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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 SPOLM1062
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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 examines key ideas from mainstream economics, their relevance to policy and their application to policy analysis. It provides a contrasting economic approach in the form of institutional economics and the alternative perspective it offer on policy questions. It then illustrates how the preoccupations of mainstream and institutional economics differ through a consideration of selected applied topics such as the economics of the environment, the economic critique of government, the marketisation of public services and corruption in the conduct of government officials. The unit seeks to set the economic approach to policy alongside other criteria that could be used to inform thinking about policy.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Understand a selection of concepts that are key to the mainstream economic approach and an institutional approach to policy.
  • Identify key differences in the approach that mainstream and institutional economics take to assessing policy issues.
  • Apply economic reasoning to practical public policy contexts
  • Compare the economic approach to policy with other criteria that could inform policy thinking.

Teaching Information

This unit will be delivered in sessions on 2 hours. Each session will consist of an introductory lecture followed by discussion, or student presentation.

Assessment Information

Students will complete one 4,000 word written assignment through which they will demonstrate an understanding of (i) concepts that are key to an economic approach to policy (ii) how an economic approach can be applied in practical public policy contexts and (iii) what sort of evaluative criteria the economic approach to policy uses and how that compares with other criteria that could inform policy thinking.

Reading and References

  • Bailey, S. (2002) Public Sector Economics 2nd Ed Palgrave
  • Barr, N. (2004) The Economics of the Welfare State, 4th Ed OUP
  • Goodin, R. (1982) Political Theory and Public Policy, OUP
  • Hausman, D. and McPherson, M. (1996) Economic Analysis and Moral Philosophy, CUP
  • Stiglitz, J. (2000) Economics of the Public Sector, 3rd Ed, Norton
  • Weimer, D and Vining, A. (2005) Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice, 4th Ed, Prentice Hall