Bard College Catalogue 2017-18
Pavlina R. Tcherneva (director), Sanjaya DeSilva, Kris Feder, Olivier Giovannoni, Michael Martell, Aniruddha Mitra, Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Felipe Rezende, L. Randall Wray
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.
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. Graduation requirements include: (1) The theory sequence (Principles of Economics, Intermediate Microeconomics, and Intermediate Macroeconomics); (2) Introduction to 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
- “A Decade of Downfall: The Industrial and Financial Self-Destruction of the American Automobile Industry through 2009”
- “Diffusion of E-Commerce in China: A Case Study Analysis”
- “Industrial Agriculture and Veblen’s Theory of Absentee Ownership”
- “Life after Austerity: Did Ireland Succeed and Greece Fail? A Modern Monetary Approach”
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. 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 advised to take advanced theory courses and to develop their quantitative skills with additional courses such as Mathematical Economics (Economics 205), Advanced Econometrics (Economics 329), and related courses in mathematics (Linear Algebra, Proofs and Fundamentals, Probability, and Mathematical Statistics).
Sample curricula for all areas of study within the Economics Program are available on the Economics Program website.
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
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.
What Is Money?
This course considers the origins, nature, and functions of money throughout history to illustrate the role it has played in economic provisioning in different societies. Topics include monetary systems in ancient Egypt, the monetization of colonial Africa, gold standard episodes, money in the American colonies, sovereign currency regimes, monetary unions as in the European Union, and emerging phenomena like bitcoin. Various theoretical perspectives are applied to explain the functioning of these monetary systems and the policy space they afford nations for achieving specific objectives.
Understanding Financial Crises
In fall 2008, financial systems worldwide became engulfed in a financial crisis of extraordinary proportions. Despite the intervention of global authorities, trillions of dollars in financial wealth disappeared, almost overnight. In the half a decade since, most developed countries have experienced lackluster economic growth, which has also impacted social conditions. All this has happened before and, most certainly, will happen again. This course provides students with an introduction to some of the causes and effects of historical episodes of financial crisis.
Money and Banking
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.
cross-listed: economics and finance
Microeconomics is the study of how individual economic units (households and firms) interact to determine outcomes (allocation of goods and services) in a market setting. The objectives of the course include understanding the concepts covered in Economics 100 in terms of mathematics; studying advanced topics, such as choice under uncertainty and information asymmetry, which have traditionally relied on mathematics for illustration of ideas; and learning how to use mathematics to conduct in-depth economic analysis. Prerequisites: Economics 100 and Mathematics 141.
An introduction to the main models used by macroeconomists to analyze the way economies behave. Students examine models that explain long-run economic growth, economic theories concerning recessions and booms, and 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.
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 environmental studies. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
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.
History of Economic Thought I
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.
History of Economic Thought II: 20th Century
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.
cross-listed: american studies, gss
The course focuses on the economic forces and public policies that affect employment and wages. Theoretical models of labor markets and how well they hold up to real-world empirical data are examined, as are topics such as labor demand and supply, minimum wage laws, theories of unemployment, family and life cycle decision making, efficiency wage theory, compensating wage differentials, worker mobility and migration, unions, and discrimination. Prerequisite: Economics 100; Economics 201 and a statistics course are also recommended.
European Economic History
The first part of the course presents the economics of the Roman Empire, feudal Europe, mercantilism, imperialism, and the Industrial Revolution; the second part is devoted to post–WWII Europe. Questions addressed: What lessons does the Roman Empire teach us? What was the role of agriculture and urbanization in medieval Europe? Why did the Industrial Revolution take place in Britain, and not elsewhere? What are the economic motivations, and consequences, of wars? How did the European Union and eurozone come to be? Can present-day Europe overcome its challenges?
Asian Economic History
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. Also studied: the evolution of development strategies such as import-substituting industrialization, national planning, export-led growth, regional integration, and globalization.
cross-listed: africana studies, asian studies, eus, gis, human rights, lais, sts
After introducing various definitions of economic development, the course is divided into three parts: the first explores key manifestations of development, such as economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, globalization, inequality, and poverty; the second looks at institutional determinants of development, including markets, political systems, and culture; and the third part deals with policies designed to address specific development goals, such as providing education, promoting gender equity, or expanding access to financial markets. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
cross-listed: economics and finances, gis
An introduction to economic theories and concepts that help us understand why nations trade, who benefits and who loses from trade, and why trade is regulated. Each week, a question is posed, based on class interests—e.g., Does free trade contribute to the widening gap between rich and poor? Should the United States ban clothing imports from sweatshops in Bangladesh?—and theoretical tools are used to help answer it.
Why do economists disagree? As economic systems have evolved, so have the theories used to explain them. Since Adam Smith, economists have used different assumptions, models, and methodologies to study the role of markets, states, and institutions in the process of social provisioning. This course surveys diverse traditions in economics, competing paradigms, and several distinct approaches, including classical, institutionalist, post-Keynesian, Marxist, feminist, and green. 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.
Introduction to Econometrics
cross-listed: economics and finance, eus, gis
The first of a two-course sequence designed to explore the tools economists use to summarize and interpret data. The first half introduces the concepts of random variables, probability distributions, sampling, descriptive statistics, and statistical inference. The second half focuses on simple and multiple regression analysis. Students learn how to organize and analyze data using Excel and Stata, how to interpret published research, and how to carry out an empirical research project. Prerequisite: Economics 100 and precalculus.
