PUBPOL 304: Economics of the Public Sector

This course covers the basic economics of the public sector, including:

  • Introduction to the scale and relevance of public finance;
  • Implications of taxation (income/consumption/investment/etc.) and the sources of public funding;
  • Specific applications related to insurance, e.g. medical care, safety nets, environmental risk exposure;
  • Theories, issues and policies related to income redistribution across time and individuals;
  • The economics of regulation, regulatory capture and leakage;
  • Systems of property rights, and public goods; and
  • Justification and use of economic cost-benefit analysis

The focus throughout will be on developing analytical concepts in a way that will help you think about and conduct analysis of public policy issues. We will discuss applications to both domestic and international issues, although many examples presented in lecture will have a global theme.

The required course readings include textbook readings plus a number of supplementary articles. My expectation is that you will come to class prepared to discuss these readings. Occasionally I have listed optional reading that are in no way required but that may be of interest for students wanting to dig deeper into particular issues.

To prepare for the class discussions of assignments, you will need to have completed and submitted them on time. We will then discuss together the economic and other policy issues raised in the case. I am hoping that you will enjoy these discussions and will find the associated work to be an enriching though challenging complement to the required readings in the course.

I will assume that all students have had an introductory microeconomics course and are familiar with basic concepts from that course, as well as from PPS 55. We will use little or no math other than basic algebra, graphs and calculations that can be done on a spreadsheet. You should keep your text books and notes from those courses handy so you can review basic analytical concepts as they come up again in this course. Students with a weak background in economics are strongly encouraged to meet with the TAs when concepts are not clear.

Syllabus Example – Fall 2012