Monday, December 6, 2010

Hayek Ch. 14

MBN 30 Globalization

200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

Last Class

We will have our final class meeting of the semester tonight. I will complete discussion of immigration and health care. I will also discuss the final exam for a few minutes. I will make myself available after class for further questions.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Immigration Movies

From Sojourners, a list of movies dealing with immigration.
I just watched "Entre Nos" recently and very much enjoyed it.
Other immigration movies I liked include:

The Visitor

District 9
Children of Men
Planet 51
and, of course:
South Park: Goobacks

Immigration this week

Hey, folks,
I know things are winding down. There are still two weeks in the semester. I will finish discussing health care this week and introduce a discussion on immigration.
There were several key points in last week's lecture, so get the notes if you left early.
Also, immigration is an issue which I am very passionate about, and hope to get your feedback on.
Finally, I will pass out teacher-evaluations before break Monday night. I value your comments more than anything, so feel free to take time before Monday to prepare your thoughts before putting them on the evaluation forms.

A Farewell to Jobs

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lobbying and Body Scanners

USA Today has the article:
Body scanner makers doubled lobbying cash over 5 years

Is this a bootleggers and baptists story or not?

Monday, November 8, 2010


Or, internalizing externalities.
You can learn more about Oakridge, Oregon, and how they are engaging in enviro-capitalism here.

Crisis of Abundance Resources

To hear Arnold Kling discuss his book, and to hear others ask him questions about it you can listen to this Econtalk podcast (you may have noticed I am a big fan..)

you can listen to or watch this CATO event where pointed criticisms are made of his conclusions, though most agreed about his assessment of the situation.

Greenhouse Economics

Hayek, Why the Worst Get on Top

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hasnas' Rule

What I think he is saying is that the market produces a particular set of outcomes. When those outcomes are not to someone’s satisfaction, they can engage as an entrepreneur to change market conditions, or they can appeal to legislation to change the climate. If we look carefully at legislation, we can uncover the market conditions which existed prior to that legislation. The legislation will be more or less explicit about the new set of conditions it is attempting to create, and/or the set of conditions it was attempting to adjust. Often times legislation is very explicit concerning the conditions it found unsatisfactory. In these cases we can just read the legislation and show the set of market conditions it describes. This is one way to learn what markets can do. I find Hasnas’ Rule very compelling, interesting, and a novel way of investigating what market conditions are like. This rule further provides a tool for understanding what market conditions were like in older societies, where the market might not ever have been described, but where legislation did exist. We can read that legislation and learn something about the way markets have operated in different places and times.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hmmm... It's not always a B&B story...

One of your colleagues shares this report from the Washington Examiner: Baptists & Bootleggers: Red-light-camera manufacturers lobby for red-light cameras.
There's only one problem. This isn't a good Bootleggers and Baptists story.
The Examiner jumped to conclusions in making its analysis. Actually, I think the staffer probably had recently read something about Baptists and Bootleggers and went looking for an example of the phenomenon. (Heh. That's what you were doing, too.)
Merely identifying providers of cameras as employing a profit motive is insufficient grounds for employing this paradigm. Both sides to a transaction within the marketplace are also employing the profit motive.
The question is whether the same transaction could have happened in the marketplace? B&B stories require the government to broker an agreement because there are third parties who are harmed by the legislation. In the basic B&B story, alcohol consumers are harmed.
But in the red-light story, everyone is better off.
In the end, this is actually a better example of the difficult of providing public goods as compliments to goods which fall into the commons.

An excellent final exam multiple choice question might ask: Which of the following is NOT a good example of the Bootleggers and Baptists phenomenon?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing Assignment 2

Get me some numbers.

Last week I walked though one example of using basic economic tools and a little math to try to figure out how much trash the US would produce in twenty years.

I'd like for you to do something similar, but unique. For example: how much does it cost to recycle a can?

How much does it cost to house a drug dealer in jail?

How long will it take for the Gulf of Mexico to clean itself of oil?

How many trees are planted every year?

I don't want a list of answers to these questions. I want answers to your questions.
If you plan to write a paper instead of taking the final exam, use this as an opportunity to collect and share data you plan to use for that paper.

I don't want perfect calculations, just rough "back-of-the-envelope" type estimations, but interesting ones.

