Helen Scharber, assistant professor of economics, holds a B.A. in economics from Knox College, an M.A. in environmental politics from Keele University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts.
Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of political economy, environmental justice and health.
She is also a staff economist for the Center for Popular Economics, where she teaches workshops designed to demystify the economy for activists.
This course will provide an introduction to economics from a political economy perspective. We will examine the historical evolution and structure of the capitalist system, distinguishing it from other economic systems that have preceded it, such as feudalism, and existed alongside it, such as state socialism. Most of the class will be devoted to examining economic theories that have been developed to explain and support the operation of this system. In particular, we will study how different theories explain the determination of prices, wages, profits, aggregate output, and employment in the short run, as well as economic growth and income distribution in the long run. The relationships between economy, polity and society will all be discussed and explored. This course functions as an introduction to both micro- and macroeconomics and will prepare the student for intermediate-level work in both fields.
How much environmental degradation is too much? How should we value intangible goods like environmental quality? Who wins and who loses from environmental degradation? In this survey course, we will examine how the theories of neoclassical, ecological and political economics have been used to answer these questions. Using these economic lenses, we will analyze a range of issues related to pollution and natural resource use, with special attention to climate change. We will also consider the policy prescriptions of these economic approaches and compare them to existing and proposed environmental policies. This theory-based survey class is appropriate for Division II students with some background in environmental and/or economic issues, though formal training in economic theory is not required. Some assignments will have a creative option and quantitative reasoning will be assessed through a student-led cost-benefit analysis of environmental goods.
How does speculation on Wall Street affect wheat prices halfway across the globe? Why do most tomatoes taste so bad? Can organic farming methods feed the world? In this course, we'll use questions like these to guide our study of the economics, politics and environmental impacts of the modern industrial food system. In addition to studying and critiquing the existing system, we will spend significant time exploring more sustainable alternatives to mainstream methods of food production, distribution and consumption. Students will learn to apply economic theories studied in class to specific aspects of the food system and undertake an independent project on an alternative to mainstream food production.
Assistant Professor of Economics
Mail Code SS
Franklin Patterson Hall 209
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002