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Intermediate Microeconomics: A Modern Approach (Seventh Edition)


Author: Hal R. Varian

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company


Publish Date: December 20, 2005

ISBN-10: 393927024

Pages: 784

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

The success of the first six editions of Intermediate Microeconomics has pleased me very much. It has confirmed my belief that the market would welcome an analytic approach to microeconomics at the undergraduate level.

My aim in writing the first edition was to present a treatment of the methods of microeconomics that would allow students to apply these tools on their own and not just passively absorb the predigested cases described in the text. I have found that the best way to do this is to emphasize the fundamental conceptual foundations of microeconomics and to provide concrete examples of their application rather than to attempt to provide an encyclopedia of terminology and anecdote.

A challenge in pursuing this approach arises from the lack of mathematical prerequisites for economics courses at many colleges and universities. The lack of calculus and problem-solving experience in general makes it difficult to present some of the analytical methods of economics. However, it is not impossible. One can go a long way with a few simple facts about linear demand functions and supply functions and some elementary algebra. It is perfectly possible to be analytical without being excessively mathematical.

The distinction is worth emphasizing. An analytical approach to economics is one that uses rigorous, logical reasoning. This does not necessarily require the use of advanced mathematical methods. The language of mathematics certainly helps to ensure a rigorous analysis and using it is undoubtedly the best way to proceed when possible, but it may not be appropriate for all students.

Many undergraduate majors in economics are students who should know calculus, but don’t-at least, not very well. For this reason I have kept calculus out of the main body of the text. However, I have provided complete calculus appendices to many of the chapters. This means that the calculus methods are there for the students who can handle them, but they do not pose a barrier to understanding for the others.

I think that this approach manages to convey the idea that calculus is not just a footnote to the argument of the text, but is instead a deeper way to examine the same issues that one can also explore verbally and graphically. Many arguments are much simpler with a little mathematics, and all economics students should learn that. In many cases I’ve found that with a little motivation, and a few nice economic examples, students become quite enthusiastic about looking at things from an analytic perspective.

There are several other innovations in this text. First, the chapters are generally very short. I’ve tried to make most of them roughly “lecture size,” so that they can be read at one sitting. I have followed the standard order of discussing first consumer theory and then producer theory, but I’ve spent a bit more time on consumer theory thl”n is normally the case. This is not because I think that consumer theory is necessarily the most important part of microeconomics; rather, I have found that this is the material that students find the most mysterious, so I wanted to provide a more detailed treatment of it .

Second, I’ve tried to put in a lot of examples of how to use the theory described here. In most books, students look at a lot of diagrams of shifting curves, but they don’t see much algebra, or much calculation of any sort for that matter. But it is the algebra that is used to solve problems in practice. Graphs can provide insight, but the real power of economic analysis comes in calculating quantitative answers to economic problems. Every economics student should be able to translate an economic story into an equation or a numerical example, but all too often the development of this skill is neglected. For this reason I have also provided a workbook that I feel is an integral accompaniment to this book. The workbook was written with my colleague Theodore Bergstrom, and we have put a lot of effort into generating interesting and instructive problems. We think that it provides an important aid to the student of microeconomics.

Third, I believe that the treatment of the topics in this book is more accurate than is usually the case in intermediate micro texts. It is true that I’ve sometimes chosen special cases to analyze when the general case is too difficult, but I’ve tried to be honest about that when I did it. In general, I’ve tried to spell out every step of each argument in detail. I believe that the discussion I’ve provided is not only more complete and more accurate than usual, but this attention to detail also makes the arguments easier to understand than the loose discussion presented in many other books.

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