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Economics U : 21st Century Edition
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1.

Markets

The return of U.S. troops from overseas following World War II created a massive demand for cheap housing. Rising labor and energy costs in the United States in the '60s and '70s forced domestic steel manufacturer NUCOR to find ways to lower production costs. In 2009, rookie pitcher phenomenon Stephen Strasburg signed the largest rookie contract in baseball history. These stories show how a well-functioning free market pricing system determines how producers manufacture goods, what they will pay, what goods will be manufactured, and for whom the goods will be produced.
Online
2016; 2012
2.

The Firm

In 1980, Coca Cola replaced sugar with high fructose corn extract in order to alleviate higher production costs. In 1963, Studebaker closed its plant, unable to increase sales and take advantage of assembly line production. In the new century, printing and publishing company Printpod, Inc. avoided increasing domestic labor expenses by tapping into the workforce in India. These stories show how competitive firms minimize their costs of production by utilizing an optimal combination of inputs and scale of operation, while others fall by the wayside.
Online
2016; 2012
3.

Supply and Demand

A two-year drought in California in the 1970s motivated areas such as Marin County to conserve by reducing their water consumption by as much as 66 percent. Following the Arab oil embargoes of 1973, the Nixon administration latched onto the world price of "new" oil, encouraging domestic oil suppliers to drill again. Jordache designer jeans used creative advertising to create a demand for blue jeans. These stories illuminate factors that determine the quantity of goods demanded by consumers and the factors that determine the quantity of goods supplied.
Online
2016; 2012
4.

Perfect Competition & Inelastic Demand

Farmers lured into producing massive food surpluses for WWI could no longer profit when the war ended and demand plummeted. After 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to improve the conditions of farmers via policies in his New Deal plan. Government subsidies later allowed for corporate ownership of a majority of farmers. The Freedom to Farm Bill of 1996 gave farmers a little more maneuverability, but for the most part farmers are still held to the fluctuating demand statuses of large competitive firms.
Online
2016; 2012
5.

Economic Efficiency

In preparation for WWII, the Roosevelt administration instituted wage price and price controls to curb inflation and better focus production on war materials. When the Nixon administration set up price controls for beef, farmers attempted to stifle the supply by withholding animals from the markets. Following WWII, rent controls established to aid returning war veterans cut into landlord profits and consequently led some to abandon properties. These stories examine how the "invisible hand" behind free markets operates, the reasons for interfering with free markets, and the costs of doing so.
Online
2016; 2012
6.

Monopoly

In 1890, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act broke up the monopoly that John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil, had on the oil industry. In 1914, the federal government was sold on the concept of universal telephone service provided by Ma Bell, a monopoly that was ended by the development of a new technology. In 1998, the U.S. government filed a suit against the world's largest software company, Microsoft, for participating in anti-competitive practices. These stories explain what monopolies are, and why government sometimes chooses to intervene.
Online
2016; 2012
7.

Oligopolies

Competition with General Motors eventually rendered Ford's single-option Model-T obsolete. In 1959, a reporter for the Knoxville News-Sentinel discovered a price-fixing scandal between three big-name electric companies in each of their closed bids to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter ordered Professor Alfred Kahn to deregulate the airline industry, which had been a federally protected oligarchy. These are all examples of oligopolies and the forces that influence them.
Online
2016; 2012
8.

Pollution & the Environment

In 1977, the federal court system told the Reserve Mining Company to build a
Online
2016; 2012
9.

Labor and Management

The International Ladies Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) strike in the early 1900s was inspired by poor working conditions and low wages. In 1984, Congress bailed out the Chrysler Auto company after Chairman Lee Iaccoca and Douglas Fraser, chief of the United Auto Workers, came to an agreement. Why does Walmart choose low prices over high wages, and how do they get away with it? These stories show how labor unions and corporate managers battle to affect the supply of labor, wages, and prices.
Online
2016; 2012
10.

Profits and Interest

In response to rising interest rates in the 1970s, the Maryland legislature raised usury ceilings so that more home loans would be available. In December of 1980 Apple Computers went public, affirming four years of hard work with substantial compensation for its founders. Pharmaceutical companies invest millions in bringing new drugs to market. How much profit do they get in return? These stories exhibit economic reasons for interest payments and how investments in facilities and equipment are related to interest rates and expected profits on investment.
Online
2016; 2012
11.

