Exploring Economics strengthens plural economics and alternative economic approaches.
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This is an unusual class, in which I hope to exploit you while at the same time providing a valuable learning experience for you. The reading for the course will consist largely of the rough draft of the third edition of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy (EAMPPP), which is co-authored by Michael McPherson, Debra Satz, and me. EAMPPP aims to provide a general introduction to (a) the influence of ethical considerations on positive economics, (b) the tools and concepts of normative (welfare) economics, (c) the most important ethical theories and concepts that are relevant to the concerns of economists, (d) the ethical limits of capitalist markets, (e) analytical tools forged by economists that may be of use to moral philosophers, and (f) the distinctions between positive and normative economics and the relations between them.
There may also be supplementary readings. There will be some lectures -- how many will depend on how successful you and I are at generating fruitful discussion. I shall distribute reading or study questions before each class and ask you, with the help of those questions to study a chapter or section of EAMPPP and then come to class with tentative answers to the study questions and especially objections, criticisms, questions, and suggestions for improvement. Class discussion will be structured around your comments and questions. I will, of course, have a good deal (indeed probably too much) to say.
Whether this turns out to be a great class or a mediocre one thus depends crucially on your input. If you get excited about the issues and are full of questions and challenges, you can make this into an excellent course. Of course, I’ll bear lots of the responsibility, too, in guiding your reading with study questions and in making my contributions to discussion clearly and briefly and then shutting up.
The overall goal is to give you a grasp of the terrain at the boundaries between economics and ethics where policies are born and die. The guide to the exploration of this territory is the third edition of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy.
More specifically the course aims to accomplish a long list of goals:
The extent to which these course goals can be achieved is largely up to you, but it is important that you appreciate what I am trying to accomplish. If you cannot see how any particular discussion or reading assignment relates to the goals of the course, ask about it. In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is. Keep asking "So what?"
Since this course is more concerned with mastering skills than with acquiring information, it demands your active participation, and I think that the interest and importance of the issues we will be addressing will reward that participation.