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Unit information: The Economics of Public Policy in 2015/16

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Unit name The Economics of Public Policy
Unit code SPOLD2028
Credit points 20
Level of study D/8
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Alex Marsh
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce selected parts of microeconomics at a level that is demanding but appropriate for Masters students with little or no background in the subject. Particular attention is placed on market efficiency, welfare economics and the economic rationale for public policies. The unit will foster the ability among students to apply economic reasoning to the analysis of public policy. The course will consider cost-benefit analysis among different economic evaluation techniques as well as policies to affect the distribution of income, the fiscal system, and regulation by government. The unit also applies economics to the process of government itself and studies, in particular, the influential public choice perspective on government failure. In the final section, efficiency is compared with ethical positions such as distributive justice and freedom as a standard for judging policy.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of the unit, the student should be able to:

  • Understand a selection of concepts that are key to the mainstream, behavioural and institutional approaches to economics.
  • Identify key differences between alternative economic approaches and how they assess policy issues.
  • Appreciate how economic reasoning is applied in practical public policy contexts
  • Compare the economic approach to policy with other perspectives and criteria that could inform policy thinking.

Teaching Information

This unit will be delivered in sessions of 2 hours. Each session will comprise a formal lecture and group activities or discussion.

Assessment Information

A written assignment of at least 4,000 words.

Reading and References

  • Bailey, S. (2002) Public Sector Economics, 2nd Ed, Palgrave.
  • Bellinger, W (2007) The Economic Analysis of Public Policy, Routledge.
  • Barr, N. (2004) The Economics of the Welfare State, 4th Ed, OUP.
  • Hausman, D. and McPherson, M. (2006) Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Le Grand, J., Propper, C. and Smith, S. (2009) The Economics of Social Problems, 4th ed, Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Stiglitz, J. (2000) Economics of the Public Sector, 3rd Ed, Norton.
  • Weimer, D. and Vining, A. (2011) Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice, 5th Ed, Pearson International.