Introduction to Microeconomics


Course Code:
LAW 678
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


COURSE SUBSTANCE: It is no secret that economic ideas are being usednnincreasingly in law school courses, in law practice, and in a wide variety of other fields that a law school graduate might choose to pursue – antitrust, corporate, environmental, tax, labor, and securities are just some of the immediate examples that come to mind.While many Stanford Law School students have already taken courses in economics as undergraduates, or might even have majored in economics, many of you have not. This course is offered to "bring you up to speed" so that you will not be at a disadvantage in other courses at the Law School that draw on economic ideas (or, just as importantly, not be at a disadvantage when you graduate and you encounter economic ideas and arguments on the job or in life.)So, what is economics, exactly? All societies face the problem of scarcity – there are not enough resources to satisfy people's desires for all things. Economics studies how individuals and societies deal with scarcity and the mechanisms for deciding what to produce, how to produce it, and who gets the output. It is as simple and complex as that! As you can imagine, the practical applications are nearly endless. Please note that the course focus will be microeconomics – the branch of economics that focuses on the economic behavior of individual decision-making units, such as households and firms, and how these individual decisions fit together. (I will not discuss macroeconomics in this course – i.e. the behavior of the economy as a whole, particularly inflation, unemployment, and business cycles.) More specifically, I will spend the vast majority of the course taking you through the basic supply and demand model of markets – what it is, where it came from, how and when it works, and when it does not work so well. With that base, I can branch out accordingly to help you apply it to a wide variety of relevant issues. Though I will not focus specifically on how economic ideas have been used in a legal context (there is another course and seminar that does that), I will make some effort to link the economic ideas we discuss directly to legal topics. COURSE PROCEDURE: My primary goal is to teach you the fundamental principles of microeconomics by (1) providing you the relevant schema to understand the basic tools of economic analysis; and by (2) drilling you extensively with problems, cases, current events, and other applied materials so as to help you develop the ability to use these tools and truly make them your own. A heavy emphasis will be placed on building a conceptual understanding of some key economic models, looking closely at the underlying assumptions of those models, and engaging in the process of questioning and relaxing those assumptions in the context of actual "real life" issues. Please do not mistake the analytical rigor I will require, to mean that we will use sophisticated mathematics. To the contrary, I believe that most powerful economic principles should be highly intuitive and non-quantitative.

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