Teaching Blog

eCampus Ontario Showcase 2017

Yesterday was the eCampus Ontario Showcase, with a chance to show the eCampus-Ontario-funded online ECO 105Y Intro to Economics, based on Economics for Life. Here is the handout summarizing what we are doing in the course, including the scalable writing assignments (developed with Dr Andrea Williams of the […]

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What GDP Misses in Poetry


  Robert F. Kennedy gave a poetic speech describing what the measure of GDP misses. While the descriptions are U.S. – specific, the issues are common to any country, and the 2 minute message, is inspiring.

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Arguing for Free Trade in a Post-Trump World


Anti-trade and anti-globalization positions helped elect Donald Trump, and economists’ traditional arguments for free trade are being ignored. In fairness to the anti-traders, the outcomes of extended trade (especially with China) have left many workers in manufacturing worse off. In teaching about the gains from trade, how […]

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More Potato Chip Deficit Forecasts


Justin Trudeau and the Liberals were elected on an economic platform that included running deficits to finance infrastructure during a period of slow growth and low borrowing costs. In a Globe & Mail column, Jeffrey Simpson reviews the causes of slow growth, and recognizes the legitimate economic […]

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Do Higher Minimum Wages Benefit Workers AND Employers?


Andrew Jackson, of the Broadbent Institute, argues in a Huffington Post article that the recent increase in Alberta’s minimum wage to $12.20 (on a path to $15 in 2018) not only benefits workers, but also employers. He presents the cons and pros of minimum wages, including a claim […]

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90 Second Video on Deflation


The Globe & Mail has a nice, animated 90 second video explaining deflation (after the commercial).

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“But I Studied Hard … and Only Got a C!”

In the Spring 2016 issue of The Teaching Economist, William McEachern describe a familiar office hours scenario following the first term test of introductory economics: They tell us they “studied hard.” They came to class, took notes, read the textbook, and highlighted key passages. They even reread […]

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The High Cost of Driving: Putting A Price on Traffic


Here is a short analysis of an interview CBC did with Prof. Chris Ragan of McGill, Chair of the EcoFiscal Commission. The video include the CBC interview. There are great issues of negative externalities, and how people ignore the opportunity costs of being stuck in traffic. The […]

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Will Mobile Phone Rates Fall as Shaw Buys Wind Mobile ?


The Globe & Mail reported that Shaw Communications is buying Wind Mobile in  a $1.6 billion deal. Primarily a cable and telecommunications company, Shaw wants to compete in the mobile phone business.  Share prices of the big 3 wireless provider — BCE, Rogers, Telus — fell on the […]

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How Elasticity Helps AirBnB Owners Make More Money

The Toronto Star reported on a startup called Beyond Pricing that is helping AirBnB owners increase revenues from their short-term rentals by figuring out the highest price they can charge. The company using a dynamic pricing algorithm like those used by airlines and hotels that raises prices […]

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Bell Pays $1.25 million Penalty for Fake Online Reviews


The Globe & Mail reported in October that “BCE Inc. has agreed to pay a $1.25-million penalty after the company’s staffers wrote online reviews of Bell products and services without disclosing their ties to Bell. It is the first penalty of its kind imposed by the Competition […]

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The Demise of Black’s Photography


After 85 years, Black’s Photography, one of the largest Canadian retail photography chains, went out of business in August 2015. As the Globe & Mail reported, Black’s was a “victim of a fast-changing digital industry and high-quality smartphone cameras and Instagram posts.” This is a classic example […]

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Who Would Buy a Bond with a Negative Yield ?

The recent discussion by Stephen Poloz of charging negative interest rates to chartered banks on their deposits at the Bank of Canada was preceded earlier in the year by stories about negative interest rates on bonds in Europe. If February 2015, a Globe & Mail story reported […]

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Plunging Oil Prices as a Positive Supply Shock ?

A year ago, oil prices had plunged from $110/barrel to around $70/barrel. There was much concern then, as there is today with oil prices under $40/barrel, about the effects on the Canadian economy. The Globe & Mail ran a story “Oil’s Plunge to Buoy Global Economy: A […]

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CPI Video from StatCan


Statistics Canada has a 3 minute video showing how data for the CPI basket are collected, weighted and compiled to create the CPI. This is a useful visual introduction to Macroeconomics for Life, Chapter 7.3.