See what you can come up with. I will post interesting results on the blog.

If nothing else, you might have something interesting to talk about over Thanksgiving break...


We might not get a chance to discuss recycling in depth.

This podcast between Mike Munger (Duke) and Russ Roberts (GMU) digs into the issue in a fun, lighthearted manner.

Baptists and Bootleggers Build a Prison;

for illegal immigrants.
The Bootleggers: The private prison corporation.
The Baptists: People who want fewer immigrants.
The policy: AZ SB 1070.

Read the article and listen here.

Hayek Ch. 9

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Presentation of Miller Benjamin North Chapter 21

Please take the time to watch this presentation regarding The Political Economy of Collapsing Bridges:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Extra Credit Opportunity

Our next topic is environmental policy.
There are to be some lectures this week on campus related to environmental awareness. Among these is this event.

Annie Leonard, environmental activist and author of The Story of Stuff will be giving a free public lecture on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM in the JC Cinema. Interested in the environmental and health costs of consumption, Annie Leonard traces the journey of our stuff from manufacturing to disposal. A reception and book signing will follow the formal lecture, which is sponsored by the CHSS Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative, COS, and the Office of Sustainability.

For more information, contact the Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) office at or 703-993-4556.

I can't go, my daughter has an orthodontist appointment. But I wish I could. So, if you go, and provide a write-up of what happens, I will give you 5 extra credit points towards the midterm exam.
FYI, I have heard that several econ graduate students will be there to provide some fireworks. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Economics is written in a mixture of algebra, geometry, and prose. It is easy to see when an algebraic equation or graph is done wrong. The particular attraction of these forms of mathematics and their application in economics is the precision they provide to analysis. To draw a graph with the wrong shaped curves is to get a part of the grammar of the geometry wrong. Everyone in economics expects to have a graph improperly drawn marked off when graded.
Likewise, then with the grammar in our prose. I mentioned that several of the first books I read in economics contained no math whatsoever. Suppose the grammar in those books had been fraught with errors. They would have failed to be convincing. Sloppy graphs, sloppy algebra, and sloppy prose all signal sloppy thinking.
Math is a skill that has to be practiced for proficiency, and writing is the same. It is just as important that your writing be clear as it is that your graphs be drawn correctly, and that your algebra be valid.
The university offers free services to help with writing. You should take advantage of these. You should always, ALWAYS! have at least one other person proofread your work before turning it in.
I will tend to be more lenient on tests and other in-class work, but writing assignments with two week deadlines should be turned in completely error free.

A Few Thoughts

1. One of your colleagues generated a twitter account which can notify you whenever I post new content to the blog. This prevents you from having too check so often if I have not posted anything new. The account is:

2. After sharing my "rant" last night with some fellow econ-geeks they think that I was not out of line at all, if anything, right on the money, if only a bit rhetorical in my presentation, which makes things a little more entertaining. I have posted the rant on my other, non-class-related, permanent blog:

3. I have received most of your papers already. For those of you who turned in late, or haven't turned in yet at all, I am taking 1% off the grade for every hour it is late. That gives you practically 4 and a half days to turn it in for some credit still. I find that imposing a real increasing marginal cost creates the right incentives for students to get things done quickly.

4. Presentation:
Here is the last student-produced video for this week's material.

5. My videos. I managed to get a couple of more videos uploaded last night. (Groan) You will be responsible for all material covered in these. There are a few more things I would like to say about antitrust, but they will have to wait until after the exam. You should all have had sufficient exposure to Hayek's Use of Knowledge in Society by now, but I may still post my thoughts on the last portion of that essay at some point today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lecture Videos

You can watch and re-watch these as often as you find necessary.

Stay tuned as I update with more videos.


The Firm Part I

The Firm, Part II

Hayek's Use of Knowledge In Society, Part I

Hayek's Use of Knowledge In Society, Part II
(not yet uploaded)

Antitrust, Part I

Antitrust Part II

Antitrust Part III
(not yet uploaded)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reading # 16, New Link

The link for reading #16, Ungenerous Endowments, on the syllabus does not work.
Here is one that does, thanks to one of your resourceful colleagues.

