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Macroeconomics Made Clear

Explore the complex relationships that keep worldwide economies going—or not.
Macroeconomics Made Clear is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 18.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning through analogies While this topic interests me, I was worried I would get lost in charts and graphs within a few lectures. It never happened. The presenter did a great job of staying true to his title - Macroeconomics Made Clear. I appreciate that he took the time to use analogies, tell stories, and give examples. He wasn't afraid to use graphs, but did his best to explain them. While this may be a little light for an expert, for the rest of us, this is a great overview of macroeconomics, thoughtfully presented.
Date published: 2023-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly enjoyed this course. This was an excellent course and filled in many holes in my knowledge of Macroeconomics. The many references to other economists was refreshing. Also, I will now be able to understand Paul Krugman's "wonkish" articles. I especially like the strong content in the last two episodes. Well done!
Date published: 2023-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! This is obviously one of the best courses in Wondrium. As a novice, I have learnt a lot about economic activity concerning countries and people as a whole. Back in the day, what we experienced is, Macroeconomics was just a politically motivated word, but this course gives us tools and information to analayse economic activity around us. Professor is excellent speaker with clear presentation skills and a delivery style. As a fellow Sri Lankan, I think he did Wondrium users a good service.
Date published: 2023-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gifted teacher who fills in many details It has been a very long time since I took macroeconomics as a sophomore, and I must say that Prof Weerapana is much better than my instructor at the time. Weerapana clearly loves the subject and loves to explain it to people. I particularly appreciate the way this course supplements the news articles we see, which never go into detail about, e.g., quantitative easing; Weerapana explained that beautifully. Surprisingly, my views on the world's economic problems are in close agreement with his. This did not have to be true, and it reinforces my impression that he is a very wise man(!) A couple of suggestions for minor revision: [1] some of the graphs are not clearly labeled or explained--reviewing them for revision is recommended-- and [2] the discussion of exchange involving dollars and rupees went by too fast, even after repeated replays -- it needs more attention. Otherwise, congratulations on another Great Course!
Date published: 2023-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Much more than the basics The professor was engaging and very competent. The course was, perhaps, more than I expected. I was not expecting the amount of detail provided. The early lessons are a bit tedious with many charts and graphs; and I was not particularly interested in some of the economic theories that were explored. But the later lessons covering GDP of countries, Exchange Rates and their impact, the Euro Zone and impact on member countries, Country Balance of Payment accounts, etc., were of more interest to me. I think I gained a somewhat better understanding than just the economic headlines that are shouted in the media each day.
Date published: 2023-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Nice Introduction / Covers the Main Topics This is an overdue course; the Great Courses (by my count) has 19 economics courses and they’re almost exclusively devoted to microeconomic applications or issues of what used to be called comparative economic systems. It’s interesting to note that for most non-economists issues and policies involving “the economy,” i.e., where’s the economy heading, constitute primarily what economics is all about. Thankfully, the Great Courses has recruited a professor who does an excellent job in introducing macroeconomics to his viewers. Professor Weerapana was born in Sri Lanka, earned a PhD from Stanford, and speaks excellent English. If this is important to you, I would say that he covers “right of center” policy preferences and “left of center” policy preferences reasonably fairly, and perhaps has a slight tilt to the left. Since I’m a chart guy, I found the numerous charts in this course, both schematic and empirical, illuminating, so much so, that I often froze the DVD to examine them more closely. Of course, you can’t study economics without graphs unless you want the mathematical version! I