Bard College Catalogue 2013-14
FacultySanjaya DeSilva (director), Kris Feder, James Andrew Felkerson, Olivier Giovannoni, James Green-Armytage, Aniruddha Mitra, Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Pavlina R. Tcherneva
The basic methodological approach of economics is to analyze the ubiquitous problem of human choice among alternative uses of limited resources. Economics examines how decisions are influenced by incentives, opportunities, and resource constraints, and explores the interacting consequences of those choices in our private and public lives.
The Bard Economics Program emphasizes the policy applications of economic theory at the local, national, and global levels. A wide range of courses in economic theory, applied economics, quantitative research methods, economic history, and economic thought are regularly offered. For students who wish to pursue a career in the financial world, Bard offers a five-year program leading to a B.S. degree in economics and finance and a B.A. degree in any other program. For more information, see the "Program in Economics and Finance" section in this chapter.
Three economics courses are required for Moderation, including Economics 100 and two 200-level courses. At Moderation students identify an area of focus and discuss their preliminary ideas for the Senior Project. It is recommended that students take several 200-level applied courses during the sophomore and junior years. Graduation requirements include: (1) The theory sequence (Principles of Economics, Intermediate Microeconomics, and Intermediate Macroeconomics); (2) Statistics or Econometrics; (3) a course in economic history; (4) a course in economic thought; (5) at least four electives at the 200 level or above in economics, two of which must be at the 300 level (students with joint majors or interdisciplinary concentrations may replace one 300-level elective with two 300-level courses in a related discipline); (6) Calculus I (Mathematics 141) or the equivalent is a prerequisite for Economics 201 (Calculus II, Mathematics 142, is recommended); and (7) the Senior Project.
Recent Senior Projects in Economics
“Agricultural Subsidies in the United States: Where Political Rent-Seeking Trumps Economic Reality”
“Assessing Unfair Competition in the U.S. Airline Industry: An Analysis of Hub-and-Spoke Networks,” an examination of predatory practices since 1998
“Experimenting with Livelihood: An Analysis of USAID’s Agrotechnology Interventions
“Those Who Saw It Coming: A Study of Time and Theory among Those Who Predicted the Recession”
Students typically begin their study of economics by taking Principles of Economics (Economics 100). The 200-level courses typically assume knowledge of introductory theory and are of special interest to students in political studies, historical studies, sociology, philosophy, human rights, global and international studies, social policy, and environmental and urban studies. Students who have completed introductory theory are encouraged to take at least one 200-level applied course before proceeding to more advanced course work in economics. The 300-level Upper College courses and seminars provide advanced treatment of theory, research methodology, and applications for moderated economics majors. Students are encouraged to construct their academic program in a sequence of cognate courses that culminates in a Senior Project.Students contemplating graduate school in economics are encouraged to take advanced theory courses and to develop their quantitative skills with additional courses such as Introduction to Mathematical Economics (Economics 205), Econometrics (Economics 329), and related courses in mathematics (Linear Algebra, Proofs and Fundamentals, Probability and Statistics).
Sample curricula for all areas of study within the Economics Program are available on the Economics Program website.
Principles of Economics
cross-listed: economics and finance, eus, gis
An introduction to the essential ideas of economic analysis. The microeconomics component of the course develops the basic model of consumer and firm behavior, including demand and supply, in the context of an idealized competitive market and examines several ways in which the real world deviates from this model, including monopoly, minimum wages and other price controls, taxes, and government regulation. The macroeconomics component studies the aggregate behavior of modern economies and the government’s ability (or inability) to use monetary and fiscal policies to achieve economic goals such as full employment and price stability.
Introduction to Microeconomics
cross-listed: economics and finance, eus, gis
The first part of the course develops models of consumer and firm behavior, including demand and supply, in the context of an idealized competitive market. From there, several ways in which the real world deviates from this model are analyzed, including monopoly and other forms of imperfect competition, information problems, minimum wages and other price controls, taxes, and government regulation. Public policy problems are also addressed. Economcs 101 and 102 may be taken in either order.
Introduction to Macroeconomics
cross-listed: economics and finance, eus, gis
The course begins with an examination of the aggregate behavior of modern economies: the factors leading to economic growth, explanations of booms and recessions, unemployment, interest rates, inflation, budget deficits or surpluses, and international trade. The government’s ability (or inability) to use monetary and fiscal policies to achieve economic goals, such as full employment and price stability, is analyzed, using current examples. Economics 101 and 102 may be taken in either order.
