PHIL 243
The Philosophy, Politics, and Economics of Poverty Fall 2009
Division II
Cross-listed ECON 243 / PSCI 243 / PHIL 243
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

This course will look at poverty in the developed nations from the perspective of three disciplines–philosophy, political science, and economics. Poverty in many of the developed nations has not responded to antipoverty efforts in recent decades. In the United States, for instance, the percentage of people in poverty has remained basically unchanged for forty years, and Americans born poor are much likelier than other Americans to be poor in their adult lives. We will begin by asking what political factors and what philosophical and economic assumptions have shaped these unsuccessful antipoverty efforts since 1970. To what extent has poverty been seen as a function of restricted opportunity? To what degree has poverty been seen as a function of character, culture, and public policy itself? How valid is each of these competing ideas about the causes of poverty, and what are the policy implications of our answer? In short, what can be done to make antipoverty policy more effective? Given that economic inequality has grown during the past four decades, can we define a “just” balance between a market-based allocation of income and the socialist principle of “to each according to his need”? Thinkers to be considered will be drawn from each of the three disciplines. Examples from philosophy are Aristotle, Bentham, Mill, and John Rawls. From economics: Jevons, Samuelson, Nobel laureates Kahneman and Tversky, and Sunstein and Thaler. From the realm of political thought: Michael Harrington, Mary Jo Bane, Charles Murray, and David Ellwood and members the Obama Administration.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 1059
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four 1- to 2-page papers, a midterm, a quiz, a 10-page final paper and thoughtful class participation
Prerequisites: one semester of philosophy and one semester of either political science or economics; while coursework in economics is not a prerequisite, students should be willing to take seriously quantitative approaches to the explanation of human behavior
Enrollment Preferences: current or prospective majors in Philosophy, Political Science or Economics
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ECON 243 Division II PSCI 243 Division II PHIL 243 Division II

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