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Rigorous Economics?

  1. Feb 19, 2008 #1
    I'm a first year university student engaged in my first economics (macroeconomics) course, and, naturally, it isn't very extensive and makes use of a colorful textbook. Though I've been learning quite a few things, I can't help but feel that the explanations provided are too blurry. There's an ongoing attempt by the author to avoid going into technical explanations, which puts me off because that's exactly what I'm looking for. In other words, there's a lack of rigor. Could someone refer me to a source (a book, an internet website, anything) that might satisfy me? I want clear, concise, serious, and not shy of being technical explanations. Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2008 #2
    There are plenty of resources available Werg. Did you have a specific question or are you meaning macroeconomics in general? I appreciate what you're saying about wanting some more "technical" explanations but I would suggest as well that you get to grips with the general concepts first - that's what first year's for!
  4. Feb 19, 2008 #3
    The thing is, "getting the grip of things" means having a very rough idea of the concepts at hand. For example, take GDP. We have the identity GDP = C + G + I + NX. But really all this mean is that I = S, where S are the savings, because S = GDP - C - G - NX; in other words, the value of the final products and services that haven't been sold in their respective markets, including those products and services that have been imported (correct if I'm wrong, I haven't read it anywhere, just guessing). Later on in the book, I = S is presented as a identity that stems from the GDP identity - but this isn't that inversing the order of things? I would have preferred the author to construct a simple economic model and then derive the GDP identity rather than just go on about it and leaving me the task to fill in the holes.
  5. Feb 19, 2008 #4
    I can see what you mean.

    GDP is C+I+G+NX in the short run. But what's it look like in the long run? There's something that's being withheld already. With-holding this kind of stuff from first year students who never take another economics course in their life might be a disservice.

    But the more advanced models are bigger. The models I learned about in my intermediate macro course were 22-23 equations. Lots of different areas of the economy came together in there too. The labor market, financial market, international sector. It spread far and wide. I don't actually know if online resources are enough. But getting the more advanced version of mankiw from the library may be a start.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  6. Feb 19, 2008 #5

    You need to learn how to walk before you can run. The next step is to learn the IS/LM model. After you have that down cold you will learn that economists don't even use it because it is stagnant. Once you start adding time to your economic models things get even more complicated. The competitive equilibrium model gives an even more accurate view of the economy, but even it has its limitations. You probably won't even cover the CE model with time until a junior/senior level class. If you are looking for mathematical rigor you will definitely get it in a course like econometrics/advanced macro/mathematical econ.

    Econ is a social science, it is more than just math. You have to make sure you understand the way the markets work and the forces affecting them before you can even use math to describe what is going on.
  7. Feb 19, 2008 #6
    So what should I do? Cast my questions aside - or try to answer them myself risking to get the wrong notion -, learn the material without thinking twice and spit it out on the exam?
  8. Feb 20, 2008 #7
    There's absolutely no reason you shouldn't do some more advanced research but graven is spot on with his advice - economics is a social science - don't lose yourself if mathematical equations! They are merely a tool.

    Obviously I haven't read your course material but I imagine at the stage you're at, it's about presenting the fundamental concepts of the subject. Learn them and learn them well. There will be plenty of time to refine over the next three years. You seem to have quite an enquiring mind, which is a great thing, but stick to the material, as the saying goes. I'm sure the department heads wouldn't ask you to learn it if it wasn't important!

    But back to your original question - the "Economics for Dummies" textbook is actually fantastic. Wikibooks, taken with a pinch of salt, can be quite helpful if money's tight but for the love of God, don't cite them in a paper!!! Instant markdown.
  9. Feb 23, 2008 #8
    How about Preston McAfee's book? I've found out about it a little while ago and it's fabulous (and free and adopted at Caltech).


    From the intro:

    Last edited: Feb 23, 2008
  10. Mar 6, 2008 #9
    Excellent! Thank you very much.
  11. Apr 2, 2008 #10
    Yeah, but the sociologists and psychologists put people in the physical world and see the physical world as both a constraint on the person and an force on the person's behavior.

    Would that economists recognized that the physical world defines and constrains what is the economy. It is ok to carve out bits of the world to study for better understanding, but those pieces are always in the physical world.

    When demand no longer requires labor, what impact does the non-working labor have, and what are the demands of that labor factor of prouction on the economy whether working or not?

    And what are the market decisions that fish or monkey's make; why would they make different decisions than apes or man?
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