Consuming questions about behaviour

Microeconomic Theory - Microeconomics
May 28, 2004

These two books enter the crowded market of textbooks on intermediate microeconomic theory, in which there are many good products already. Stephen Mathis and Janet Koscianksi's is a new work, while Dominick Salvatore's is a new edition of an established text. Both are clearly written, reliable and well-exampled works in their genre with a fairly conventional structure and content. Neither contains any unusual material for the types of course for which they are intended. They use almost exactly the same six-section structure: an introduction followed by consumer behaviour, firms, markets, factor markets and, finally, general equilibrium.

However, the Mathis and Koscianski book has notable omissions.

It does not contain chapters on welfare economics (public goods and externalities do not appear in the index). It also omits to give an explicit treatment of decision-making in uncertain circumstances despite the implicit intrusion of this into the game-theory section. These omissions may impair its chances of widespread adoption, which is a shame because it presents a judicious balance of theoretical development and illustrative examples. It even shows a welcome sense of humour in the example it uses from football to show use of game theory.

Salvatore's book is of a comparable size but covers a wider range of subjects, and it peppers the chapters with many more illustrative examples.

It is also slightly more student friendly, using a light-green theme to highlight its panel examples, frame its chapter titles and in the text of the chapter sub-headings. It also has a useful list of website links at the end of each chapter.

Inevitably, given the balance of example to theory and the wider range of topics covered, this book does not develop the core theory quite as rigorously as the volume by Mathis and Koscianski. Having said that, it should be emphasised that this is still a solid book that does not cut corners in its attempt to grab students' attention.

Both books, however, continue the unfortunate trend in microeconomics textbooks of handling the concept of consumer surplus with only a very brief, simplified Marshallian approach. Of the two, Salvatore's would seem most likely to meet the typical needs of a course in this field.

Samuel Cameron is reader in economics, Bradford University.

Microeconomic Theory: An Integrated Approach. First edition

Author - Stephen A. Mathis and Janet Koscianski
Publisher - Pearson Education
Pages - 681
Price - £39.99
ISBN - 0 13 011418 9

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