Economics of Globalized Food SystemsMoney and Banking
cross-listed: eus, gis, sts
The world food system is in crisis: a reversal in the downward trend that food prices have shown in the past, increased environmental degradation of the agricultural resource base, and a rise of food deficits and malnutrition in the global south, along with an increase of surpluses in the industrial north, are indicators that the system is in a vulnerable state. The class makes use of basic economic concepts to analyze the driving forces behind these trends.
This course examines the role of money and financial intermediaries in determining aggregate economic activity. Interactions of savers, investors, and regulatory authorities in domestic and international capital markets are analyzed, and the linkage between the financial system and the real economy is traced. The functions of central banks, commercial banks, securities dealers, and other intermediaries are covered in detail. The debate over the goals, tools, indicators, and effectiveness of monetary policy is considered in light of current economic problems. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
This course further develops principles and analytical methods introduced in Economics 100. The positive and normative characteristics of alternative market structures—perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly, pure monopoly, and, in resource markets, monopsony—are studied in depth. Market forces are examined in the context of social and political institutions that shape, and are shaped by, market outcomes. The alleged trade-off between equity and efficiency is debated. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and one semester of calculus.
This course acquaints students with the main models that macroeconomists use to analyze the way economies behave. Students consider the models that explain long-run economic growth; examine economic theories concerning recessions and booms; and investigate the role of governments in affecting the long- and short-run economic prospects of their countries. Theoretical knowledge is applied to a range of current economic issues. Prerequisite: Economics 100, or Economics 101 or 102.
cross-listed: economics and finance, eus, gis, political studies
Game theory is the study of how rational actors behave when they know that their actions hold consequences, not just for themselves but for others—and how they, in turn, are affected by the actions taken by others. As the applicability of the discipline extends far beyond the analysis of economic behavior, the course introduces the basics of game theory and then examines a wide variety of applications from economics, political science, and the study of the environment. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 101.
Introduction to Mathematical Economics
An introduction to the use of elementary calculus and linear algebra in economic theory. This course provides the basic mathematical skills necessary to approach the professional economics literature. Emphasis is on formulating economic problems and building economic models in mathematical language. Applications are based upon simple micro- and macroeconomic models. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and calculus.
Economics from the Ground Up
This course develops economic principles from the ground up through successive extensions of a simple intuitive model. Following the standard conception of economics as the study of constrained choice, it explores the economizing behavior of a single individual, acting alone, who struggles to survive by employing available resources to produce food and shelter. The model then builds complexity, introducing cooperation and exchange among persons, and demonstrating how this is embedded in local and global ecosystems. Prerequisite: competence in algebra and precalculus.
History of Economic Thought IHistory of Economic Thought II
cross-listed: gis, sts
A survey of the early history of economics. Among the subjects considered are the ideas of Hume, Locke, Smith, Malthus, and Mill, and the attacks on existing politico-economic institutions by Marx and George. This course focuses on the period up to the late 19th century, when classical political economy gave way to the “marginal revolution,” which, applying the mathematical insights of calculus to economic questions, focused more on subjective choice and less on political issues and institutions. Prerequisite: one economics course.
The course explores the ideas of the greatest economic thinkers of the 20th century, including Marshall, Keynes, Hayek, Sraffa, Veblen, Schumpeter, Galbraith, and Nobel Prize recipients Samuelson, Friedman, Sen, Stiglitz, and Krugman. Also considered are such schools of thought as the New Keynesians, Post Keynesians, and New Classicals; and issues such as the business cycle, unemployment, inflation, free markets, and the role of governments. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or permission of the instructor.
European Economic History
An examination of the political and economic problems of countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union that are making the transition from the Soviet economic system to free-market capitalism. Necessary reforms are analyzed and merits of various proposals for making a successful transition debated. Topics include privatization of state-run enterprises, deregulation of prices and inflation, and the role of international lending institutions, among others. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or permission of the instructor.