Notes on the Exam:

1. There will be three sections. Multiple choice, Short answer, and Essay.

2. It should take you 1.5 hours to complete.

3. It will cover the readings and lecture notes.

- End of chapter questions in Miller Benjamin North are good practice.
- Daily quizzes should provide an idea of what kind of question I like to ask.
- I think BOTH the Bootleggers and Baptists, AND the Use of Knowledge in Society are very important for EVERYONE to know.

That's all for now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Miller, Benjamin, North Chapter 10

Please take the time to watch the video below.
We will also have an in-class presentation tomorrow.

Midterm: October 18

Yup, you read that right.
We will have our midterm on October the 18th. It should take the first 1.5 hours of class. We will have lecture after the midterm.
If you have questions about the exam, email them to me, and I will post relevant answers here on the blog for all to see.

Also, I'm thinking of doing a video-lecture for class next week, Oct 12.
The plan will be for each of you to watch the video lecture (about 2 hours long) in advance. I will divide the class into 3 groups. Then, on the night of the 12th, each group will be responsible to come in for 40 minutes for a discussion and question and answer time.
I want this time to be used to discuss the new material, but I will also save a few minutes to answer questions about the exam.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not What We Had In Mind

When a law is passed to prevent a behavior that is found offensive or problematic it is not always effective. Sometimes such a law will merely cause people to be more sneaky about the behavior. For example, drinking is illegal for people ages 18-20. Most college students fall into this range. Do students therefore abstain from drinking? No. College and alcohol have a very close relationship. Where the rules are more strictly enforced, harder liquor is drunk, and when drinking does occur it is more likely to be in excess.
Well, many states are now passing laws prohibiting texting while driving. What do you think the consequences of such a law might be?
Here is one report:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Link to Yandle on Econtalk

This is the podcast I would like for you all to listen to.
Econtalk with Bruce Yandle and Russ Roberts

Writing Assignment #1

You may choose either topic. Please type a 3-5 page response and email it to me by Tuesday, October 12, by Midnight.

A) Pick a policy issue which illustrates the bootleggers and Baptists story. Who is who? What enables the persistence of the relationship?

B) Reviewing Hayek's Use of Knowledge in Society: What is the role of prices in a market economy? How might a price control in the market for gasoline impact other markets? What gets lost?

Yandle at Reason

A Question From the Crowd:

One of your colleagues emails this question, which I try to answer:

Q: You mentioned that last night you agreed with legalizing prostitution and drugs. I understand your reasoning but I had a quick question. I have yet to make a decision on those matters. Sure, the quality of those illegal goods would be better (purer drugs with less harmful substances and less vd in brothels) but wouldn't the quantity increase? If that is the case, wouldn't the question be between fewer low quality drugs/prostitutes or higher quality drugs/prostitutes. Or is that over simplifying the matter at hand. (I do understand that there will always be prostitution and drugs no matter what the government tries to do)
Does that make sense?

A: On this one I had to get out paper and pencil and draw the graph. Hehe! You should do this, too.

Draw a supply and demand graph.
Now show a second supply curve, to the left of the original supply curve.
The first curve was the un-regulated market for prostitutes.
The second curve shows the new equilibrium quantity and price for prostitutes.
The cost of evading the police is what forced the Supply curve inward (upward).
Consumer surplus has gotten smaller.
Price has risen.
Quantity has fallen.
There is a deadweight loss triangle.
Some of the previous consumer surplus is now being spent evading the police.
Some of the previous producer surplus is now spent evading the police.
But: The police don't have to be evaded if they can be paid, and if pimps can pay the police, then they might not have to pay them the full amount of the costs, so they get to keep some money derived from higher prices for themselves.
Also: The pimps get this money, not the prostitutes. The pimps are necessary because they have a comparative advantage in dealing with the police, while prostitutes are not as good at dealing with the police.
If prostitution were legal, there would be no need for police-relations specialists. Instead of working for pimps, prostitutes would hire off-duty cops to work security for them.

So, basically you are right. With prostitution legalized, there will be more prostitution.
Whether this is normatively good or bad economics does not say.
But, with prostitution legalized pimps are out of business, as are human traffickers.
The proceeds (surpluses) are all split between the prostitutes and their clients.
There is less abuse of prostitutes.
The incentives to enslave young and helpless people to sell for sex are removed.

