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Learn Principles of Economics Online

  • Principles of Economics by Carl Menger

Tags EducationAustrian Economics Overview

03/30/2012Robert P. Murphy

I am pleased to announce that in mid-April, we will begin another session of my Mises Academy online class: Principles of Economics. For those who missed the session a year ago, now is your chance to register. In addition to the textbook for the class — my Lessons for the Young Economist — we also now have the accompanying Teacher's Manual, which provides supplementary discussion, readings, and applications. As usual with the Mises Institute, the material is provided free in digital form (PDF and EPUB), for those who don't wish to buy more books. As I explain below, instead of static slideshows, we'll be using a blackboard-style presentation, giving them the flavor of a Khan Academy lesson.

The Scope of the Course

In the interest of making the material more accessible, we have shortened the course down to eight weeks (from its previous ten). The weekly lectures will run from April 18 through June 6. When choosing the material we would cover, I was guided by the idea that this might be the only economics class some students would take in their entire lives. My goal is that everyone who graduates from this course will leave with a basic understanding of how the economy really works. The students will learn the importance of private property as an institution, where money came from and what purpose it serves, and how profits and losses guide entrepreneurs when they run their businesses.

After explaining the workings of a free-market economy, we will then cover popular forms of government intervention. Students will learn how price controls distort the market and end up hurting the very people they supposedly help. We will cover the harmful effects of tariffs and other trade barriers, and students will learn the nature of inflation and understand why government is ultimately responsible for rising prices. Click on the long image on the right to see a screenshot of the full syllabus for registered students.

Using the Textbook

When writing Lessons for the Young Economist, I had a target age range of 7th through 10th grades. In fact, I sent drafts of the manuscript to one of my friends who teaches history to junior-high students. We worked together at every stage to ensure that the book's vocabulary, style, and chapter length were ideal for teaching economic principles to younger readers.

Although the online class and accompanying textbook are offered through the Mises Institute, strictly speaking this isn't a course in Austrian economics. Instead, the material will be more foundational. The book explains what the stock market is, and uses numerical examples to show how a household can expand its future income by saving more in the present. The idea is that newcomers to economics — whether young people or even adults who have never read deeply in the Austrian tradition — should read this book first and then move on to the works of Hazlitt and Rothbard.

Structure of the Course

In a typical week of the course, I will give a live video broadcast on Wednesday from 6:30–8:00 p.m. (EDT). I will spend the first 75 minutes lecturing on that week's material, and then I will field questions from students for the remaining 15 minutes. In addition, on Saturday I will have "office hours" at a varying time of day (in order to cater to different students each week), meaning that I will be available on a live video broadcast to answer questions from any students who tune in.

Note that the Saturday sessions are purely for the students' convenience, and are not mandatory. Also, all broadcasts will be recorded and available to enrolled students, so that people who have a scheduling conflict can still take the class if they wish.

If a student wishes, he or she can simply "audit" the class. This has been a popular option for many adults who take Mises Academy classes to watch the lectures but, because of their work schedules, can't keep up with the reading.

However, students may also take the class for a grade. These students will take a multiple-choice quiz each week, in addition to a midterm and final exam. Although the Mises Institute is not accredited, we will present certificates of completion and a formal grade at the end of the class to those students who desire it. Homeschooling parents in particular may decide that their child will receive excellent instruction in economic principles through this class.

"Blackboard" Presentation

In an effort to improve the educational experience, in this class we will be using a graphics tablet during the live lectures, to turn the screen into a blackboard. This will allow me to draw, say, a supply-and-demand graph freehand, making the students really feel as if I am in a classroom at a blackboard in front of them. We believe this will give me more flexibility in teaching the material, and will also make for more useful videos for students who are watching the lectures after the fact.

Austrian Economics: Level 1 Certificate

Taking this course for a grade will also put you on your way toward qualifying for an "Austrian Economics: Level 1" certificate, which is the Mises Institute's way of telling the world that you have acquired a strong understanding of the fundamentals.1 The other courses in this certificate program will be announced soon.


Whether for yourself or a young person, the Mises Academy's upcoming principles course will provide a solid economic understanding of how the world works. Register now to reserve your spot. I hope to see you in class!

  • 1. Note that this certificate is not certified by any establishment agencies.
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