ECON 304 — International Political Economy


[Spring 2017 Syllabus]

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. - F.A. Hayek, 1974 Economics Nobel Laureate

This course examines the dual role of political institutions and economic forces that determine the relative prosperity, conflict, and/or flourishing of human beings in different social settings. As political economy–the enduring tradition that Adam Smith and others developed before technical “economics” emerged in the 20th century–it deals with some of the moral and institutional problems that societies must grapple with, and why some succeed or fail more relative to others. While we consider the theory of various political and economic institutions, we often apply them to an international context of trade, globalization, foreign aid, conflict, development in our increasingly global-oriented cultures. As a result, a major goal of this course is understanding the state of the world and current events today, as well as being able to reason through political economic problems.

This is an economics course, and as such we use the tools of microeconomics to understand not just economic, but also political, social, and cultural issues. Basic familiarity with microeconomics is essential to understanding how decisions made by agents in different institutional contexts lead to social coordination and the creation of value (or fail to do so). While I would prefer that you have some background, it is possible to take the course with little to no understanding of formal economic theory. The required prerequisite courses are ECON 205, PCSI 215, OR GLBS 200.

This course will have been successful if you are able to comprehend and apply the tools and insights of political economy towards explaining differences in real world political, economic, and cultural settings and are able to analyze current events. Primarily, this means applying models of rational choices for individual and firm behavior in different social contexts, and understanding the role of market institutions of property rights, prices, and profit and losses in bringing about social coordination.


Lecture Slides
1. Introduction to IPE
2. Review of Microeconomics
3. Property and the Rule of Law
4. Profit-Seeking and Rent-Seeking
5. Moral Dilemmas of Markets
6. Violence and Order
7. Feudalism and the Natural State
8. Mercantilism and the Natural State
9. Socialism and National Socialism
10. Liberal Democracy and Open-Access Orders