particularly liked the three lectures on economic growth which began with a nice treatment of the Solow model. I believe, however, he should have given his viewers Solow’s production function which wouldn’t have taxed their mathematical literacy. In a little more detail, I got more insight from the Federal Reserve’s easy money policy over the last 15 years in his lectures than I got from a decade’s worth of reading the financial press. For example, what can a central bank do when the interbank borrowing rate (fed funds rate) approaches the “zero lower bound?” Interest rates become less of an expansionary tool when the ZLB is reached. So as the professor relates, the Fed essentially blew up its balance sheet by huge asset purchases throughout the financial crisis and pandemic recessions (the so-called quantitative easing programs). If you can’t use the fed funds rate, you can influence the future course of long-term rates which anyway have more policy impact. The Fed’s QE program was designed by the scale of its asset purchases to affect both the term premium and risk premium of interest rates. Thus, the Fed purchased long term bonds to reduce the term premium embedded in the yield curve and purchased “less-safe” assets (MBSs) to reduce the risk premium, both serving to help stimulate the economy. Did they work? Well, we had a slow recovery from the financial crisis-induced recession, but we didn’t have a depression which we feared in early 2009. The “hard money” folks on the right kept expecting the QE program to induce inflation. When it didn’t materialize (we’re not talking post-pandemic inflation), they worried that our economic understanding must be wrong. Didn’t Milton Friedman teach us that inflation is “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon?” And on the left, PBS recently had a documentary criticizing the Fed’s easy money policy (until lately) as favoring risky assets and therefore the investor class. After all, it was Warren Buffet who said “interest rates are to asset values what gravity is to matter.” I believe the Fed’s response was that QE was an attempt to help the economy and any effects on asset values was an ancillary byproduct. I do have a few quibbles on what I still found to be an excellent introduction to macroeconomics: (1) perhaps I’m dating myself but when did the capital account become the financial account in the balance of payments? But in any event, he offers a lucid explanation of how a positive capital account is a mirror image of a negative current account, and suggests that foreign entities want to invest in the U.S. the dollars they earn from selling goods to the U.S., (2) I believe he mis-defined Tobin’s Q. Technically, it’s the market value of a firm’s assets divided by the replacement cost of those assets, which is often approximated by their book value which is their historic cost basis and not their market value as he suggests, (3) I know you can’t include everything in 24 half-hour lectures, but there seem to be two glaring omissions in the income inequality lecture: the decoupling between real income growth and productivity growth in much of the developed world including the U.S. in recent decades and the resulting (?) shift of more national income to capital and less to labor during this period. I would have been interested in hearing his take on these two empirically contentious issues.
Date published: 2023-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview of Macro-economics This was a wonderful, easy to grasp course. There were a couple of lectures that we (me and my husband) watched twice. Otherwise it is all imminently understandable and we have zero background in economics. The lecturer used ample graphs and charts and some equations. (Thank you Great Courses for allowing some math.) The math and the graphs made it so much easier. The lecturer likes to teach, this comes across. He simplifies some difficult concepts so well. He also covers controversies in the topics. His coverage of India and China were very elucidating and most people should have a comprehension of this.
Date published: 2023-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! Expert, engaging prof My spouse and I agreed we wish we had this prof for our intro to macroeconomics courses in college. He has pulled together an engaging overview, covering both theory and practical examples for all his material. I'm a visual learned and his graphs were especially helpful. It is also up to date with info on the economic impact of 2008 crash as well as the recent pandemic. We highly recommend this course and hope Professor Weerapana follows up with more courses.
Date published: 2023-05-16
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Overview