You might draw another graph, the market for pimps.
When prostitution is made illegal the demand for pimps increases dramatically.
Pimping is then a complimentary good (or a factor of production) for the market for prostitutes, which is what pushes the supply curve inward in the market for prostitution.
Legalizing prostitution eliminates the market for pimps, and the force pushing the supply curve inward in the market for prostitution.

More Sex Is Better From the Horse's Mouth.

Ummm... that didn't sound quite right...
Here is a link to Steven Landsburg's Slate article explaining why More Sex Is Safer Sex.

Career Services Information

I encourage all of you to take a look at Career Services. They can help advise you in such a way that you are better prepared to enter the workforce once you have finished your degree.
Click here to get a copy of the handout.
I have reproduced the handout below, but I don't think the links will work. If you open the word document the links should be fine.

What can I do with this degree?
On-line resources for Economics majors:

Mason career planning and job or internship search services:
Fall 2010 Job and Internship Fair, October 6 & 7, 11 -4 pm.
On Campus Interviews, see HIREMASON,

Banking and Finance:
Marketing Research:
Operations Research:

Career Publications for Economics majors, Mason Career Services Library

1. College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs, Eds., Fogg, Harrington and Harrington. Chapter 17 Economics

2. Top Careers for Economic Graduates, Checkmark Books

3. Great Jobs For Economics Majors Blythe Camenson, see Appendix A, p. 214

Tax administrator
Bank examiner
Transportation specialist
Bank research analyst
Bond trader
Commodities Broker/stockbroker
Loan counselor
Portfolio Administrator
Database Administrator
Estate planner
Labor economist
Business Manager
Health policy planner
Benefits analyst
Claims adjuster
Resource Economist
Market research analyst
Sales representative
Budget Officer
Urban/regional planner
Technical writer
Financial reporter

Professional Associations for Economists
• Professional Associations for Economists:
• American Economic Association
• Resources for Economists on the Web
• National Economic Association
• National Economists Club
• National Association for Business Economics
• Women in International Trade
• Economic institutions and research centers worldwide (Univ. Connecticut)
• Inomics EconDirectory
• Job Openings for Economists

Government Jobs and Agencies
• Hot Jobs and Cool Internships
• Where the Jobs Are report on federal hiring
• US Office of Personnel Management
• Internal Revenue Service
• National Bureau of Labor Statistics
• US Department of Commerce
• Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
• Securities and Exchange Commission

International Development Resources
• Society for International Development DC Chapter, annual career fair for International Development, October 8, 2010
• Resources for Jobs in Economics/International Development (The Riley Guide)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sex, Craigslist, Prohibition

How can the number of individuals in sex slavery be most effectively reduced?
There was recently some controversy regarding Craigslist's Personal Advertisements.

From the Washington Post:
Craig Newmark was all over Twitter on Friday, as he is most days, yakking about Android, re-tweeting about Bart Simpson in summer school, reminding his 24,000 followers to vote to end world poverty. He engaged with friends and strangers alike.
MC is still waiting to hear from him.

Newmark is the founder of the worldwide online bazaar Craigslist. MC is a 17-year-old girl who says she was repeatedly sold for sex through ads on Craigslist. In open letters published as newspaper ads, she has beseeched Newmark to shut down the site's lucrative "adult services" section, which law-enforcement officials and advocates say facilitates prostitution and child trafficking.

"I was first forced into prostitution when I was 11 years old by a 28-year-old man," she wrote. "I am not an exception."

The sex-selling ads have been controversial for years, and after threats of legal action from 43 state's prosecutors, Craigslist agreed to police them. But patience appears to be wearing thin, and the new scrutiny is creating a public relations nightmare for Craigslist and Newmark, once celebrated as the creator of an online Utopia.
This week brought increased pressure. Friday morning, MC's "Dear Craig" plea appeared in a half-page ad in The Washington Post, along with the account of AK, who said she had been sold for sex by the hour at truck stops, 10 hours with 10 different men each night. Friday afternoon, a federal judge in South Carolina threw out a lawsuit in which Craigslist had tried to stop authorities from investigating whether it has a role in prostitution; and by Friday night, Connecticut's attorney general had called for Craigslist to shut down its "adult section" site completely. Earlier in the week, CNN aired video of a reporter ambushing Newmark, who was unable to muster a response when confronted with ads that depicted girls being offered for sex.