Economic History of Modern Asia
cross-listed: asian studies, gis
An examination of important historical events and circumstances that shaped the economic landscape of Asia in the 20th century. Topics include colonialism and economic dependency, the impact of the World Wars, and postindependence nation building. The evolution of development strategies such as import-substituting industrialization, national planning, export-led growth, regional integration, and globalization is studied. The impact of history, geography, and institutions on economic activity is emphasized. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or permission of the instructor.
cross-listed: africana studies, asian studies, eus, gis, human rights, lais, sts
This course explores the economic conditions and problems faced by the majority of people who live in the developing countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The concept of economic development is defined and related to ideas such as economic growth and human development. Economic theories of development are introduced, and policies designed to promote development are evaluated. Topics include the economic consequences of colonialism, poverty and income distribution, and the role of foreign capital flows. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
Urban and Regional Economics
cross-listed: american studies, eus, sts
The spatial structure of cities and of regional systems of cities is analyzed from the perspective of central place theory, a microeconomic theory of location that complements a historical review of patterns of urbanization and sprawl. Contemporary urban problems are also examined from an economic point of view, and issues of urban planning and policy are debated. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
cross-listed: economics and finance, eus, gis
This course is designed to examine empirical economics; it is also a prerequisite for Economics 329, Econometrics. Basic concepts of statistics, probability, probability distributions, random variables, correlation, and simple regression are introduced; the techniques of statistical inference hypothesis testing are developed. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
Economics of the Public Sector
This course introduces the two branches of traditional public finance, corresponding to the two sides of the government budget—revenue and spending. On the spending side, it surveys the economic rationales for the existence of government and for its intervention in the economy, and the economic consequences of government expenditures. On the revenue side, the course examines the problem of efficient pricing of public sector output; the consequences of alternative tax structures for the distribution of wealth; and approaches to the economics of collective action. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
Ecological economics (ECE) is a transdiscipline that draws upon physics, ecology, and other natural and social sciences as well as economics. It views the economy as “an open subsystem of a larger ecosystem that is finite, nongrowing, and materially closed (though open with respect to solar energy).” The positive analyses of ECE are motivated by three normative social goals: (1) efficient allocation of scarce resources, including those that do not pass through markets; (2) justice in distribution; and (3) an ecologically sustainable scale of economic activity.
Law and Economics
cross-listed: human rights
The economic approach focuses on the choices people make in the context of given opportunities and constraints, and on how they respond to changes in incentives. This course applies economic principles to study the incentive effects that legal sanctions have on human behavior. Four areas of law are analyzed: property law, contracts, torts, and the concept of crime and punishment. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and at least one additional course in microeconomic theory or applications.
Women and the Economy
The first objective is to introduce different theoretical approaches and methodologies for analyzing labor markets, household production, pay practices, and other economic outcomes that specifically affect women. The second is to use the different theoretical lenses for analyzing key policy questions, such as pay differentials, discrimination, unpaid care burden and labor force participation, comparable worth policies, and globalization’s impact on women.
Community-Based Development: Development from the Ground Up
cross-listed: asian studies, eus, gis, human rights, sts
This course critically examines the concept and practice of community-based development as an alternative to the top-down theories and policies of development. Conceptualizations of well-being in Buddhist and Gandhian thinking are considered to highlight the cross-cultural differences in what constitutes a “good life.” Students gain a broader definition of development as economic, social, and political empowerment. Throughout the course, the relationship of community-based development with ecological sustainability and political decentralization is highlighted. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or permission of instructor.
Foundations of Finance and Investments
cross-listed: economics and finance
This course explores the foundations of the pricing of financial instruments and the structure and organization of financial markets. Methods will be developed to analyze and measure financial performance, price stocks and bonds, evaluate portfolios, and understand financial derivatives as these relate to financial data. Additional topics include the investment decision-making process, trading practices, risk assessment, and diversification. The course involves a substantial amount of statistical analysis and calculation, but no prior knowledge of statistics is required.
Topics in Microeconomics
The foundations of macroeconomic theory are studied, and alternative approaches to growth, distribution, increasing returns, and endogenous change are analyzed. Monetary and financial aspects of macro foundations are discussed, focusing on the work of Minsky, Tobin, Sargent, Lucas, post-Keynesians, neo-Keynesians, new Keynesians, and neo-Ricardians.