Reducing Poverty

After the Great Depression President Franklin D. Roosevelt put forth a social security program, using money from employer/employee wages. In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act, providing childcare assistance for mothers in the work force. The Perry School for Community Services, a Washington, D.C. poverty-reduction program, offers after-school programs for kids and vocational programs for adults, including recently released convicts. These stories all deal with differences in income and how public policy and private funding is used to reduce poverty.
Online
2016; 2012
12.

Economic Growth

By 1916 Henry Ford's assembly line had lowered the price of the Model T to
Online
2016; 2012
13.

Public Goods and Responsibilities

In 1937 the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a government-owned utility company, was created to electrify rural communities and control flooding. 1965 marked the first U.S. attempt at national health insurance in the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. In response to 9/11, the U.S. Transportation and Security Administration replaced private security firms with federal employees. A perfectly competitive market does not always provide the right amount of goods, so government fills the gap with public goods. The debate on just how much the government should produce is highlighted in these stories.
Online
2016; 2012
14.

Resources and Scarcity

Faced with dwindling resources, Congress fiercely debated whether to preserve 100 million acres of Alaskan land as a national park, or open the land for mineral exploration. World War II saw an unprecedented period of economic growth. The need to mobilize resources overseas quickly was palpable. In the 1970s U.S. textile industries risked competitive advantage in increasingly active Asian markets by investing more in the health of their workers. In all investments there are trade-offs and choices. These stories show how the cost of using some resources sometimes comes at the expense of others.
Online
2016; 2012
15.

GDP/GNP

In 1929 following the stock market bottoming out, Simon Kuznets led an investigative study resulting in the first national data collection of Gross National Product (GNP). Able to assess the overall production to consumption ratio of the U.S., Franklin Roosevelt entered World War II without jeopardizing the basic needs of his citizens. Although GNP was changed to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 1991, it still didn't account for all aspects of economic growth. Nonetheless, GDP data measurements help us understand the U.S. economy.
Online
2016; 2012
16.

Boom and Bust

The nation's cycles of economic booms and busts were considered intrinsically capitalistic by Joseph Schumpeter who called them "methodic economic growth," and by Karl Marx who lambasted capitalism as inherently flawed. John Maynard Keynes held that recessions depended on the balance of aggregate demand and aggregate supply. Economist Hyman Minsky provided a promising explanation for the Great Recession of the 21st Century with his theory that the financial system plays a determining role in economic cycles.
Online
2016; 2012
17.

Fiscal Policy

In 1954 relying on "automatic stabilizers," President Dwight Eisenhower withheld raising taxes in order to encourage consumer spending. In the 1960s, newly elected John F. Kennedy and economic advisor Walter Heller pushed Congress to approve a
Online
2016; 2012
18.

The Great Depression and the Keynsian Revolution

In 1932 President Herbert Hoover spoke enthusiastically about financial recovery while John Maynard Keynes expressed doubts. Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest & Money in 1936, displaying ideas that later became the basis for public policy in Washington. Franklin D. Roosevelt did not generally trust economists, but his increased government spending during WWII proved Keynes's theories correct. These stories discuss the ideas of J.M. Keynes and how the theory behind Keynsian economics explained the Great Depression.
Online
2016; 2012
19.

Inflation

In the 1960s, President Lyndon Baines Johnson continued fueling the domestic agenda of his "Great Society," keeping a low profile on the Vietnam War. But the U.S. overspent and inflation bubbled over. Anyone living on a marginally fixed income endured harsh consequences under inflation, and workers' strikes only brought costs up more. After his election in 1972, Richard Nixon ordered a 90-day nationwide price and wage freeze after the Federal Reserve failed to curb inflation. These stories show problems posed by the development of inflation in the post-war U.S. economy.
Online
2016; 2012
20.

The Banking System

The Knickerbocker Bank's failure led to the Bank Panic of 1907, and ultimately inspired a need for a central bank. When thousands of banks failed in the 1930s, President Roosevelt declared a National Bank Holiday closing individual banks, and created new regulatory agencies to guard the system. But in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession and the failure of regulators to act, the Dodd/Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act became law. These stories explain the role of banks in the U.S. economy and how government agencies act to prevent individual bank failures from becoming banking crises.
Online
2016; 2012