The company says it uses comprehensive monitoring to bar sex ads and works with law enforcement officials to help them arrest perpetrators. Although most of the site is free, posting an "adult services" ad costs $10, and that section on the site will bring in about $36 million in revenue this year, about a third of the company's total, according to an analysis by the Advanced Interactive Media Group.

Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist's chief executive, said his firm is the wrong target.

"Like the criticisms that has been leveled against the Washington Post for its adult services ads," he wrote in an e-mail, "scapegoating advertising services is a very unfortunate misdirection of attention and energy from the tough choices, hard work, and significant investments required for addressing actual causes of, and making actual progress against the scourges of trafficking and child exploitation."

Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for The Post, said the newspaper does "not knowingly accept advertisements from businesses engaged in illegal activities," and has long "required massage parlors to produce copies of valid business licenses before we will publish their advertisements."

Andrea Powell, head of Fair Fund, a District-based group that works with girls and teens who have been sold for sex, calls Craigslist "the Wal-Mart of online sex trafficking." She said most of the young people she works with are sold through the site, which has 20 billion page views a month. Her organization was one of the groups that paid for the Post ad and vouched for the women's stories; AK has met with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Powell said.

"They are aiding and abetting the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and for that reason, they should take it down," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), whose Bay Area district includes Craiglist's headquarters. Speier has called for the firm to get out of the sex-ad business, as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) did Friday.

Powell and Malika Saada Saar, who heads the District-based Rebecca Project, said online pimps stay one step ahead of attempts to monitor their online activity. They said pimps drop the word "innocent" from an ad intended to appeal to a pedophile, for instance, and replace it with a new code word. "Young," "new to town," and "fresh" are common code words, the women said.

On Friday, on the Washington area Craigslist adult services section, more than 600 ads contained one of those descriptions.

From Politico:
Craigslist is defending its former adult services site, saying it considers the site’s shutdown “a step backward” in preventing future child sex trafficking.

But the company doesn’t plan to re-open the now-censored portion of the site any time soon.

“We do not have any intention to restore the [adult services] category,” William Clint Powell, the company’s director of customer service and law enforcement relations, told the House Judiciary Crime subcommittee, which is examining child sex trafficking.

“Taking that step may be a step backward in terms of addressing the core causes of the issue,” he added, because criminals are now using other web sites that are not as well regulated.

The company, under pressure from government officials, started manually reviewing every ad posted on the site in May 2009 to go after pimps looking for customers there.

Those efforts weren’t enough, however. After criticism from several attorneys general, like Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, the company took down the adult services site on Sept. 3, replacing it with a sole word: “Censored.”

Craigslist lawyer Elizabeth McDougall criticized the shutdown, which she said was prompted by intense public pressure and requests from attorneys general.

“A lot of advocacy groups think that taking down adult services was the wrong thing to do,” she said. “It’s much more difficult to find the victims now dispersed on these other sites that are noncooperative. Craigslist made this decision to do it here but that does not mean it’s the company position that this is the right move.”

The appearances break the company’s silence over the past year, as it has faced mounting criticism from law enforcement officials and advocacy groups. That criticism came to a head this summer, when the company was summoned to Washington to speak with White House and Justice Department officials.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Attendance!!!! And a video

Please watch these videos by your colleagues, Zheng, Lang, Jorge Osuna, Carlos Landazuri, and Michael Fitzsimmons, and leave a brief comment to verify you watched them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More Peltzman

From Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution:
The Peltzman Effect

The NHTSA had volunteers drive a test track in cars with automatic lane departure correction, and then interviewed the drivers for their impressions. Although the report does not describe the undoubted look of horror on the examiner’s face while interviewing one female, 20-something subject, it does relay the gist of her comments.

After she praised the ability of the car to self-correct when she drifted from her lane, she noted that she would love to have this feature in her own car. Then, after a night of drinking in the city, she would not have to sleep at a friend’s house before returning to her rural home.

From CSV. The Peltzman effect doesn't mean that improvements in safety are always negated but it does remind us that we can never ignore the human response.

Reverse Peltzman Effect

A.K.A. Alchian's Response to Peltzman:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where Does Law Come From?

Please read this article by Bruce Benson in the Freeman for a more in-depth analysis of the origins of law and the importance of the Common Law.

