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Economic liberalism holds that society is better off if people enjoy economic freedom. Its critics point to what they believe this position ignores or what it wrongly assumes, and hence, how it would make bad policy. This course explores the relationship between politics and economics by surveying influential works of political economy. Its first part examines major thinkers in relation to the historical development of capitalism in Western Europe and the United States: the classical liberalism of Adam Smith, Karl Marx’s revolutionary socialism, and the reformist ideas of John Maynard Keynes. The second part considers mid-20th-century writers who revise and critique economic liberalism from a variety of perspectives, including Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Arthur Okun, and Albert O. Hirschman. The third part surveys significant recent contributions relevant to the themes of the course, with applications to current public policy issues, including topics such as: power relations and autonomy in the workplace; asymmetric information and social insurance; economic inequality and distributive justice; equality of opportunity; the economics of health care; positional goods and the moral foundations of capitalism; economic nationalism and new trade theory; behavioral economics; climate change and intergenerational equity; finance and financial crises; and rent-seeking. The combination of the historical focus of the early part of the course with discussion of modern policy issues and debates in the latter part of the course permits you to appreciate the ongoing dialogue between classical and contemporary views of political economy.
Format: lecture; Lectures recorded for viewing prior to class sessions; discussion in separate sections for in-person and remote students. Section 01 (afternoon) is in-person and section R2 (evening) is remote. Cap for both sections combined is 25. Students taking the class in-person should register for 01, and students taking the class remotely should register for R2. We will allow enrollment to be unbalanced between the two sections subject to the constraint that the total number of students cannot exceed 25.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
six short essays, several short homework assignments, and a final exam
ECON 110 and 120 or equivalent; PSCI 201, 202, 203, or 204 (may be taken concurrently with POEC 250); open to non-majors
Political Economy majors and sophomores intending a Political Economy major
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
POEC Required Courses