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GDP Video from StatCan


Statistics Canada released a nice 4 minute animated video showing how GDP is calculated using the value-added approach. It begins with the definition of GDP as “The value of output less intermediate consumption plus any taxes less subsidies on products not already included in the value of […]

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Op-Ed Writing Assignment in a Literacy-Targeted Economics Course

I use Op-Ed Writing Assignments in all of my literacy-targeted courses.  Every student must choose an article, editorial or opinion piece in a recent online publication that addresses an economic issue that interests them. The economic issue can be Canadian or international. In response, the student writes a […]

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Can Road Tolls and Congestion Taxes SAVE Money ?


Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission issues a report titled “We Can’t Get There From Here: Why Pricing Traffic Congestion is Critical to Beating It.” The commission recommends road tolls and congestion taxes as a way to save money for drivers, businesses, and the economy in general. The CBC story reports […]

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Is Keynes New to Canada ?

Margaret Wente’s column today on “A Liberal Landslide? Not So Fast,” defends the performance of the Harper Conservative government from Krugman’s implicit criticism in his “Keynes Comes to Canada” column. She notes correctly that “Mr. Krugman handily ignored the fact that Stephen Harper ran six years of […]

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Krugman Welcomes Keynes to Canada


Paul Krugman’s column on “Keynes Comes to Canada” is a treasure-chest of Canadian policy issues. His focus is on the Liberal Party’s platform position to run budget deficits for a few years to finance infrastructure investment — “Interest rates are at historic lows, our current infrastructure is […]

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What Determines the Value of the Loonie ?


The Globe & Mail reported that the value of the Canadian dollar fell on foreign exchange markets, after the Bank of Canada forecasted slower GDP growth and lower oil prices. This is a classic reaction of the Canadian dollar to changes in two of the main forces […]

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Does Canada Need a Few Small Deficits ?

Chris Ragan has an excellent column – “A few small deficits may actually be just what Canada needs” – in yesterday’s Globe & Mail. [Also excellent because it illustrates most of the key policy implications discussed in Ch 12 (Spending Others’ Money: Fiscal Policy, Deficits, and National Debt) of Macroeconomics […]

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Uber Teaching Moments Galore!


After meeting an Uber developer at a University of Waterloo hackathon, a student posted this paper – “The Effects of Uber’s Surge Pricing – A Case Study” – by Jonathan Hall (Head of Economic Research, Legal and Public Policy at Uber Technologies), Cory Kendrick (Data Scientist at Uber Technologies) […]

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Personality Creates Productivity and Prosperity


James Heckman (Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago)  argues passionately that governments should pay (unusual for a Chicago economist!) for early childhood education.

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A Balance Sheet Recession


Richard Koo (Chief Economist, Nomura Research Institute) did a 10 minute video in 2010 for the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) that is the clearest and most succinct, yet comprehensive, explanation of balance sheet recession.  I have shown this video 10 times in different courses, and students […]

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Robot Chefs Taking Over China’s Noodle Bars


There is an engaging video about the noodle-shaving robots described in the Economics Out There on p. 66 of Economics for Life: Smart Choices for You? Besides being fun, it has some interviews in Chinese (with English subtitles) which have been popular with my Chinese-speaking students. Play […]

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Game Theory


The best way to engage students with the abstract, mathematical techniques of game theory is to show the clip of the bar scene from A Beautiful Mind. This film about John Nash (based on the book by Sylvia Nasser) won the 2001 Oscar for Best Picture. Many […]

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Bacon Shortage Crisis!


This is an entertaining SourceFed YouTube video about rising bacon prices caused by a drought that increased the price of pig feed.

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The Five Minute University


As economists and teachers, what do we want our lasting “economic footprint” to be? There is a wonderful old Saturday Night Live skit by Father Guido Sarducci called “The Five Minute University.” His premise is to teach in five minutes what an average college or university graduate remembers five years after […]

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Economic Fables


I started reading Ariel Rubinstein’s Economic Fables.  Before reading his description below of what an economic model is, keep in mind that he is one of the world’s foremost game theories, and a former President of the Econometric Society. Economic theory formulates thoughts via what we call […]

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