PHIL/PLCY 364.001 – Ethics and Economics

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Instructor: Dan Shahar. This course meets TR 2:00 – 3:15 PM in DA 301.

People often use economic concepts to evaluate public policy options—asking, for example, whether proposals are “efficient,” whether their “costs” outweigh their “benefits,” or whether they resolve “market failures.” Economic concepts are also used to describe and evaluate individuals’ actions: we often wonder whether people are behaving “rationally,” for example, or whether their “self-interest” is leading them to betray the broader good. These questions have a scientific veneer, but they are also bound up with ethical and political issues. Typically, we are interested not only in things as they are, but also in how things “ought to be” and what we “ought to do” about them. This course will investigate the areas where ethical, political, and economic inquiry intersect. We will examine the philosophical foundations of economic theory, and we will scrutinize the tools economists use to evaluate public policies. By the end of this course, you will have a clearer understanding of how economists think about human action and public policy analysis, and you will be able to draw on these insights to navigate thorny ethical and political issues in the real world.

Recommended prerequisite: 1 PHIL ethics course (PHIL 160, 163, or 170) or 1 ECON course.