Econ 174 Syllabus

Spring 1998

Thomas Hubbard

MWF, 9:00-10:00.

This class investigates firms as economic institutions. It examines why such institutions exist in a market economy, and provides explanations for their features. My goal is to provide you analytical tools that you can apply to real-world situations -- either those you read about in the newspaper or experience yourself after you graduate. This course will also provide you with a good foundation for many topics covered in M.B.A. programs, particularly those related to corporate strategy.

This course is in the Business Econ program -- students in the program have priority. However, because the class size is small, students not in the program may apply to me to get in the class. To apply, talk to me after class.

Intermediate microeconomics is a prerequisite. You must also be comfortable enough with calculus so that you can differentiate fairly simple functions.

There is a textbook and a reader. These can be purchased (the text is in the bookstore, the reader is at Course Reader Materials in Westwood) and are on reserve at College Library. The text is Milgrom and Roberts: Economics, Organization, and Management.

The readings, by week, are in the course outline. You are expected to read these before the lecture in which I cover the material. This is particularly true for the articles in the reader -- although the first time through some of them may be difficult. Lectures are much more productive if you are at least a bit familiar with the material.

You are responsible for all readings. There will be a mid-term and a final. The mid-term will count for 25% of your grade, the final for 50%. The rest will be a combination of your performance on several problem sets and in class. Problem sets will be collected at the beginning of the class on the day that it is due. I expect participation in class. This is a requirement, not an option. Class participation will come about most prominently during the cases, but there will be ample opportunity during other sessions as well.

While I will not assign it, it would be useful to get a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for the quarter. There are special student deals.

The only wrinkle in classes is that I plan to teach three cases. These will be just before the mid-term and final (see the course outline). You will be expected to prepare for these as if you were in business school or at a management consulting firm. Be complete, know the facts, and think through the issues. I consider these extremely important because, while many lectures will focus on theory, the point of the class is for you to be able to apply theory.

I plan to make the case discussions small so that there is room for everyone to participate. So the class may be split on these days. I will schedule extra class times in order to accomodate this.

An Ec174 web site exists. You can access it by going to the econ home page, then clicking on "courses," then clicking on "Ec174".

The Ec174 site has a lot of material, and will have more as the quarter passes.

For all of the lectures which have readings from the Course Reader, there are discussion questions. You are responsible for these questions before you come to class, and cold-calling you on these is allowed.

The site will also contain all problem sets and answers, both for the current quarter and for previous quarters. The answers will appear after the problem set is due.

Finally, the site contains lecture notes. These lecture notes are not comprehensive -- if you try to use these as a substitute for going to class, you will not succeed in learning much. Basically, the lecture notes were produced for my own use when I lecture, but I decided that there was no reason not to make them available to my students. These are good for cross-checking with your own notes. But they do not contain nearly the detail I will provide in class, nor do they contain much in the way of illuminating examples and stories. Lecture notes will be available for most lectures after I give the lecture.

The ground rules with respect to regrading are these. I accept applications for regrades on the following conditions. First, applications for regrades should be made to me only. Second, they can be made any time between one and seven days after I provide grades. Not the day you learn your grade. Not two months after. Third, if you apply for the regrade, I regrade the entire examination, not just individual problems you believe were misgraded. Your grade can go up or down. Office hours are Wednesday, 3:30-5:30. You can also make an appointment with me. The best way to get in touch with me -- for any reason -- is by email. I check it many times per day, sometimes even on the weekend.

Any other questions? Please ask or send email to me at