Cost Benefit Jr: Stories in Microeconomics
By Art Carden
Stephanie Herman, a “homeschooling mom of two boys who has taught high school economics in a homeschool coop,” was kind enough to send me a review copy of her book Cost Benefit Jr., which provides “an economics curriculum for young children (ages 8 to 10).” It teaches economics through stories to which small kids should be able to relate, and the end of each section has some exercises that will help kids master the concepts.
It’s a really great little book; one of its major strengths is periodic side boxes featuring a cigar-chomping jerk named “Mr. Greedy L. McMeanie” that show how even though Greedy L. McMeanie is a jerk who doesn’t care at all for his customers and who only seeks profit, he is forced by competition to provide them with what they want at prices they are willing to pay.
There’s also an interesting discussion illustrating some basic concepts through food. Here’s something I find interesting about the economics of nutrition:
Suppose you could eat ice cream and french fries for lunch and it would only cost you $5 while eating salad would cost you $7.50. Are the ice cream and french fries cheaper? Probably not: you might not feel as good (and therefore, you might not be as productive) later. Furthermore, if you keep eating like that you’re probably going to have health problems later. When you consider all the costs involved, the “cheaper” meal doesn’t look so cheap, after all.
This also provides a nice jumping-off point for a discussion of externalities. A lot of people are claiming that the government has to regulate our health decisions because my bad health decisions impose an externality on you since you’re partially responsible for paying for my government-provided health care if I’m on Medicaid or something like that. This is an example of an “externality” that isn’t: if it weren’t for the government giving away free health care, people would internalize the costs and benefits of their actions. If someone else is going to pay for your heart surgery, why not eat ice cream and french fries for every meal?
It’s a very neat little book, and I think economics educators–especially home schoolers–will find it extremely useful.