14 Jan 2016

Dolan's Microeconomics -- the review

I ordered Ed Dolan's textbook, Introduction to Microeconomics, because I really enjoyed his perspective in his book on environmental economics. I just used this book for teaching undergraduates at LUC, and I plan to use it again.

This review will be rather short, as there's not a lot of "original insight" in textbooks, but I want to put it out there for anyone looking for alternatives to the "mathy" doorstoppers that cost a fortune.

What do I like about this book?
  • The writing is excellent -- descriptive, clear and intuitive.
  • The book covers all the main topics, offering insights from demand to supply to uncertainty.
  • The cost is reasonable -- $40 -- and the book can be bought in ebook, paper or hardcover.
The drawbacks to the book are:
  • The difficulty in buying it from overseas (the publisher only takes US credit cards).
  • Its over-emphasis on US-centric examples. It's not like demand doesn't exist in China.
  • Its use of Imperial, rather than Standard International (metric), measures.
These latter two drawbacks may seem trivial to American readers, but I'd say the opposite: American ignorance of the world's activities and units are one reason for so many business, political and social weaknesses in the US.[1] Those weaknesses explain why it is so difficult for Americans to learn from better examples abroad.[2]

In using the book, my students complained that the material was not hard enough, so I'm adding one academic article per week (e.g., Akerlof's "Market for Lemons") so we can build on Dolan's solid foundations.

Bottom Line A textbook doesn't need to cost $200, especially when this one clearly explains necessary concepts. I give this book FOUR STARS for getting the economics right in words... but not as much in publication.

  1. A lack of foreign languages and travel experience are other huge drags.
  2. The Dutch gasoline tax -- a quasi carbon tax -- is extremely effective in raising money and getting people out of cars and onto public transportation, but most Americans cannot compare €1.80/liter gas to $2.00/gallon, which works out to about 25 percent of the Dutch price (!). Wow, I'm just amazed that the government has not taken the opportunity from 15-year low oil prices to raise gas taxes. Almost as sad as America's appaling waste of money on medical care -- paying double the cost of other countries for worse results.

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