International Economics and Finance
cross-listed: economics and finance, gis
The course combines international macroeconomics (exchange rates) and international finance (financial flows, markets, and institutions), presenting the important identities, definitions, and theories, and stressing real-world examples and policy options. Issues highlighted include trade with China, global imbalances, policy options and challenges for developing countries, and the Greek/eurozone crisis. The objective is to apply the tools and models to think analytically and critically about international events.
Controversies in Monetary Economics
A look at current controversies in monetary theory and policy. Students examine both the mainstream and heterodox approaches to each. Mainstream approaches include monetarism, New Classical, New Keynesian, and the New Monetary Consensus. Heterodox approaches include Post Keynesian (endogenous money and circuit approaches), Marxist, and institutionalist. The class concludes with a detailed examination of Modern Money Theory, which combines various strands of heterodoxy while also including contributions from historical, legal, and anthropological research.
Economics of the Public Sector
Public sector economics (or public economics) covers four general areas: government revenue, government spending, regulation, and public choice (study of incentives influencing the behavior of voters, politicians, and bureaucrats, and of the consequences of alternative decision structures). This course examines the microeconomics of the public sector. Specific topics include market failures, public goods, optimal taxation, the economic theory of voting, regulatory capture, and fiscal federalism. As the field is broad, the focus is on applications to the U.S. economy. Prerequisite: Economics 100.
Can You Afford to Grow Old? Social Security, Pensions, and Elder Care in an Aging Society
Many young people fear that Social Security will go bankrupt long before they reach retirement age. Costs of medical care continue to grow faster than GDP. The global financial crisis wiped out trillions of dollars of pension fund reserves. Will we be able to take care of growing numbers of seniors? Will you be able to accumulate enough retirement savings to see you through your “golden years”? This course examines the demographics, finances, and public policy aspects of these issues.
The field of ecological economics (ECE) 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.
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.
Foundations of Finance and Investments
Economics 291 / Economics and Finance 291
See Economics and Finance 291 for a full course description.
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.
Industrial organization is the study of how industries function and firms interact within an industry. While this is part of the general agenda of microeconomics, industrial organization distinguishes itself by its emphasis on the study of firm behavior in imperfectly competitive markets. This course investigates how firms acquire market power or the ability to influence the price of their product; the strategic behavior of firms that possess market power; and the effect of policy intervention in such industries.
Seminar in Economic Development
eus, gis, human rights
This Upper College seminar focuses on two very different research directions that development economists have pursued in recent years. The first texts ask “big” questions on why some economies are less developed than others, focusing on long-term historical, ecological, and political determinants. Relying on innovative policy experiments, the second set of research literature attempts to answer “small” questions on whether a specific policy intervention (e.g., micro loans) can help impr321ove a specific development outcome (e.g., small business growth). Prerequisites: Economics 229 and Economics 201, 202, or 221.
Seminar in International Economics
This seminar covers 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? What are the roles and effects of institutions such as the Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund? Students apply the tools and models of international economics to think analytically and critically about real-world situations. Prerequisite: 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
The class reviews the literature of geoclassical economics from its roots in George, Locke, Miller, Quesnay, Ricardo, and Smith to the recently published work of Gaffney, Stiglitz, Tideman, Vickrey, and others. The geoclassical tradition studies the role of property institutions in shaping social, political, and economic life; its research agenda includes economic applications to contemporary and enduring social problems, including rising inequality, public and private debt burdens, urban blight, and suburban sprawl, among others. Prerequisite: Economics 100 or 206. Moderated environmental and urban studies students may enroll with permission of the instructor.
cross-listed: eus, gis, human rights
A look at transglobal migration as an economic phenomenon, with a primary focus on human movements in the era of globalization. Questions considered: Who migrates, and why? What are the consequences for the societies they leave behind and those they go to? To what extent does the actual economic impact of immigration determine native perception of immigrants, and what role do these perceptions play in the framing of policy? Prerequisites: Economics 100 and 229.
Seminar in Discrimination
This course explores the process through which differences in earnings manifest, as well as the impact of these differences on wealth and well-being. Particular attention is paid to the role of discrimination in generating unequal outcomes in labor markets.
Income Distribution: Applied Research Seminar
Since the 1980s, income inequality has increased dramatically and is now the highest on record. More and more income goes to capital and profits, not workers. Since 2000, 95 percent of income gains have gone to the top 1 percent. What explains this shift in the distribution of income? What are the roles of technology, international trade, finance, institutions, and governance? Is there a trade-off between growth and equity? This seminar surveys landmark theories of economic growth and income distribution as it addresses these questions.
Contemporary Developments in 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.
Economics 391 / Economics and Finance 391
Capital is a scarce resource. Access to capital and its efficient use are critical to business success. This course discusses how capital can be raised and allocated within corporations to the advantage of corporate shareholders. Topics include the allocation of capital for investments, measurement of the opportunity cost of capital, capital structure, cash-distribution policy, corporate restructuring, and long-term financing. At the end of the course, students know how to value a company.