PSCI 238
Economic Liberalism and Its Critics Fall 2023
Division II
Cross-listed POEC 250 / ECON 299
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

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 Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Arthur Okun, and Albert O. Hirschman. The third part surveys significant topics relevant to the themes of the course, with applications to current public policy issues, 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; social media and addiction; economic nationalism; 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.
The Class: Format: seminar; This course uses a flipped classroom approach. Before each class meeting, students watch a lecture video, and (at least six times) write an essay relating to the assigned reading and video. In-person class time is devoted primarily to Socratic discussion.
Limit: 30
Expected: 25
Class#: 1117
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: six short essays and a final exam
Prerequisites: ECON 110 and 120 or equivalent; PSCI 110 (formerly PSCI 201; may be taken concurrently with POEC 250); open to non-majors
Enrollment Preferences: Political Economy majors and sophomores intending a Political Economy major
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PSCI 238 Division II POEC 250 Division II ECON 299 Division II
Attributes: AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
POEC Required Courses

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