Overview

Introduction to Economic Principles offered by Boston College Experience will address classic economic questions, and show why economists have come up with the answers they provide.  It will also point out where the answers are provisional and why more work is needed to make them complete. 

Economics has sometimes been called the formalization of common sense.  What is gained by studying things that “everyone knows” formally?

Suppose a country produces all goods and services more efficiently than its trading partners.  Can it still gain from trade?  Diamonds are pretty, but water is essential for life.  Does it make sense that drinking water is free or costs pennies, while diamonds sell for thousands of dollars?  Suppose that education is the most important thing a young person can acquire.  Does it follow that teaching should be the highest-paid profession?  People obviously save for retirement.  Does that imply the saving rates of farmers should be higher than that of college professors?  Suppose everyone in a country tries to increase his or her saving.  Would that raise the national savings rate, or would it plunge the country into recession?

These are a few of the questions that economists have addressed through the centuries.  In most cases, trying to answer them using only verbal arguments takes a long time and creates confusion.  Putting the question into a simple abstract framework can strip away the confusion and clarify the issues.  (An example using just six numbers shows that the answer to the first question is “yes.”)  

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