Each spring, Professor Rasha Ahmed teaches a 300-level course on the market for green goods (environmentally conscious goods). Students replicate the market for green goods in the course through a hands-on, interactive activity.
Students selected a product and brought samples of both the green product and the corresponding traditional one. They gave out surveys to other students to analyze how people perceive both products and if individuals are willing to pay extra money for the green version. Some example products were organic corn versus the GMO version, shade grown coffee, impossible burger, natural cosmetics, natural cleaners, and bamboo plates and cups.
Sarah Williamson, a senior Economics major, spoke highly about the course and the activity. “Studying a green good has allowed me to explore the different preferences of consumers and what is important in creating a green product that consumers will be willing to purchase over its brown alternative. If the price of a green good is higher than the brown good that consumers are used to, you need to be able to prove to them the increase in value, whether that be strictly the “greenness” or some other value or benefit it brings to the consumer. It’s also important to think about firms’ incentives when creating legislation about production; carefully constructing policies that firms will actually adhere to is necessary to really achieve the goals of the legislation. This includes having accurate enforcement methods to avoid any cheating or misrepresentation. The course and the activity have been engaging and effective in helping us as a class see how economic factors and policies have the ability to help create a “greener” future if they’re used correctly.”
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The Study of Economics
“The study of economics does not seem to require any specialized gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy or pure science? An easy subject at which few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher—in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician.” J. M. Keynes “Alfred Marshall, 1842-1924” The Economic Journal, (Sept.,1924)
To enter into the study of economics is to enter a particular way of thinking about the world. The central feature of economic reasoning is the relationship between individual action and the (often) unintended social and economic outcomes that result. Economic inquiry attempts to understand the mechanisms of interaction and associated outcomes whether individuals are acting individually or in concert through markets and other institutional structures.
The world of economics thus encompasses fundamental institutions and activities that govern “economic” outcomes—prices of goods, the amount of private and public investment, the wealth or poverty of nations and persons, unemployment rates, the structure of organizations, the benefits and burdens of globalization and trade, the quality of the environment and health care, etc. We use this way of thinking to understand how different institutions promote or retard growth, the effects of differing monetary and fiscal policies, markets for health, labor, environmental goods, investments and invention, financial assets, trade; yes, even sports and art.
We seek answers to Adam Smith’s enduring question phrased as the title of his famous book of 1776, An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. We explore these (and other) important issues in core theory courses and areas of application or specialty courses such as comparative economic systems and related courses in growth and development, and in courses focused on particular markets like health, labor, and financial assets. We look at fundamental institutions such as the legal system, or the system that controls financial institutions such as the Federal Reserve, or the World Trade Organization, which influences trade and development. We look at political and regulatory systems to see how and when private markets can be improved or hindered.