Lecture at Home, Discuss During the Day

I hope to give this a shot before the semester is over.

instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.

Lectures at night, “homework” during the day. Call it the Fisch Flip.

“When you do a standard lecture in class, and then the students go home to do the problems, some of them are lost. They spend a whole lot of time being frustrated and, even worse, doing it wrong,” Fisch told me.

“The idea behind the videos was to flip it. The students can watch it outside of class, pause it, replay it, view it several times, even mute me if they want,” says Fisch, who emphasises that he didn’t come up with the idea, nor is he the only teacher in the country giving it a try. “That allows us to work on what we used to do as homework when I’m they’re to help students and they’re there to help each other.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rinkonomics, Spontaneous Order

John Stossel demonstrates Dan Klein's principle of Spontaneous Order in this video. Enjoy.

Ethanol Madness

Friday, September 10, 2010

Steven Landsburg

If you enjoyed the chapter from this week's reading in The Armchair Economist you might be interested in his blog, and in this set of videos where he, among other things, explains why more sex is safer sex.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What you Don't Know You Don't Know

I'm going to discuss this in class tomorrow, but this post explains the concept perfectly.

Also, we should probably have a little discussion about Grade Inflation:


I'd like for each of you to post a comment here as a way for me to be sure you have found your way to this site. When you post a comment it will ask for your email address and a username. You can make up an anonymous username if you like, I will be able to tell it is you from your email, so long as you use your gmu email address.
Thank you!

John Stossel's RTS Special

John Stossel, an investigative reporter formerly on ABC's 20/20 show, has a special on the Road to Serfdom which you can watch on YouTube. Recommended viewing, could help your understanding of the book.

Reader's Digest version of The Road to Serfdom

For those of you completely unacquainted with the work of F.A. Hayek you might like to look at this condensed version of The Road to Serfdom. The relevant portion is on pp. 31 - 63. This does not excuse you from reading the full text when it is assigned, but it will help you get ready. You can save the pdf to your computer and print it if you like.

Can Prevent Grade Inflation

During the first class we should have a short discussion about grade inflation.
Related to this discussion should be an understanding of the value of an undergraduate education, and how that value can be protected or eroded.
In preparation, please take a look at these articles.
"Who Really Failed?" by Scott Jaschik.
and the section under "1." at this post by Arnold Kling.

Friday, August 20, 2010


You may download a word doc of your syllabus here.

ECON 309-02, Economic Problems and Public Policy
Fall 2010, Nathanael Snow

About the Instructor:
Office: Enterprise 349 (cubicle outside of)
Office hours: Immediately after class or by appointment

About the course:
Mondays 7:10-10:00 (we will take a 10-15 minute break around the 8:30 mark)
Robinson Hall B203

Economics 309, while taught in the economics department by economists, is a synthesis course. The goal of this course is to prepare students to consider policy problems primarily from the perspective of political economist. In order to do this we will explore several different bodies of theory. The first is that of the market process and market institutions, that is, economic theory. The second is a rational-choice or economically minded approach to politics and political institutions. Third, we will address ethical problems of economics and political theory, as well as implications for public policy. Fourth, we will explore the role of economists in the shaping and propagating of public policy. The rest of the course will be applied and will consist of examining real-world economic problems and proposed policy solutions.

Required Texts:

Roger Miller, Daniel Benjamin, Douglass North. The Economics of Public Issues.
F.A. Hayek. The Road to Serfdom.
Steven Landsburg. The Armchair Economist.
Arnold Kling, Crisis of Abundance
Lant Pritchett. Let Their People Come.*

Optional Supplemental Text:

Thomas Rustici, N. Snow, C. Milton, Microeconomics, a Free Market Approach.

*Download online at

There will be additional readings either handed out or posted at the blog.
Class Blog:

Grading Scheme:
Total Points: 100
Top five pop quizzes: 3 points each. [15].
Two short writing (3 pages): 10 points each. [20]
Oral Presentation. 5 points. (5 minutes): [5]
Mid-term. 25 points. [25]
Final exam. OR Class paper (15-20 pages) with permission of instructor. 35 points. [35]

Project option: The project option is open to any student that desires to take 15% of the course weight off their final exam. If the student chooses this option, their final exam is weighted at only 20% instead of 35%, and the project is worth 15%. The project includes a physical tour of both the national Archives and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and a written analysis approximately 5-7 pages in length. Students electing this option should inform the instructor as soon as possible.