In 24 revealing lectures, Macroeconomics Made Clear will introduce you to the subject that people have been theorizing about and modeling for almost 100 years. With easy-to-understand illustrations, charts, and graphs, Dr. Akila Weerapana of Wellesley College shows you the real-world applications of the key ideas of macroeconomics, how macroeconomics sheds light on the present, and how it offers a hopeful tool for the future.

About

Akila Weerapana

Macroeconomics seeks answers to big questions that impact the lives of billions of people. The answers are not always straightforward or concrete. But the exploration is interesting and helps you see the world through a clearer lens.

INSTITUTION

Wellesley College

Akila Weerapana is an Associate Professor of Economics at Wellesley College who earned a PhD in Economics from Stanford University. He has won Wellesley College’s Pinanski Teaching Prize and appeared in The Princeton Review’s Best 300 Professors. He is a coauthor of the textbook Principles of Economics and has published work in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, The Journal of Economic Education, and Economic Development and Cultural Change, among other publications.

By This Professor

Macroeconomics Made Clear
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Macroeconomics Made Clear

Trailer

Viewing the World through a New Lens

01: Viewing the World through a New Lens

Explore the differences in subject matter between microeconomics and macroeconomics. You’ll learn what macroeconomics can reveal about human welfare by examining the changes in various countries over a 50-year period.

31 min
GDP: The Economy in a Single Number?

02: GDP: The Economy in a Single Number?

To try to quantify the financial devastation caused by the Great Depression—and express that devastation in one number—economists created what we know today as gross domestic product (GDP). Explore the power and limitations of GDP and the significant differences between GDP and real GDP per capita.

33 min
Prices: How to Quantify the Dangers of Inflation

03: Prices: How to Quantify the Dangers of Inflation

Explore the meaning of inflation, one of the most used terms in economic news. What does it technically represent, how is it calculated, and why does it matter? You’ll also learn about the consumer price index, and why that remains the most widely used measure of prices.

29 min
Unemployment: Who Wants to Work?

04: Unemployment: Who Wants to Work?

The unemployment rate is the macroeconomic variable that is likely to have the greatest direct impact on any individual’s life. Understand the technical definition of “unemployed” and why economists typically consider the employment-to-population ratio to be the best measure for describing the health of the labor market.

29 min
How Is Money Created—and Why?

05: How Is Money Created—and Why?

Money has been an essential part of economic transactions since the dawn of civilization—whether in the form of gold coins, cigarettes, or salt. Find out how the Federal Reserve determines the appropriate US money supply and how it categorizes money based on liquidity and ease of transaction.

30 min
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Money?

06: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Money?

Learn how the quantity equation reveals the relationship between money growth and inflation, and why the velocity of money is critical to the Fed’s decisions. You’ll discover why the supply of money must be carefully managed to keep the economy going without triggering either inflation or deflation.

31 min
Two Interest Rates to Rule Them All?

07: Two Interest Rates to Rule Them All?

There are many interest rates that impact businesses and consumers daily. Explore the relationship between interest rates and risk and learn about the development and significance of two key interest rates—the Federal Funds rate and the yield on US Treasury bonds.

28 min
Why Economic Growth Is So Powerful⁠—and Hard

08: Why Economic Growth Is So Powerful⁠—and Hard

Why is per-capita economic growth so important for improving the well-being of most people in a country? And how did Deng Xiaoping work his magic on the Chinese economy? In answering these questions, you’ll use a graphical depiction of the Solow model to learn about why sustained economic growth is challenging.

32 min
Technology: The Engine of Sustained Growth

09: Technology: The Engine of Sustained Growth

We tend to think of technology as the computer on your desk or your wrist. But to macroeconomists, technology is the idea behind those items. Discover why technology is different than other inputs to the economy and explore Solow’s work showing that technology is the engine of economic growth.

31 min
What Are Fundamental Barriers to Growth?

10: What Are Fundamental Barriers to Growth?

If the work of Solow and others taught us the path to economic growth more than 50 years ago, why are so many countries still struggling to achieve those goals? Explore in depth four key factors that can keep a country from the economic growth it desires—openness, conflict, geography, and institutions.

33 min
How Recessions Occur and Why They Matter

11: How Recessions Occur and Why They Matter

Why do recessions occur and what can policymakers do to reduce their frequency and severity? By examining the works of Keynes and Friedman, you will develop an understanding of why recessions occur and why economists often disagree about the appropriate policy response.

33 min
An Intuitive Model of Economic Recessions

12: An Intuitive Model of Economic Recessions

Models are a necessary tool for macroeconomists who can’t experiment on whole countries to test economic policy options. Learn about the Aggregate Demand/Inflation Adjustment model—which addresses similar issues considered by the Fed in their more complex modeling—and gain insight into current policy debates.

