When Henry Ford announced he was going to produce an automobile that would be affordable to the masses, it is doubtful even he realized the far reaching impact such an achievement would have on life in the U.S. and eventually, the world. Ford’s use of mass production strategies to manufacture the Model T revolutionized industrial manufacturing and initiated a new era in personal transportation. This 3-part learning unit provides students with the story of Henry Ford and the Model T from an economics perspective. Parts 1 and 2 explore how the Ford Motor Company successfully introduced mass production strategies to the auto industry. Students learn how specialization and investments in capital (machines, people, etc.) increased productivity and allowed Ford to slash the price of his popular vehicle. Students chart a plan for the assembly line production of bookmarks, test their plan and make recommendations for improvements. Students also explore how Henry Ford used economic incentives to address a problem created by mass production techniques—worker turnover. An optional Part 3 explains how increased productivity resulted in shifts in the supply and demand for the Model T. Students analyze how a variety of non price determinants continue to influence the automobile market today. A wealth of extension activities is provided if additional time is available.
Between the Civil War and World War II, railroads were one of the nation's most important businesses and an integral part of people’s lives. In this lesson, students assume the role of detectives investigating why the rail companies experienced a crisis in the 1960s and what helped the freight transport portion of the business return to profitability later in the same century. Students analyze a set of clues that help them explore the impact of government policies and changes in consumer demand on rail service. They discover that government policies (e.g., regulations, subsidies, and taxes) can have both positive and negative consequences in the marketplace. An interactive activity helps students understand that rail service competes in two different markets—passenger service and hauling freight. Students also learn that railroads and government policies have had to adjust as the transportation industry changed in the second half of the twentieth century.
This lesson is designed to help students explore the issues associated with gasoline prices. The notion that a price is "too high" implies that consumers are being somehow unfairly treated or abused by overzealous corporations. In a market system, producers must compete for consumer dollars, with price determined by the interaction of supply and demand. Under competitive circumstances, we do not consider a price to be too high or somehow unfair; we accept the actions of buyers and sellers as the most efficient method for allocating resources. In other words, if some people want to pay $75 for a ticket to Bruce Springsteen concert, that is their choice. If, however, the market is less than competitive and firms are not competing in a legal way for consumer dollars, we have a situation were prices may actually be "too high." The questions to be addressed in this lesson involve the forces driving the price of gasoline and whether or not the market is competitive. If the market is competitive then the high prices we are experiencing are appropriate given the current levels of supply and demand. If, on the other hand, the market for gasoline is not competitive and firms are artificially manipulating prices, then the current high price may require government action.
The following lessons come from the Council for Economic Education's library of publications. Clicking the publication title or image will take you to the Council for Economic Education Store for more detailed information.
This publication contains 10 lessons that reintroduce an ethical dimension to economics in the tradition of Adam Smith, who believed ethical considerations were central to life.
1 out of 12 lessons from this publication relate to this EconEdLink lesson.