Why Alternative and Substitute Pages?

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CyberEconomics arose from my dissatisfaction with the standard college economics textbook of the 1960s and 1970, the textbooks that followed the organization and emphasis that Paul Samuelson imposed on the discipline. I set out to write a book that would reflect a different way of organizing the course, a way that I thought better reflected the state of economics in the 1970s and 1980s than what I saw in the then-current textbooks. In the years since, other authors have moved towards my organization, and on some topics they have moved past me.

A few years ago I began to question the need for any economics textbook, even mine. With the new technology of the Internet, could the textbook as we know it be obsolete? What would a textbook look like if it were composed of bits and pieces that could be assembled from the Internet? In the summer of 2007, I decided to find out by composing such a textbook, and the result is the "Alternatives and Supplements" link at the beginning of each chapter. However, in making this alternative textbook, I kept the same structure that exists in CyberEconomics. If I were really serious about getting rid of the textbook, I would want a different organization, one that dropped many of the topics from the traditional textbook and went into more depth on a few key remaining ideas. But the cost of that project is too high, given my time, abilities, and alternative opportunities.

I am moderately satisfied with the results. In many cases finding readings that were roughly compatible with topics and coverage of the chapter was difficult. Originally I used a lot of entries from Wikipedia because they seemed better than the alternatives I could find quickly, but since then I have replaced most of them. I found Wikipedia an uneven source: some articles are very good, others are overly technical, and a few are a mess. I also used many entries from The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics even though in many cases they were longer and more detailed that what I really wanted. The temptation to link to the work of the many great economists who have written for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics was just too great.

This is a work in progress. I am especially interested in relatively short readings that have stable urls. Newspaper articles sometimes have stories that illustrate economic concepts in entertaining ways, but finding them is very time consuming, and often they do not have lasting urls. If you have suggestions of sites that are informative, entertaining, and/or interactive, send them to me at schenk at saintjoe.edu.

The reason these sections are called "Alternatives and Supplements" is that they offer not only alternative readings, but sometimes readings that explore the topics in more depth or from another point of view. I really do not want to make my text obsolete: I am hoping that this new feature will make it more useful, not less useful.

Copyright Robert Schenk