Curriculum Overview 

Economics has variously been said to be concerned with:

the allocation of scarce resources among competing uses;

a society’s social relations of production, distribution and consumption;

the institutions through which humans have organized their provisioning.

In line with these varied definitions, the study of economics can be pursued using a mathematical approach, a historical approach, or an institutional and sociological approach. Independently of the particular definition to which they are attracted, well-educated economics students will have familiarity with, and be able to draw on, all three approaches.

Accordingly, the economics curriculum at Franklin & Marshall College provides students with opportunities to study the discipline across the variety of approaches and/or to pursue depth in any approach. The sequence of introductory courses exposes students to both orthodox and heterodox themes and approaches, while the sequence of intermediate level courses emphasizes the core analytical techniques used in orthodox and heterodox approaches to theoretical and empirical analysis. Electives offer students the opportunity to undertake further exploration of theoretical issues and/or applications of fundamental economic theories to topics of special interest.

The study of economics encompasses a wide variety of models and topics that attempt to explain various social phenomena, including the operation of markets, the distribution of income and wealth, macroeconomic fluctuations, economic growth, international economic relations, the roles of class, culture, gender and race, and the ecological nature and impact of economic activity. Moreover, a good liberal arts economics education will involve students in interdisciplinary explorations. Economics majors are therefore encouraged to enroll in courses in other departments and interdisciplinary programs such as history, anthropology, government, women and gender studies, earth and environment, and Africana studies. Economics majors and minors are also encouraged to pursue opportunities to study abroad, where they are likely to deepen their understanding of the cultural context and nature of economic life. Economics majors have studied abroad in many countries, including: Australia, China, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, and Sweden. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information. In order to count toward a major or minor in Economics, courses taken outside of Franklin & Marshall College must be pre-approved by the department chair.

A major in economics consists of a minimum of 11 courses:

ECO 100 and 103;

MAT 109 or 110;

ECO 200, 201, 203;

ECO 210 or BOS 250 or MAT 216 (students cannot get college credit for both ECO 210 and BOS 250);

and four electives carrying an ECO designation, at least two of which must be at the 300 level or above.

Students who are majoring in economics are strongly encouraged to complete all the required 200 level courses (ECO 200, 201, 203, and ECO 210 or BOS 250 or MAT 216) by the end of the junior year. ECO 100, ECO 103, and MAT 109 or MAT 110 are prerequisites for ECO 200, which is a prerequisite for both ECO 201 and ECO 203.

Normally, at least eight of the ten ECO course credits (including BOS 250 or MAT 216 as substitutes for ECO 210) taken to fulfill the major’s requirements must be earned at Franklin & Marshall College.

The writing requirement is met by completion of the normal courses required to complete the economics major.

Students who are contemplating graduate work in economics are strongly advised to undertake adequate preparation in mathematics—normally MAT 109, 110 and 111 (Calculus I, II, III), MAT 216 and 316 (Probability and Statistics I, II) and MAT 229 (Linear Algebra and Differential Equations).

To be considered for honors in economics, graduating seniors must meet the following conditions:

complete independent research during the senior year that results in a high caliber thesis deemed to be deserving of “honors” by an appropriately composed Honors Committee;

have an economics GPA of 3.5 and an overall GPA of at least 3.0 at the beginning of the honors project and at the time of graduation;

complete ECO 200, 201, 203, and 210 or MAT 216 by the end of the junior year; the department may waive this requirement in special cases.

A minor in Economics consists of six courses: ECO 100 and 103, plus four other approved by the department, at least, three of which must be at the 200 level or above. Students who receive credit for either MAT 216 or BOS 250 may not include ECO 210 as one of the six courses comprising the minor in Economics. At least four of the credits for the minor must be earned at Franklin & Marshall College.

Courses Offered 

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement.

100. Introduction to Economic Principles. (S)

Introduction to micro- and macroeconomics. Neoclassical models of economic behavior, market structures and aggregate economic performance. Topics include: supply and demand analysis; consumer and business behavior; market structures (competition, monopoly, oligopoly) and failures: inflation and unemployment; government fiscal and monetary policies.    

Flaherty, Fleming, Huang, Maynard, Nicar,  Urban

103. Introduction to Economic Perspectives. (S)

Introduction to economic institutions, history and competing paradigms and ideologies in economics. Conservative, liberal and radical perspectives; orthodox and heterodox economic theories. Topics include: the role of cultural, legal, economic and political institutions; class, gender and race; wealth and poverty; and the environment.             

