Anthony J Gill
POL S 270
Political economy as a tool for understanding and evaluating the political world. Combines theory, methods, and insights derived from economics and political science and applies them to a range of substantive issues.
Description: This course has two sets of objectives. First, it introduces students to the use of microeconomic reasoning to understand political phenomena. In contrast with explanations that focus on culture or human psychology, some political economists see political behavior as responding to cost-benefit (incentive-based) calculations. Topics covered include rational choice theory, collective choice, collective action, and game theory. In short, students will explore how the assumptions and tools of economic theory have been applied to the study of politics. Second, the course will explore how the theoretical tools discussed in the first part of the class can be applied to the case of economic development. The goal is to juxtapose the importance of economic theory for the study of politics with the importance of politics in the study of economics. Substantive topics to be discussed include environmental issues, economic development in Africa, establishing property rights in the Wild West, sweatshop labor, delivering pizzas, buying popcorn at movies and pirates ... lots and lots of pirates.
Student learning goals
Understand the basics of rational choice theory and be able to apply cost-benefit analysis to a wide range of social behavior.
Become familiar with over 40 important economic concepts (e.g., common pool resources, principal-agent problems) and how they apply to politics and everyday life.
Understand whether markets (prices) or politics (regulation) are better at allocating resources.
Leave the class wanting to tell others what you learned that day. To accomplish this, we use a number of homework assignments that put you into situations where you have to apply various economic concepts. Students actually love the assignments.
Explain why buffalo nearly became extinct, but cattle didn't.
Figure out why pirates used Jolly Roger flags and how this relates to plumbers, doctors, and lawyers.
General method of instruction
Texts: Leeson, The Invisible Hook; Winter, Trade-Offs; Anderson & Hill, The Not So Wild, Wild West; Anderson & Huggins, Greener Than Thou; Hisrshman, Exit, Voice & Loyalty; Bates, Markets and States in Tropical Africa.
Recommended preparation: No prerequisites, but a willingness to attend lecture and section and have fun with economics would also be good to have. A sense of humor and unquenchagle curiosity will do you will in the class as well.
Class assignments and grading
Assignments: Weekly in-class assignments; one mid-term exam; final exam; discussion section participation.
Grading: Two Exams: ~70%; Weekly Assignments ~15%; Class participation: ~15%. Grading criteria subject to change prior to the first day of class. For the online version, class participation will be determined by activity on the online discussion board.