legalize marijuana for personal use in Arizona.
legalize marijuana for personal use in Arizona
Washington and Colorado are the first states to legalize the personal use of marijuana. Many other states have legalized the medical use of the drug. Yet, the federal government and many other state governments continue to wage a so-called war on drugs, marijuana included, a war that is said to cost billions of dollars annually.
You are an economic advisor to the Arizona state legislature. Several lawmakers are considering sponsoring legislation to legalize marijuana for personal use in Arizona. Several others strongly oppose such legislation. Your task is to write a white paper—a position paper, that is, of 500 words—recommending to an exploratory committee whether the legislature as a whole should support or oppose such legalization.
Now, note this well: You are an economic advisor, not a moral advisor or a legal advisor. Your argument should be an economic one. That is to say, if you argue that marijuana should be illegal because it is evil or legal because it makes people feel really good, then you will be missing the point.
Instead, you need to base your argument, whatever side you support, on facts and figures and put it in economic terms. You might want to argue, for instance, that the government simply cannot afford to wage a war on drugs; that a free market should not be hampered by artificial barriers to trade; that productivity lost to minds clouded on drugs would be too costly for society to bear, or that the healthcare costs associated with treating drug-related illness argue against legalization; and so on.
Whatever your case, you will want to bring an economic concept to bear on your argument. Some that might be employed in an argument about the legalization of marijuana are scarcity, utility, the law of supply and the law of demand, moral hazard, and opportunity cost. Many others are pertinent, and it is up to you to decide which best supports your case.
Remember that your legislative audience is not trained in economics, so you will need to explain, in plain English, the meaning of the economic concept you choose.
Your white paper should be right around 500 words. If it is shorter than 475 words it is likely to be too slight, and if it is longer than 525 words it is likely to go unread. Either way, it will be ignored—and, as the syllabus explains, it will receive an automatic D.
Please see and follow the syllabus for matters of format. In brief, your paper must be double-spaced, in Times or Times New Roman font, and saved as a .doc file in Word 97-2004 (Mac) or 98-2003 (Windows) format. Your white paper must carry a title and byline (for example, A Case for Suppressing Marijuana / by Adam Smith, where the slash represents a return and new line).
Please give your file a name that fits this convention: Lastname_Firstname_Econ479-6_Assignment1-1.doc. If a second draft is required, it will be called Lastname_Firstname_Econ479-6_Assignment1-2.doc.
Economics 479: Communication in Economics
Instructor: Gregory McNamee (firstname.lastname@example.org / www.gregorymcnamee.com)
Spring 2013 Syllabus
The Course Economics 479 is a one-unit course meant to improve your skill in writing
professionally and conveying your understanding of economic concepts. The course consists of three
two-part, 500-word writing assignments—an initial draft followed by a revised draft—and a final athome
assignment, the last comprising one part instead of two.
These assignments are meant to be of a real-world kind, reflecting the sorts of writing you will be
called on to do in business and other endeavors: memoranda, white papers, position papers,
briefings, opinion pieces, and the like. You will be asked to assume, in each assignment, that you are
an employee, advisor, consultant, or the like who has been called on to write a professional
document using economic concepts and terms—but translating them always into plain English.
(Some of those concepts and terms are utility, opportunity cost, cost-benefit analysis, competitive
advantage, perfect information, and supply and demand; there are many more to work with.) Kindly
assume, furthermore, that your audience is both intelligent and keenly interested in dollars-andcents
matters but has no formal training in economics. Thanks to your education, you will be your
reader’s guide, explaining economic ideas and showing how they apply to life outside the classroom.
My sections of this course are conducted exclusively online. There are no class meetings. I do not
keep regular office hours but am almost always available via email, allowing for reasonable delays
during times when I am traveling, which I often do, and with the understanding that my
correspondence with you will take place during normal business hours.
Because this is an online course, it is essential that your communications with me be reliable. Use
only your University-provided email address in corresponding with me. Mail sent from other services
(e.g., GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo) usually winds up in my spam folder, which I do not monitor regularly. I
will not be accountable for mail that I miss thereby—or, in particular, for any assignments that are
lost or that I discover after the deadline that have been sent to me by anything other than the UA
mail system. I repeat: use only your University-provided email address and service in communicating
with me in this course.
There are no assigned readings for the class. I encourage you to keep a good dictionary and a
grammar handbook close by. I maintain a blog for this course at http://econ479.wordpress.com
containing news items, editorials, pointers, and other readings of interest. If you do not visit the blog
regularly, you will miss out on useful information that just might have some bearing on your success
in this course. Take the time to read the accumulated entries there, particularly the ones that have
to do with economic concepts. (Search for that term as a tag.)