Macroeconomic Stability: Theory and Policy
This seminar examines the nature of economic instability and financial crises in modern history and the Keynesian contributions to macroeconomic stabilization policy. The class explores John Maynard Keynes’s investment theory of the business cycle and Hyman P. Minsky’s financial theory of investment, as well as the controversial question of government intervention. Topics of discussion also include economic policies that deal with problems such as inflation, unemployment, poverty, and financial crises; and the relative effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policies. Prerequisite: Economics 202.
This course covers industrial organization, from traditional ideas to ideas on the frontier of economic research. The traditional literature addresses the industrial structure of the U.S. economy and antitrust policy, monopolies, and anticompetitive behavior. More recent work examines the structure of firms, markets, and organizations. Other topics include vertical integration and coordination, product differentiation and patents, auctions and bidding, and theories of advertising. The theory is examined in the context of real-world situations, both current and historical. Prerequisite: Economics 202.
Microeconomics of Development
This seminar examines less developed economies from a microeconomic perspective. Topics addressed include the structure and organization of markets for commodities, labor, credit, and insurance; the provision of public services such as education, health care, water, and energy; household decision making regarding consumption, farm and home production, market work, migration, and schooling; and the impact of macroeconomic changes related to industrialization, urbanization, economic growth, and globalization on households. Students read primary articles, study mathematical models, learn empirical research methods, and analyze primary and secondary data. Prerequisites: Economics 201, Economics 229, and Mathematics 141 (Calculus I).
Seminar in International Economics
This seminar covers both international trade (real or “physical” flows) and international finance (monetary or financial flows). Questions addressed include: Why do countries engage (increasingly) in trade? Does trade benefit everybody? Equally? Should we manage trade flows and if so, do quotas, subsidies, and tariffs make sense? How about trade and capital market liberalization? What are the roles and effects of institutions such as the Federal Reserve and IMF? Students apply the tools and models of international economics to think analytically and critically about real-world situations. Prerequisites: Economics 202.
Econometrics is the artful blending of economic theory with statistics. Economic theory helps develop behavioral hypotheses, while statistics help test these hypotheses. For example, consumer theory sees an inverse relationship between price and quantity consumed; econometrics determines whether consumers actually behave in this way. The proper use of statistical tools, such as linear regression, multivariate regression, and hypothesis testing, is covered. Students apply these tools to a variety of economic issues, including estimating production and cost functions. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 229.
Seminar in Geoclassical Economics
This seminar reviews the literature of geoclassical economics from its roots in George, Locke, Quesnay, Ricardo, and Smith to the recently published work of Gaffney, Stiglitz, Tideman, Vickrey, and others. The geoclassical tradition studies the role of land tenure and related property institutions in shaping social, political, and economic life; its research agenda includes economic applications to environmental issues, urban problems, economic cycles, and tax policy, among other things. Prerequisites: Economics 100. Moderated environmental and urban studies students may enroll with permission of instructor.
This course focuses on the economic forces and public policies that affect employment and wages, and examines theoretical models of labor markets and how well they hold up to real-world empirical data. Topics emphasized include labor demand and supply, minimum wage laws, theories of unemployment, job search and matching models, family and life-cycle decision making, human capital, efficiency wage theory, compensating wage differentials, worker mobility and migration, unions, and discrimination. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
cross-listed: gis, political studies, sts
Institutions can be defined as systems of established and prevalent social rules that govern social interactions. Examples of institutions include the law, money, and property rights, among others. This course analyzes how institutions function and develop, and how they influence economic outcomes. It explores the link between institutions and economic development by addressing topics such as the modeling of culture, norms, and values; formal and informal institutions; corruption; path dependence; and the issue of evolution versus equilibrium. Prerequisite: Economics 201.
cross-listed: gis, sts
This course applies economic tools to an understanding of the peculiar features of health care and related markets. It reviews the demand and supply for health outputs and considers various methods for measuring the costs and benefits of health outcomes. Topics addressed include the information asymmetries in health services and insurance; the market for private health insurance; and reasons for and effects of social insurance programs, among others.
Seminar in Contemporary Developments of Finance
This seminar contrasts the academic analysis of financial economics with the coverage it receives in the news media. The news stories are almost always connected with people, yet traditional finance theories concentrate on efficient markets and predictable prices that are determined by the concept of present value, rates of return, and analysis and pricing of computable risks. Human behavior has no place in these theories. This course challenges that view, examining the influence of economic psychology in the decision-making process of various agents and in market dynamics.