Quizzes will be given at the beginning of most classes. Each quiz will be worth three points, and will test knowledge of the assigned readings. Short writing assignments, on topics to be announced. Synthesis courses require written, analytical, and oral demonstration of mastery. For this course, oral presentation will involve a 5 minute presentation of material from the readings. You may do this live in class, or you may choose to record a you-tube video which will be shown in class.

There will be two exams, a one-hour mid-term conducted around the eighth class session, and a two-hour final exam conducted during the regular final exam period. Students may also, with the instructor’s consent, write a class paper. Those intending to write a class paper should inform the instructor of this by the time of the mid-term exam.


Introduction: Multiple dimensions of public policy, syllabus, course overview
About 2 class periods

Foundations: Markets, Politics, Public Choice, Ethics
About7 class periods

Policy Discussions and Analysis: Environmentalism and recycling, Healthcare, Industrial Regulation, Subsidies, Drugs, Foreign Aid, Antitrust, International Trade, Immigration, others.
About 7 class periods

To be assigned, announced in class, and posted on the blog. You should check the blog regularly.
Additionally, there may be a few online videos you will be expected to watch, and a podcast or two you will be required to listen to.
There is a reading chart on the downloadable version of this syllabus.
You might notice that there are 874 pages of reading for this course. That is a lot, and I will be assigning extra reading and videos/podcasts as well. 874 works out to 63 pages a week, or less than 10 pages a day, if you keep up with it. Most of the reading is interesting, and easy to get through.

Among readings not in the texts are the following, which you should be able to find online, there are links provided in the downloadable version.

1. I, Pencil, Leonard Read

2. Rinkonomics, Daniel Klein

3. Puzzling Questions, Henry Grady Weaver (pp.11-21)

4. The Formation and Function of Prices, Hans Sennholz

5. The Use of Knowledge In Society, F.A. Hayek

6. Not Yours to Give, Davy Crockett

7. The Social Responsibility of Business, Milton Friedman

8. Antitrust, Fred McChesney

9. To Drill or Not to Drill, Dwight Lee

10. The Endangered Species Act, Richard Stroup
11. Think Globally, Act Irrationally: Recycling, Michael Munger

12. Petition of the Candlemakers, Bastiat

13. The Balance of Trade, Bastiat

14. Theory, Evidence, and Examples…, The Independent Institute

15. On Foreign Trade, David Ricardo (7.11-7.19)

16. Ungenerous Endowments, The Economist

17. Profit and Loss, Ludwig von Mises

18. Morality as Cooperation, Peter Boettke

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Course reading:
The following books are assigned and required for the course. There will be a significant number of other readings assigned and posted on this blog. You should make visiting the blog a regular practice.
Additionally I will ask you to watch some videos and listen to some audio podcasts to supplement course lecture. Among my favorite sources is Econtalk, a podcast produced by GMU professor Russ Roberts.

Roger Miller, Daniel Benjamin, Douglass North. The Economics of Public Issues.

F.A. Hayek. The Road to Serfdom.*

Lant Pritchett. Let Their People Come.**

Steven Landsburg. The Armchair Economist.*

Arnold Kling. Crisis of Abundance.

* Any edition.

**Download online for free here.

The following texts are available through Amazon for the Kindle, or at Barnes and Noble for the Nook as well. If you don't have a Kindle or a Nook, you can download the Kindle App or the Nook App for your computer.
The Kindle/Nook prices are usually lower than the price of the book new, but not used, depending on shipping costs. Included are the Kindle prices.
F.A. Hayek. The Road to Serfdom. $9.35
Steven Landsburg. The Armchair Economist. $10.99
Arnold Kling. Crisis of Abundance. $7.20
The following text is available in audiobook format as well.
Hayek's Road to Serfdom is $14.99 at iTunes and it may be cheaper (and drm free) at Amazon. I don't have a problem with you listening to this book rather than reading it, so long as you can absorb the relevant material.
Hint: most mp3 players will let you play the audio at 2x the speed. That turns listening to this book from a 10 hour task into 5 hours. Of course, reading from the printed page is usually even faster, but not advisable while driving...