Advanced Economic Policy

Alyssa Schneebaum
Vienna University of Economics and Business, 2019
Level: advanced
Perspective: Other
Topic: Digitalization, industrial policy, macroeconomics
Format: Course description/syllabus
Link: http://www.wu.ac.at/vw1/m/schneebaum

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Advanced Economic Policy

This syllabus was originally taught at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Summer Semester 2019.
Instructor: Alyssa Schneebaum 


Course Summary

The course will teach students to analyze the goals, implementation, and outcomes of economic policy.

This is an advanced Bachelor’s-level class in economic policy. The course will teach students to analyze the goals, implementation, and outcomes of economic policy. The particular topics and policies covered will be selected by the group in the first two weeks of the semester. The class will meet once per week. The first four sessions are based around the instructor’s lecture. Remaining sessions will be structured around a group discussion of assigned readings and presentations and teaching by the students. Along with information based on the main content of the class, students will be encouraged to develop their general academic skills. On the first day of class, the instructor will review the most important aspects of academic writing. A central goal of the course is for students to develop their critical thinking and writing skills, and their ability to present their (written and verbal) academic work in a clear, convincing, and appropriate fashion. These goals will be highlighted throughout the course, and students will be graded in part on their improvement in this regard. The response papers are an excellent way for students to practice honing their academic thinking and writing skills. The students will develop an ability to understand the goals and implementation of economic policy, and analyze its ability to meet said goals.

Assignments and Assessment

Attendance

Attendance and participation are an important part of the course. Participation points will be distributed immediately following class. Students are responsible for all course material, even if they have missed a class. Twice in the semester, students should briefly and informally share with the class something that they have come across that is relevant for the class. This can be a song, a newspaper article, a viral tweet, a political campaign, a video... honestly, whatever. The main idea is that you explain how this thing is connected to concepts and ideas we are discussing in the course and how you understand this thing differently now that you are taking the course.

Response Papers

 Students can write three response papers to weekly readings throughout the semester. The reading for each class should be completed before the class meets. A response paper on a particular reading is due on the day that we discuss the reading in class (the day it is listed below). Response papers must be submitted in class. No late assignments will be accepted for any reason. If your essays run longer than one piece of paper (which they should not), please make the world a better place by stapling your pages together.Here is the grading system for response papers. They should:

  •  correctly and clearly describe what the text is about. This is a 3-4 sentence summary of the main questions, goals, methods, and conclusions of the text.
  •  succinctly and clearly discuss the single most interesting idea or concept introduced in the text, and explains why exactly it is so compelling.
  •  thoroughly discuss what is missing from the text, or how it could be improved. In the first case, the student explains exactly why this missing piece is important and how it would change the analysis; in the second case, the student provides his/her own suggestions for improvement. Keep in mind that the critique should be based on the context of the goals of the paper!
  •  include concepts and ideas discussed in the course and/or from previous readings.
  •  correctly cite the text under discussion.
  •  meet the formal requirements for correct spelling, punctuation, and length.

Group Work

Each group of 3-4 students will pick one of the eight topics decided on by the class, and provide an in-depth analysis of the issue/policy in question. The group is required to present the main ideas from the paper read by the whole class as well as other relevant literature on the topic - at least three extra academic papers per group member. The group will lead much of the class on their assigned day. The requirements for leading the class are to (1) clearly state the economic/social problem, (2) name and briefly discuss several potential solutions and policies to combat it, (3) inform the class on existing implementation of one of the potential policies, (4) report on the effectiveness of the policy selected to study in depth, and (5) suggest necessary amendments to make the policy better. The group should actively teach their classmates in their presentation! The presentation should be creative and engaging – NOT reading from slides while the rest of the class gets bored. The group will also submit a paper covering the same points in written form. The paper should be about ten pages (minimum eight, maximum 12), double-spaced. The paper is the purely academic presentation of your research results; the teaching in class can and should take a less formal form. At the end of the group teaching session, each member of the group will tell me (confidentially) how many points each other group member should receive, out of 5 for the paper and out of 5 for the teaching session. Thus, of the total 50 points for group work, 10 will be determined by the average of the other group members’ ratings.

Course Overview

Schedule of topics covered and mandatory readings 

Session 1 Introduction and overview of the course

  • Course structure; expectations and requirements; goals
  • Foundations of academic work

Session 2 Analyzing Economic Policy, Part I

  • Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson. 2013. “Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 27(2): 173-192.

Session 3 Analyzing Economic Policy, Part II

  • Hayek, F. A. 1945. “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” American Economic Review 35(4): 519-530.

Session 4 An example: Preschool “Effects”

  • Fessler, Pirmin and Alyssa Schneebaum. 2019. “The educational and labor market returns to preschool attendance in Austria.” Applied Economics. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00036846.2019.1584368

Session 5 Migration and the Labor Market

  • Card, David. 1990. “The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market.” ILR Review 43(2): 245-257. https://www.jstor.org/journal/indulaborelarevi

Session 6 Brexit

  • Sampson, Thomas. 2017. “Brexit: The Economics of International Disintegration.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 31(4): 163-184.

Session 7 Demographic Change

  • Bloom, David and David Canning. 2004. “Global demographic change: dimensions and economic significance.” NBER Working Paper Series 10817. https://www.nber.org/papers/w10817.pdf

Session 8 Government Debt

  • Herndon, Thomas, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin. 2014. “Does high public debt consistently stifle economic growth? A critique of Reinhart and Rogoff.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 38: 257-279.

Session 9 Automation and Jobs

  • Vivarelli, Marco. 2014. “Innovation, Employment and Skills in Advanced and Developing Countries: A Survey of Economic Literature.” Journal of Economic Issues 48(1): 123-154.
  • Segal, Michael. 2018. “Automatic Pilots: Automation will probably change your job, not destroy it.” Nature 563: 132-136.
  • Also cool, though not required: Abbott, Ryan and Bret Bogenschneider. 2018. “Should robots pay taxes? Tax policy in the age of automation.” Harvard Law and Policy Review 12: 145-175.

 Session 10 Agricultural subsidies

  • Swinnen, Johan F. M. 2010. “The Political Economy of Agricultural and Food Policies: Recent Contributions, New Insights, and Areas for Further Research.” Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 32(1): 33-58.

Session 11 Imperialism and China’s “New Silk Road”

  • Melecky, Martin, Mark Roberts, and Siddharth Sharma. 2019. “The wider economic benefits of transport corridors: A policy framework and illustrative application to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 12: 17-44.

Session 12 Conclusions

  • Kranton, Rachel. 2019. “The Devil is in the Details: Implications of Samuel Bowles’s The Moral Economy for Economics and Policy Research.” Journal of Economic Literature 57(1): 147-160.

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