Summer 2024 - ECON 891 G100

The Economics of Public Choice (4)

Class Number: 1455

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2024: Wed, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.



Applies economic theory to the analysis of non-market, political choice. Some of the topics studied will be coalition formation and rational voter behavior; allocations under various property rights systems; optimal constitutions; public sector externalities; federalism; discrimination, nationalism and crime.


Description: Graduate level exploration into the study of non-market political choice, also known as “public choice” or “political economics”. Students will learn about the basic models economists use to describe political choice, and how they can be applied to better understand government behaviour and characteristics. Applications to specific policies such as income redistribution, provision of public services and education or health care are discussed.

The course will be divided into two parts. The first part will consist of lectures that develop the key theoretical insights from the literature on policy determination in the political process. In the second part, students will present original research papers that are mostly concerned with empirical work and applications. Students will also write a blog post, policy brief, or research proposal on a topic related to the class material.

Outline of the lecture part:

2.Basic theories of policy formation and electoral competition
3.When Politicians care about policies
4.Holding office holders accountable
5.Organized interest groups (time permitting)


  • Grades are based on an exam at the end of the lecture part 30%
  • class presentations including one replication 30%
  • written term project 20%
  • class participation 20%



Background and Required Reading: Students will need a good working knowledge of microeconomic theory (in particular game theory and basic agency theory). Participants are expected to do a number of assigned readings. These are original articles that will be made available electronically and various chapters of the following textbooks which will be placed on reserve in the library.

Besley, T. (2006). Principled Agents? Lectures on the Political Economy of Good Government. Oxford University Press.
Grossman, G. and E. Helpman (2001). Special Interest Politics, MIT Press
Persson, T. and G. Tabellini (2000). Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy. The MIT Press


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Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


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Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the term 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.