Basic Economics is for those students who want to go deeper into the schools of thought about economics and the interplay of government and economics.
It covers the macro-economics topics that you find in most high school texts such as markets, supply and demand, scarcity, monopoly and competition, and the stock market. However, it does not discuss personal finance—checking accounts, credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.—as we find in many high school economics courses.
Instead, Basic Economics allocates space to the history of economics, government actions and their effects, the morality of economics, and international economics. An entire chapter addresses "Society and Morality," examining the Judeo-Christian roots of free markets, moral absolutes versus moral positivism, and utilitarianism. The last third of the book studies the "Politico-Economic Systems": the manorial feudal system, mercantilism, free enterprise, corporatism, welfarism, and communism. The chapter on corporatism features significant changes from earlier editions of this text. The category was formerly labeled "capitalism." Because of confusion over the relationship between free enterprise and capitalism, Paul Cleveland updated the chapter with a nuanced explanation of corporatism which encompasses capitalism. He points out that capitalism does not always go hand in hand with free enterprise but is sometimes manipulated by the government at the expense of other aspects or competitors within the market.
The text reflects the Austrian school of economics' viewpoints that lean toward free enterprise and limited government as well as a biblical Christian worldview. An example of the former is the text's treatment of the New Deal in a fairly critical manner. An example of the Christian worldview would be the reference to the Ten Commandments' prohibitions against stealing and coveting as one of the bases of property rights.
The text goes beyond the superficial to raise challenging questions. For example, in discussing zoning laws, it points out the desire of people to not have noisy factories built next to their homes. But then it raises the problem of fragmented families because people often travel long distances to the workplace rather than working close to home, partly because of zoning laws.
Each chapter concludes with a "Study Guide." The study guide has a summary of the chapter which is very helpful for students who might get overwhelmed with information and ideas. "Points of Emphasis," identifies key points to remember. A series of questions probes for both comprehension and thoughtful analysis; these might be used either for discussion or written responses. Students might write out definitions or explanations for the list of key words, terms, and names. Suggested activities include both independent and interactive projects, most of which require some research. Each study guide includes at least one debate question such as, "Debate the following proposition: 'Working conditions would be horrendous if it were not for the efforts of labor unions'" (p. 208). Recommended reading concludes most of the study guides. A glossary, an index, and brief biographical sketches of influential economists are at the back of the book.
While Basic Economics is ideologically oriented, it is an orientation with which many home educators would agree. On the back cover it summarizes the book's purpose: "...Western culture has turned from the sound principles of political economy that it once knew and on which it was founded. Indeed, as the abandonment of these principles has taken place, Western culture has plunged headlong into squandering the cultural capital and wealth of our forefathers. It is hoped that this third edition of Basic Economics can serve to call the United States of America home."
Basic Economics should be read by mature students in eleventh or twelfth grade. It could be used as a complete course on its own if students complete the work in the study guides. Another option might be to use it in conjunction with R.C. Sproul Jr.'s DVD course Economics for Everybody to comprise a half/credit course to meet graduation requirements, albeit without coverage of personal finances. (Economics for Everybody assigns chapters from Basic Economics for each DVD class session.)
There is no answer key, so parents or teachers need to read along in the text to be able to check student responses and carry on discussions.