Idea Channel web site. Thanks to Greg Mankiw for the pointer.

Posted by TSchilling at 3:15 PM | Comments (0)