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

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