The Assignments You will be given one assignment, in the two parts already mentioned, for each
of the three full months of the course. I will email you the topic and format (for instance, a
newspaper editorial supporting or opposing free-trade agreements, or a position paper on predatory
lending laws) a week before the first version is due. I will return edited and graded copy to you a
week after receiving that first version from you. You will then have a week to revise the assignment
and return it to me (but see Grading below). You may turn in work early, of course, but you may not
turn it in late. In the real world, missing a deadline may mean the loss of a job, and in this class it
means a failing grade for the assignment. All assignments are due no later than 5:00 PM on the
announced dates. I will not accept work turned in after that time.
Here are those due dates:
Assignment 1.1 February 6
Assignment 1.2 February 20
Assignment 2.1 March 6
Assignment 2.2 March 27 (allowing a week for spring break)
Assignment 3.1 April 10
Assignment 3.2 April 24
The final will consist of a take-home paper, also of 500 words. I will send the topic prompt on or
before April 24, and it will be due to me no later than 5:00 P.M. on Wednesday, May 1.
Format Each of your assignments, as mentioned, will call for 500 words of well-thought-through
prose. Each assignment is to be presented professionally:
• Use only the Times or Times New Roman font, 12-point. Double-space, with a one-inch margin
on all sides of the paper.
• Save your file in .doc, not .docx, format, since not all your correspondents will have the
newest version of Word with that .docx proprietary platform, and many will not use Word at
all but will be able to open .doc (but not .docx) files with other software. (If you are using the
newest version of Word, use the “save as” feature to save in Word 97–2003 [Windows] or Word
97–2004 [Apple] format.)
• Email each assignment to me as an attachment to a message.
Do not vary from these specifications. I will add to them (calling, for instance, for a title to be given
to a speech, or for a memorandum heading on a memorandum), but these are the basic requirements
that all your assignments will share. See Grading below for more.
Grading Each part of each assignment will earn a letter grade. Each two-part assignment is worth
25 percent of your final grade. If you receive an A on the first part of an assignment, you do not need
to turn in a revised version, though you may if you wish to do so. If you receive less than an A– on
the first part, then you must turn in a revised version, which is an opportunity to improve on your
first grade. The grades will be averaged; thus, for example, if you receive a C on the first version and
an A on the revised version, then your overall grade will be a B, and perhaps even an A.
Econ 479, Section 6 Spring 2013 syllabus, 2
The final one-part assignment will be worth the last 25 percent of the overall grade.
In calculating your final grade, I will discard your lowest single score of the first six assignments;
thus, if you received a C on a first version of a paper but earned higher marks otherwise, I will
exclude that C from the average. Please note: I will not discount an E earned for missing a deadline. I
will discount a single D earned for not following instructions, but I will not discount more than one D
earned in that way.
I grade on four measures:
• The first is an absolute one, meaning what I think an A paper, a B paper, a C paper, and so
on should constitute in terms of the number of errors allowed. (An A paper has no major
structural or mechanical problems, a B paper has one or two such problems and perhaps a
few spelling errors, a C paper has several such problems and/or many spelling errors, and so
• The second is absolute, too: Does the paper contain and discuss an economic concept
successfully? Does it include and discuss the concept but need further work in expressing it
to best effect? Does it lack the concept or fail to do anything more than mention it? Those are
A, B, and C (and lower) papers, respectively—and a perfectly spelled and beautifully written
paper without an economic concept is a C paper all the same.
• The third is an assessment of your work on a relative scale: How does your paper compare
to those of the rest of your cohort? Is it of higher or lower quality compared to the average?
• The fourth and final measure tracks improvement throughout the course of the semester. If
I have seen no strong evidence that you have spent time working with my corrections and
trying to understand why I have done the editing and commenting that I have, then your
grade is likely to be lower than otherwise. If I have seen evidence to the contrary that you
have made efforts to improve your work, then this will likewise be reflected in your grade.
On that note, if, in looking at a revision, I see that you have repeated errors that I corrected
in the first draft and commented on in my remarks, or if you have not made revisions that I
called for, then I will not read your revised draft, and your overall grade for the assignment
will be that of the first draft.
Your success in this course, as in your work outside the university, will depend in good part on your
ability to follow instructions and specifications. If an assignment arrives to me formatted differently
in any respect from the specifications given above, I will not read it, and it will earn a D. If a paper
comes to me with footnotes or citations that are otherwise inappropriate to the format of the
assignment (see Citation below), I will not read it, and it will earn a D. If a 500-word paper comes to
me at 450 words or at 550 words, I will not read it, and it will earn a D. Please follow carefully the
instructions that come with each assignment, and I will gladly read your work and help you improve
it. Disregard these instructions, and I will not.