32 min
Lessons from Past Recessions

13: Lessons from Past Recessions

Do policy responses to recessions always make the situation worse, as they did after the Great Depression? Or could policies positively influence a recovery? Using the model presented in the previous lecture to study the Great Depression, the 2001 recession, the 2008-2009 Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be surprised at the answers.

34 min
What Is Good Monetary or Fiscal Policy?

14: What Is Good Monetary or Fiscal Policy?

Although policy disagreements are always good for news ratings, economists do agree on certain sound principles. Dr. Weerapana will help you explore expansionary, neutral, and contractionary policy—while understanding that good policy is always context-dependent and will remain an art as much as a science.

31 min
Extraordinary Actions by Central Banks

15: Extraordinary Actions by Central Banks

In extreme instances, policymakers are stymied by the zero lower bound (ZLB), the fact that interest rates cannot go below zero. From forward guidance to quantitative easing, learn what options are available when the economy hits the ZLB and how and when the Fed has employed them.

30 min
How Much Debt Is Too Much for a Country?

16: How Much Debt Is Too Much for a Country?

Dive into the reasons why running budget deficits and borrowing during bad times—while running budget surpluses and paying off debt in good times—is better policy than not taking on debt at all. But how much debt is too much? That’s the toughest question. You’ll learn about the economies of the United States, Japan, and Greece while trying to answer that one.

30 min
How Exchange Rates Move the Global Economy

17: How Exchange Rates Move the Global Economy

To better understand today’s globalized economy, you’ll explore how exchange rates are determined, why they are so volatile, and how they are influenced by other variables such as inflation and interest rates. Learn why The Economist magazine publishes its annual Big Mac Index.

32 min
Why Countries Try to Control Exchange Rates

18: Why Countries Try to Control Exchange Rates

Some countries choose to fix their exchange rates, believing that a stable rate will help facilitate trade and investments between countries. But does it really work to their advantage or will market forces eventually exert their will? Explore this complex and fascinating issue.

31 min
The Euro: Many Nations under One Currency?

19: The Euro: Many Nations under One Currency?

While it hasn’t always been a smooth journey, the Eurozone remains the single most important development in international finance in the 21st century. Explore the reasoning and specific hopes behind the union, its new state-of-the art central bank, and the major hurdles it has still to overcome with respect to development of centralized fiscal policy.

33 min
International Trade and Finance Must Balance

20: International Trade and Finance Must Balance

Discover the pros and cons of the United States running a large Current Account deficit while China runs a large Current Account surplus. Does a Current Account deficit equate to economic weakness? Not at all. Learn about Balance of Payment accounts and one of the most important concepts in international economics: the Balance of Payments always sums to zero.

34 min
How Stocks and the Economy Shape Each Other

21: How Stocks and the Economy Shape Each Other

Explore the complex two-way relationship between financial markets and the macroeconomy. Learn about the tools policymakers use to try to keep the markets functioning properly, and why the most important “commodity” is information—the millions of pieces of publicly available information that are consumed every day and quickly incorporated into the price of a stock.

31 min
Labor Market Policies for the Long Term

22: Labor Market Policies for the Long Term

We are all familiar with the short-term consequences of the unemployment rate being either too high or too low. But what about the long-term component of those rates? Learn about the “natural rate of unemployment” that exists in the absence of short-run fluctuations and how macroeconomic policies could potentially reduce that rate.

32 min
Rising Inequality Is a Threat to All of Us

23: Rising Inequality Is a Threat to All of Us

In 2019, a report released by the Census Bureau showed that US income inequality was at its highest point in 50 years—and that was before the COVID-19 recession further widened the gap. Learn how economists measure inequality, why it is a societal and economic concern, and what macroeconomic policies could address the problem.

30 min
Three Macroeconomic Challenges of Our Time

24: Three Macroeconomic Challenges of Our Time

Explore the three issues macroeconomists consider to be the greatest challenges of our time: inequitable economic growth, migration, and climate change. Learn how a carbon tax of an appropriate level could not only address climate change, but also become an incentive for general economic growth.

34 min