Brennan, Huang, Maynard, Nersisyan, Urban,, Zein-Elabdin

130. Marxian Political Economy. (S)

Marx’s analysis of capitalism as an economic, social and historical system. Areas covered are: market economies and alienation; exploitation and class conflicts; the working “class”; competitive and monopolistic tendencies of capitalism; capitalist accumulation and economic crises; the role of the state; colonialism, imperialism and globalization. Particular attention will be paid to the contemporary relevance of Marx’s theory. Students are also introduced to the problems and methods of critical inquiry.    


200. Microeconomics. (S)

The analytical foundations of neoclassical price theory: theory of the consumer; theory of the firm; market structure and efficiency; factor markets and income distribution; general equilibrium. Prerequisites: ECO 100 and 103; MAT 109 or 110.    

Flaherty, Silverman, Callari

201. Macroeconomics. (S)

Aggregate economic activity: an examination of the factors that influence its level, stability and rate of growth. Consumption, savings, investment, fiscal and monetary policy and international trade and finance as influences on the level of prices, output, employment and income. Prerequisite: ECO 200.   

Nersisyan, Nicar

203. Value and Distribution. (S)

The analytical foundations of heterodox economic theories. Theoretical critiques of and alternatives to orthodox theories of factor pricing and the distribution of income; concepts and theories of value, gendered and non-market economic relations. Prerequisite: ECO 200.             

Callari, Silverman, Zein-Elabdin

210. Economic Statistics. (S)

An introduction to statistical concepts and techniques as used in economics. Topics include descriptive statistics, sampling, probability, estimation, confidence intervals, hypothesis tests and regression analysis. Prerequisites: ECO 100 and 103. Not for students who have taken BOS 250.     


231. Money and Banking. (S)

Commercial and central banking in the United States, including: Federal Reserve responsibility for influencing economic activity; the role of money in determining the level of national income and prices; and the nature of the international monetary system. Prerequisite: ECO 100 and 103.    


238. The Economy of Cities. (S)

An overview of the economic forces that have shaped the formation and transformation of cities in history, with particular focus on urban patterns since the 18th century. Topics covered include the effects of technological change (in production, transportation and marketing), urban sprawl, the role of “place” in the power dynamics and conflicts of capitalist societies and the history of urban-economic-development public policy initiates in the U.S. Required work includes a term paper. Prerequisites: ECO 100 and ECO 103.   


240. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. (S)

A survey of environmental and natural resource issues in economic theory and policy. History of the environmental movement and environmental debates; theory of natural resource allocation, natural resource issues; theory of environmental management—for example, externalities, public goods and common property. Topics covered will include pollution, resource depletion, global climate change, and issues affecting the local environment. Prerequisite: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of the instructor. Same as ENE 240.    


244. Gender in the Economy. (S)

An analysis of the roles women and men have historically played and continue to play in the economy, both within and outside of the labor market. Topics include the historical conditions under which dominant gender ideals emerged, the value of unpaid work and national accounting, occupational segregation and labor market discrimination. Economic and interdisciplinary approaches are used. Prerequisite: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of the instructor. Same as WGSS 244.    


248. History of Economic Thought. (S)

A survey of ways of thinking about “economic” issues from antiquity to contemporary times, with each  one placed in the context of the intellectual and social climate of its times. Special attention is paid to key analytical and methodological issues. Key figures studied include: Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Thomas Munn, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, Alfred Marshall, John M. Keynes, Fredrick Hayek, Paul Samuelson, Milton Friedman, Piero Sraffa, Paul Sweezy, Robert Lucas, Alan Greenspan and Paul Krugman. Prerequisites: ECO 100 or ECO 103.    


255. Political Economy of Health Care. (S)

A seminar format approach to issues in health and health care reform from an economics-based perspective but also including multi-disciplinary considerations. Topics include the following: the unique qualities of the market for health care; controlling costs/improving outcomes in health care delivery; the economic status of health care providers; economic and ethical issues of pharmaceutical development and distribution; health—and health care—disparities by income, race, ethnicity, and gender; the looming fiscal crisis of Medicare and Medicaid; the political economy of systemic health care reform; comparative health care systems. Prerequisites: ECO 100 or ECO 103.    


264. Introduction to International Economics. (S)

Introduction of key concepts to describe and analyze international economic linkages. Analysis of international transactions in various markets including goods and services, capital, labor and foreign exchange. Core topics include: reasons for and benefits from international trade; exchange rate developments; benefits and risks of international capital flows; globalization; liberalization; regional integration; and development. Empirical approach with introduction of core theoretical concepts and policy perspectives. Prerequisite: ECO 100.     