Plagiarism I assume that you have already been instructed in the University’s plagiarism policy. If
you have not, please refer to this web site: http://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/
Econ 479, Section 6 Spring 2013 syllabus, 3
Plagiarism is intellectual property theft, meaning that it is a crime, and the university has severe
strictures against it. Among them is the risk of earning an E for the course. Do not try to hand in a
paper written for this course by someone else, and do not try to pass someone else’s work as your
own. If you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, do not hesitate to ask me.
Evidence and Citation This course requires you to communicate your opinions on a certain set of
topics about which the discipline of economics has something to say. An opinion, of course, is not
enough; a winning argument is backed by evidence, data, statistics, and authority.
If you say that cutting taxes will lift the economy out of recession, you need to offer some sort of
proof that this is true. If you say that the income tax is too high compared to the tax rates of other
industrial nations, then show me actual numbers. If you assert that a certain nationality’s workforce
is the best in the world, define and quantify the word “best.” In this world, you cannot expect to be
accepted on faith alone, but you can certainly expect to be taken seriously if you approach your
arguments seriously. Taking care to argue with the force of evidence is proof, among other things,
that your arguments are in fact serious, and not mere assertions of what you believe to be true.
Your assignments will not call for footnotes or parenthetical citations; indeed, I will not read a paper
that comes in with them, and it will earn an automatic D. In the real world, only formal reports come
with such things; op-ed pieces do not, speeches certainly do not (for how can you hear a footnote
number?), and most other kinds of business writing do not.
For the purposes of this class, forget that you know how to use a footnote—which does not mean that
you do not have to cite your sources. That is to say, your assignments will call for research, the
consideration of expert opinion, and the use of good, solid, accurate data. That research and the
enlistment of good data and outside opinion, all of which add weight to the opinions you venture,
can be acknowledged without footnotes in the following manner:
• “As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2007, unemployment increased by 5 percent in the
first quarter of that year.”
• “As Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, told reporters last August, the fundamentals of
the economy remain strong.”
• “In his influential book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith advances the idea that a metaphorical
invisible hand guides the market.”
• “The famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith once observed that the state has a responsibility to
provide for the welfare of its citizens.”
Inserting your sources into an argument in this way makes your argument all the stronger. Who,
after all, dares contest the wisdom of such important thinkers and data sets? The idea is to shore up
your opinion to the point that it is unassailable. Outside of academia and the law, such shoring up
takes place outside of footnotes. To repeat: We will not use footnotes, bibliographies, or other formal
citations in this course.
Econ 479, Section 6 Spring 2013 syllabus, 4
The Seven-Day Cycle We are on a seven-day cycle in this course: You receive an assignment from
me, seven days later you turn it in, seven days later I return it to you, seven days later you return a
revision to me, seven days later I return that revision to you, and the cycle begins anew.
I suggest that you manage your time during that first seven-day cycle in this way.
Day 1: You receive the assignment. Read it. Do you understand what you’re being asked to do? If not,
Day 2: Do nothing. Allow the assignment to rattle around in your brain, meeting other facts and
opinions that you have stored there. I don’t want to sound too mystical, but this subconscious work
is an important part of thinking and writing.
Day 3: Collect thoughts and information. Honor the rule of three: Your argument gains strength if
you can come up with three reasons to support the position you’re taking. If I were arguing against
federal subsidies for corn ethanol, for example, I might say  Corn production would be better used
for animal feed or to feed human beings;  Sugarcane, used in near-energy-independent Brazil, is a
more efficient source of bioethanol than is corn, and switchgrass or some other fast-growing plant
can better be used in the Northern Hemisphere; and  It is inherently inefficient to spend more
energy producing energy than that energy is worth, which is the case in converting corn biomass to
fuel for vehicles.
So, on Day 3, decide on the position you’re going to take, come up with three reasons to support it,
and find supporting data and opinion for those three reasons.
As I have said, I will ask you to use economic concepts to guide your arguments. On Day 3, you will also
want to decide what economic concept best fits the case you are making. See the blog for more on
Day 4: Write a first draft. You’ve done a surprising amount of the heavy lifting already. The writing
should come easily, at least relative to other methods of composition.
Day 5: Do nothing. Let the draft sit. Let it get cold after the white heat of writing.
Day 6: Read the first draft aloud, or, better, have someone read it to you while you follow along
onscreen or with a printed copy. Make note of places where you stumble. Those are places that need
work. Write a second draft, taking pains to address those problem areas. Read it aloud again. Are
there any places where you stumble? Fix them.
Day 7: Read your work over one last time. Does it read fluently? Are there any errors that need to be
fixed? If the answers are yes and no, send it to me. If the answers are no and yes, give it one more
round of revision. Then send it to me—as always, no later than 5:00 PM on the due date.
I hope that you will enjoy and profit from this course, and I look forward to working with you.
Econ 479, Section 6 Spring 2013 syllabus, 5