Those who know what works on the web stress that text should be kept to a minimum because the web is a graphic medium. Even the modern textbooks seem to view themselves as multimedia presentations, with the text chopped into little bits and pieces of side-bars and inserts, with little flow from one part to the next, all decorated with full-color photographs and multicolored charts and graphs. Knowing this, it is with some hesitation that I embarked on this project, because I knew that this would not be a fancy multimedia experience. However I am skeptical of how useful a multimedia approach to economics really is.
I am a believer in an interactive approach, in which the learner must take an active part in the learning process, and that is what I have tried to do in these pages. After almost every reading selection there are questions that ask the reader to respond in some way, either by simply remembering what was presented in the text, or by applying the ideas of the text in some way. Many textbooks stress that they believe that learning economics requires working through problems, but I have not yet found any that really apply this. This site is an attempt to put more problem solving into the course.
There is a limit to how well one can accomplish a task. Many musicians tried to compose as well as Mozart and many playwrights have tried to match Shakespeare's excellence, but few have succeeded. I suspect this material is close to being as good as I can make it, though I know that it is still far from true excellence. Excellence will have to wait until someone with more talent than I have decides to produce similar materials because I am not sure that further changes will improve the material rather than make it worse. (If, however, you find a mistake--and I am sure there are many remaining, from typos to serious mistakes--please tell me about them.)
Notes on updates since 1998
2000-2002: In 2000 a publisher expressed interest in this material, and as a result, I had the motivation to go back and revise many sections. Also, the publisher had an editor read the microeconomic sections, and her comments led to many tiny improvements and the correction of many small mistakes. However, before the macroeconomic part of the book underwent review by the editor, the company decided to drop the book and let it revert back to me. (Actually, reversion was part of the contract--if they did not publish it, they had to give it back.) Although it was disappointing to be turned down, I am grateful for their interest, because without it, there would have been few changes during the period 2000-2002. I think I can safely predict that unless there is some similar interest in the future, this material will not undergo much more change. As I write this, I am using some of this material for a class, and when I find something I do not like, I change it unless the change will take too much time. It is all determined by costs and benefits--I am an economist.
Summer 2006: The most obvious change I made in the summer of 2006 was to add Google ads to the pages. This had two effects. First, it forced me to rethink the layout of pages, and as a result I now have navigation buttons on the top left of most pages. I also added search boxes in various places, and I think they add value to the site. Second, it encouraged me to spend several months reviewing and revising the pages. Even though the revenue I obtain is small, the fact that I can get something gave me the incentive to spend many hours looking for mistakes and trying to make the pages better. I suspect that there is some sort of semi-irrational factor at work here, because a simple cost-benefit calculation would suggest that I earn very little on this time. Maybe it is my reaction in situations like this that attracts me to those who argue we are quasi-rational.
Summer 2007: I added a set of links to the internet for each chapter. See the link on the left of each Overview page: it is the "Alternative and Substitute Readings" link, follow it, and read the comments on the bottom of the page. This addition makes the site much more useable as a main textbook for an introductory economics course rather than just a supplement. Plus I corrected bugs wherever I found them.
Summer 2008: I added a new chapter on growth and development because the area is important and it has become fairly standard in the macroeconomic part of textbooks. It probably still has a lot of mistakes. I also worked on an alternative organization of the micro material that someday may become the main organization. I also made both big and small changes and corrections, especially in the discussion of financial markets, and tried to get rid of most of the Wikipedia links in the "Alternative-and-Substitute-Readings" sections.
Summer 2009: My major goal for the summer is to find interesting videos that could supplement the teaching of economics. From the Overview pages, click on the Alternatives-and-Supplements link, and then on the Video button if the chapter has it. If you know of any that would make good additions, I would be delighted to hear about them. I am trying to avoid long lectures, and prefer short clips that are entertaining and have the potential to lead to discussion. I am aware that some of these links may break in the next year--if you find a broken one, please contact me.
I remain aware of several problems that need to be addressed and I keep finding new mistakes, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. I make changes as my time allows.
Early 2011: I am making many small changes, mostly to improve readability.
Late 2013: I am making changes to correct mistakes and improve readability. Hopefully I will not introduce more mistakes than I eliminate.
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