Fall 2023 - ECON 104 D100

Economics and Government (3)

Class Number: 3114

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Wed, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 18, 2023
    Mon, 7:00–10:00 p.m.



An introduction of broad, basic economic ideas applied to government finance, allocation, and procurement. Topics covered may include government size, health care, debt, social insurance, trade, and redistribution policies. Breadth-Social Sciences.


A little bit of economics goes a long way. Politicians may tell you that they can lower your income taxes and increase health care spending.  A little bit of economics tells you that if they do those things they must either raise other taxes, cut other expenditures, or borrow a bunch of money.  Pundits might tell you that markets can give you everything, but a little bit of economics tells you that markets might give you stuff you don’t want as well.


Economics underlies the decisions that must be made by the government, and a little bit of economics can often help make these decisions more reasonably or help choose politicians who can make these decisions more reasonably.  It only takes a little economics to know that if too much carbon is going into the atmosphere, then taxing it might help. It only takes a little economics to see that the invisible hand might do a good job at getting us the right amount of restaurant food, but will almost surely fail to get us the right amount of pollution abatement or unemployment insurance. 

The course will focus on various topics, with readings, lectures, and tutorials aimed at fleshing out various aspects of each topic.  Usually, readings, lectures, and tutorials will be complementary to each other, rather than substitutes for each other, so all will be required for successful completion of the course.

                                                                                       Topics will include:

  • How big is government? (hint for midterm—roughly half the economy)
  • The Invisible Hand—why governments are terrible and private markets are great.
  • Market Failures—why private markets are terrible and governments are great.
  • Deficits—is it bad to borrow?
  • Externalities—why being nice is hard, and why governments can help.
  • Social Insurance—why private markets are terrible and governments are great.
  • Policy
    1. Global Climate Change—carbon taxes, love ‘em or hate ‘em
    2. Inequality and Poverty: why so much need amidst plenty? What can we do about it?



  • In-class tests (6) 10%
  • In-class activities 10%
  • Midterm Exam 30%
  • Final Exam 50%


  • In-class tests and activities are via CANVAS and MOBLAB. Tests cover material up to the previous week.
  • Study questions for the tests and final will be available in advance on CANVAS.  Exam questions will be similar in spirit to—but not identical to—study questions. 
  • There will be 6 in-class tests.  These tests will be administered during class, but not at pre-announced times. 
  • There are no retakes for in-class tests, but only your best 5 of the 6 will count. 
  • There are in-class activities, including games, experiments, and surveys.  These activities are graded on participation only (so, if you do all of them, you get 10/10).
  • The Final is 3 hours, mostly short-answer, and required.  The final must be written to get a passing grade. There are no retakes for the final except for medical reasons.  In these cases, a note from a doctor is required, and the retake will occur in early Spring 2024.



1. Harford, Tim, 2012 (2nd ed, updated), The Undercover Economist, Oxford University Press, real book $21, or on Kindle for $15. Used copies, and 1rst edition, also okay.

2. Other assigned readings will be on CANVAS. Assigned videos will be web-based, on CANVAS or on Netflix.

3. A subscription to MOBLAB is required (Premier subscription is US$25). You must use your SFU computing id as your login to MOBLAB.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Please note that, as per Policy T20.01, the course requirements (and grading scheme) outlined here are subject to change up until the end of the first week of classes.

Final exam schedules will be released during the second month of classes. If your course has a final exam, please ensure that you are available during the entire final exam period until you receive confirmation of your exam dates. 

Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) at 778-782-3112 or caladmin@sfu.ca.


Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.