Maynard, Roncolato

281. Political Economy of Africa. (S) (NW)

A broad idea of economic and social conditions in Africa and the factors that influence economic development in the region, power structures and processes of change. Historical analysis of pre-colonial systems of production and exchange and modifications introduced during the European colonial period. Examination of major current economic and political problems such as food production, external debt and the role of the state. Reflection on the question of economic development. Prerequisites: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of instructor. Same as AFS 281.    


282. Women, Culture and Development. (NW) (S)

Role of gender in different cultures across the non-industrialized world and impact of economic development on the position of women and gender relations in these societies. Women’s contribution to economic and social change and the extent to which conventional methods of analysis in development economics can be applied to their situations. Examination of the construction of the ‘Third World woman’ in the development literature. Prerequisite: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of the instructor. Same as WGSS 282.    


291. Directed Readings.

Tutorial for students who have not yet completed ECO 200, 201, 203 and 210. Students who have a special interest may arrange a tutorial with a faculty member. Enrollment is conditional on instructor’s permission.

303. Marxian Theories of Crisis. (S)

This seminar will entail a detailed reading and discussion of the primary literature on Marxian perspectives on capitalist crises with particular attention to the Great Recession. Specifically, the perspectives covered in this course include the profit squeeze, rising organic composition of capital, underconsumption, and stagnation explanations. Also included in this course are Marxian critiques of neoliberalism and financialization. The course will look both at theories and data to support or refute various perspectives. Prerequisite: ECO 203.    


310. Econometrics. (S)

An introduction to statistical analysis of economic data, with a balance of theory, applications and original research. The Classical Linear Regression Model is covered in detail, along with typical departures from its assumptions including heteroscedasticity, serial correlation and non-stationarity. Further subjects can include instrumental variables, limited dependent variables and advanced time-series topics, depending on time and student interest. Prerequisites: ECO 100, 103 and ECO 210 or MAT 216.     


315. Macroeconomic Stability. (S)

John Maynard Keynes and Hyman Minsky on financial crises and economic recessions. Keynes’s critique of the neoclassical approach and his revolutionary investment theory of the business cycle. Minsky’s financial theory of investment as an evolutionary understanding of modern financial institutions and their role in preserving or undermining economic stability. Contemporary research to assess the relative effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policies in stabilizing an unstable economy, as well as their impact on employment, prices, and income distribution. Prerequisite: ECO 200 and ECO 203.    


320. International Trade. (S)

Intermediate and advanced topics in international trade. Introduces theoretical structures and evaluates associated empirical literature. Core topics include examination of the determinants of international trade patterns, the gains from trade, trade policy, the relationship between trade and growth and the institutional evolution of the international trading system. Emphasis on different theoretical approaches, including models based on assumptions of perfect competition and of imperfect competition. Prerequisite: ECO 200.    


325. International Finance. (S)

Intermediate and advanced topics in international finance. Introduces theoretical structures and evaluates associated empirical literature. Core topics include determination of exchange rates, the functioning of the macroeconomy under different exchange rate regimes, foreign exchange intervention, currency crises, debt crises, coordinated macroeconomic policy, the evolution and future of the international monetary system as a whole. Emphasis on open-economy macroeconomics. Prerequisite: ECO 201.    

Maynard, Nicar

335. Economic Development. (S) (NW)

Theories of economic growth and development. Historical and political context of the emergence of the ‘less developed’ world and the project of international development. Structure and performance of low and middle income economies. Current major policy issues including agriculture, industry, technology, foreign investment and international trade and debt. Prerequisite: ECO 200, or permission of the instructor.    


350. Game Theory. (S)

Game Theory provides a framework for analyzing strategic situations. Where to put your first serve in tennis, why some professors will never accept late submissions and why do Circuit City and BestBuy offer price matching guarantees are examples of strategic situations. Here each participant’s action can affect the outcome for others. The course teaches how to build models of strategic situations and introduces techniques to solve them. The solutions provide benchmark predictions of behavior observed in our lives. Prerequisite ECO 200.    


381. Postcolonial Perspectives on Development. (S)

A seminar on the question of economic development from the perspectives of formerly colonized societies, which are today described as ‘less developed’ or ‘third world’ countries. The idea of development in European thought, postcolonial critiques of development, and the contours of postcoloniality and postcolonial thought (cultural hegemony, orientalism, hybridity). Readings are multidisciplinary. Permission of instructor required.  


391. Directed Reading. (S)

Tutorial for students who have completed ECO 200, 201 and 203. Students who have a special interest may arrange a tutorial with a faculty member. Enrollment is conditional on instructor’s permission.

490. Independent Study.

Independent research directed by the Economics staff. Permission of the instructor.


Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2017-2018 

  • Marxian Crisis Theory.
  • Political Economics of Globalization.