From the Author
Many students reading this text will be enrolled in their first class in economics. For many (indeed, perhaps for most), it will also be their last class in economics. Why? Not everyone wants to be an economist, business owner, banker, or any of the myriad careers for which the study of economics is essential. So what can a course in economics do besides provide a few credits for those on their way toward degrees in engineering, environmental resources, nursing, graphic design, education, or other disciplines? Frankly, for those willing to put forth the effort to understand the basics of the economic way of thinking, even one course in economics can do a lot. My goal in writing Introduction to Economics: Social Issues and Economic Thinking is to foster an understanding of the basic tools and core reasoning that underlie decision making and problem solving, and to teach students to apply this way of thinking to an array of social and personal issues. Although specific occupations may require particular skills, these particular skill sets necessarily change and evolve over time. The need for people who can think, learn, and solve problems does not change. In Social Issues and Economic Thinking, I emphasize these critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Introductory courses in economics are generally taught using either a principles of economics approach or an issues in economics approach. Based on my own teaching experiences using each pedagogical approach for several years, students tend to be more involved and enthusiastic about the material when taught using the issues-based approach. The issues approach is also more fun for the professor and has drawn more students into the economics major at my institution. In their investigations of the issues pedagogy, Grimes and Nelson (1998) conducted controlled experiments to examine learning outcomes in issues-based versus traditional principles of economics courses. They found no significant difference in learning outcomes between the two pedagogical approaches but higher rates of course completion for students in the issues-based course. My intent is that Social Issues and Economic Thinking will bring to the issues market a better integration of the issues-based pedagogy with the conceptual framework of social welfare economics. The toolkit chapters are essential to doing this, in particular the chapters Consumer Surplus, Producer Surplus, and Economic Efficiency (Chapter 3) and the Power and Limits of Markets (Chapter 8). These chapters are oft en overlooked (or completely excluded) as a means to provide an accessible conceptual framework for students to judge the tradeoff s associated with market interventions and other social policies. By fully illustrating the concepts of efficiency and social welfare and by highlighting that economic systems face tradeoff s between efficiency and equity and between security and liberty, these chapters provide students with a method for evaluating social problems and policy responses and the inherent tradeoff s they pose. Students should finish the text with an appreciation of the great power of markets to organize societies and with an appreciation for the times in which markets alone cannot yield optimal outcomes. I hope the text will be a "myth buster" for students, who oft en hold very naïve black-and-white ideas about be-all and end-all policy responses on both the laissez-faire and government intervention ends of the spectrum.
About the Author
Dr. Wendy Stock is a Professor of Economics and Department Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. She holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in economics from Michigan State University and a B.A. in economics from Weber State University. Dr. Stock has taught economics at the introductory through graduate levels for more than two decades. She served on the American Economic Association Committee on Economic Education from 2005 to 2011, coordinated the group's annual poster session on active learning techniques in economics from 2007 to 2011, and has directed the American Economic Association Graduate Studies in Economics website since 2006. She was awarded the Montana State University James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence in 2010 in recognition of teaching and scholarship excellence. She was named Professor of the Month by the Montana State University Mortar Board in 2009, earned an Award for Excellence from Montana State in 2006 and again in 2009, was the winner of the Montana State University Betty Coffey Award in 2005 in recognition of her contributions on behalf of women, and was awarded the William L. Stamey Undergraduate Teaching Award at Kansas State University in 1998. She currently teaches ECON 101 The Economic Way of Thinking to several hundred Montana State University students each semester. She also teaches Peer Leadership, Labor and Human Resource Economics, and graduate and undergraduate Econometrics at Montana State.
Dr. Stock lives in Bozeman with her husband, Ken, her two children, and the family's assortment of pets, including dogs, cats, gerbils, and fish. All give her great utility.