Introduction to Economics
While most people see economics as something that concerns only Wall Street, major businesses, traders and governments, economics affects every person on the planet. In the modern world, the vast majority of the globe is connected to a global marketplace. Economics are the driving force of societies, affecting all aspects of daily life. This close association between nations, corporations, individuals and economics means economics plays a more integral and important role than ever. Small economic changes in one country may have affects not only within that country, but also on the economies of nations on the other side of the planet. The evidence for this is readily visible in the current economic crises around the world, brought on by a collapse in the American housing and financial markets. Consequently, this crises has affected global food prices, social welfare programs, global trade, unemployment, profit margins, mortgage rates, debt levels, financial lending and countless other components of societies and markets. Without effective economies, countries are forced to enact other measures to cover shortfalls and lack of funds. Even law becomes secondary to economics, as laws cannot be created or adjusted to fully make up for lack of services or money. The economic engines of the world, and in particular of the ‘first world’, play a tremendous role in the shape and character of the global society.
Economics as a science, can trace its roots back to antiquity. Famous scholars of the 5th and 4th Centuries BC such as Aristotle, Xenophon of Greece, Chanakya of India and Fan Li of China, are often regarded as the first economists. While these men may have been the first to consider economics scientifically, the practice of economics and trade date back as far as civilization. No nation has ever survived with a failing economy, and the desire and need to expand economies has been the cause of countless wars and alliances throughout history. The rise of mercantilism, following the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, brought about a new form of economics. The analysis of markets, trade, labor, finance and monetary systems began to be studied as a separate science. Early pioneers of this social science, such as Adam Smith, identified and studied the relationship of various elements within economic systems, particularly the production and distribution of income. Theories were soon developed to explain these relationships and proposed methods of organizing and regulating them. As global trade, business and markets expanded so did the role of economics and economists. Today, economists can be counted as amongst the worlds most powerful and influential individuals. They are some of the main voices driving the global capitalist economy. People such as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke make financial decisions and recommendations that affect millions of people.
As part of an ongoing effort to provide the best information on economics, and business in general, compiled below are resources for greater understanding of economics and economic studies. To achieve this end, this guide includes a collection of summaries, analyses and backgrounds on the history and practice of economics. Also included are resources covering the principles and policies of macro and micro-economics. The hope is that this guide will be a useful resource for economics and business students and teachers of multiple levels, as well as anyone else who is interested in this integral social science.
In general, economics can be seen as a social science that analyzes the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Economics examines human relations, at the micro or macro level, and interactions over resources. It is the balancing of needs and desires with availability and distribution. Economists will analyze trade patterns, spending habits, social institutions, law and much more. In a modern sense, economics involves a study of these themes through a monetary lens.
- What is Economics? An Introduction to Economics – An online introductory lesson to economic studies. Covers the scope and structure of modern economics as well as its ability to balance resources and human needs.
- Economics Learning Materials – A series of presentations, lectures and tutorials from prominent economists, professors and institutions on topics in economics. Most of these scholarly resources are available as downloads or are viewable online.
- Aplia – A blog covering current events and how they relate to economic studies. Designed to promote discussion and debate in economic classes.
- Economics Definition – A concise summary of the history, development and application of economics as a social science. A section of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Macroeconomics involves large scale relations in economics. This includes international trade, finance, consumer consumption, inflation and other international level economic indicators and issues. Macroeconomics focus is on the overall structure of entire economies. New theories in macroeconomics have been developed primarily in the 20th Century, with prominent economists developing economic policies and theories that influence the global marketplace. Macroeconomists are often influential through think tanks, NGO’s, advisory positions, global trade and finance institutions and in government positions.
- US Monetary Policy: An Introduction – An introduction to US monetary policy from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This type of policy is an example of macroeconomics in action.
- The International Economics Study Center – A homepage for international economic studies. Includes a blog by a resident economist, student projects, course materials, textbooks and more.
- Estimating How the Macroeconomy Works – An extensive paper on how macroeconomics works in the modern, global marketplace. Includes a great number of models, tables and diagrams to help illustrate the processes of macroeconomics.
While, macroeconomics focuses on the large scale relations of economics, microeconomics focuses on the small, local scale. Microeconomics deals with various, individual markets and the relation of supply and demand. All of the activities and processes that power the greater economy are subject to study by macroeconomists.
- Principles of Microeconomics – An online course guide for an Economics 101 class. Includes a series of 20 lectures on microeconomics, along with some supplemental reading and review materials.
- Microeconomic Encyclopedia Entry – A brief description of the field of microeconomics from the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Covers the theoretical components of microeconomics and its application in modern economics.
- Microeconomics Online Textbook – The first 5 chapters of the Prentice Hall published Microeconomics, Sixth Edition. These chapters are available in pdf format and provide in-depth coverage of the basics of microeconomic theory.
Famous Economists and Policies
As noted, economists can play a tremendous role in the shaping of society and government, not to mention economies and finances. The following 3 economists are often seen as the most influential, helping to shape modern economies and economic thought.
- John Maynard Keynes – A lecture dedicated to the pioneering economist John Maynard Keynes, the founder of modern Keynesian economic thought. Includes quotes and arguments from Keynes, along with some analyses of his career and economic policies.
- A Marxian Introduction to Modern Economics – A collection of articles, both current and historical, which discuss the Marxist approach to economics. Marx was one of the first scholars to examine economics as a social science, particularly with an emphasis on the relations of labor and production.
- Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand – Explores the ‘free market’ principles of Adam Smith and his role in establishing modern economics. Features an analysis of Smith’s often misunderstood theory of an ‘invisible hand’ guiding markets.
These resources are useful for learning or teaching about economic policies, principles and applications. They include databases, directories, educational tools, textbooks, journals, teaching materials, study guides and more.
- Index of Economic Journals – An extensive directory of economic journals and magazines. Some of these journals have full-texts available online.
- RePEc – The largest economic research database on the Internet, with over 1,000,000 available articles, papers, books and software. The database is fully searchable and also contains a directory of economic research and academic institutions.
- Resources for Economists – A guide for economists, containing over 2,000 resources. Includes such categories as data, glossaries, mailing lists, job boards, software and more.
- Economic Statistics – A listing of economic data on various subjects and themes from around the world. Most data is available in Excel format and some contain real-time data.
- UN Economic Data – The official page for UN economic data and statistics. Features recetn online publications of worldwide trade and demographics data.
- World Bank Data – The online collection of economic data from the World Bank, including the World Banks’s economic ‘indicators’. Features raw data as well as analysis, maps, and other graphical representations of statistics.
- Online Economics Textbooks – A series of online published textbooks for economic studies. Covers various levels and topics from beginning to advanced economics.
- MIT Open Course Economics – A collection of online accessible material from MIT Department of Economics courses. Includes lectures, assignments, textbooks, projects, exams and more.
- Economics Network – Online Learning and Teaching Materials – A collection of materials to aid in teaching and learning about economics. Includes useful tools for teachers such as syllabi, lectures, assignments and worksheets, and tools for students such as software, glossaries and tutorials.
- Library of Economics and Liberty – A large online collection of articles, encyclopedias, books and analysis. Also includes some exclusive blogs and discussions from prominent economists.
- Simulations in Principles of Microeconomics – A collection of 7 games and simulations that help illustrate the principles of microeconomics. An interactive way for students to comprehend the basics of microeconomics.
- Bureau of Economic Analysis – The official page of the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Features reports and data on important economic indicators.
- Economics Interactive Tutorials – A series of online, interactive tutorials from a college course on health economics. These 13 tutorials cover such topics as elasticity, cost, risk, rate of return and more.