A. The Economics of Capitalism and Socialism (Horwitz)
The financial crisis and recession, along with growing concerns about inequality, have given new life to many of the long-standing criticisms of market capitalism and have renewed interest in various forms of socialism as an alternative economic system. In this seminar we will explore what economic theory has to say about strengths and weaknesses of both capitalism and socialism. We will read the classic arguments for both from people like Smith and Marx, but we will focus much of our time on more contemporary texts, including the socialist calculation debate of the 1930s and 40s, and later debates over development planning, free trade, and globalization. We’ll end with a brief look at the issues raised by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.
B. The Economics of Property (Lockard)
Are all human rights, in fact, property rights? Is freedom possible without private property? Would a clarification of property rights abolish poverty worldwide? This seminar considers these questions as it explores considers the philosophical, legal and economic implications of the institution of private property. In particular, we consider the nexus among private property, freedom, and prosperity. Students select an existing or emerging problem, and explore how it might be addressed by clarifying or recognizing private property rights. Topics considered previously include torture, poverty in Ghana, access to intellectual property, overfishing in international waters, pollution run off from agriculture, the availability of pharmaceutical drugs, property rights in outer space, the Keystone pipeline, and property rights in the Adirondack Park.
C. Adam Smith: The “Adam” and the “Smith” of Modern Economics (Young)
In this seminar we will read and discuss Adam Smith’s two great books: The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the single most influential book in the history of economics. Even today economists quote from it and find inspiration in it. This is a book not only of enduring but of increasing interest. More editions of it were published in the 1990s than in the 1890s, more in the 1890s than in the 1790s. No edition has ever lost money for the publisher. Friends and enemies alike use Adam Smith even in modern policy debates. Yet hardly anyone actually reads the original. In this seminar we will read and discuss Adam Smith’s great books. We will attempt to understand them in the context of Smith’s total research program, bearing in mind that Smith was actually not an economist but a moral philosopher, and that his goal was to produce a complete science of human nature, not a separate discipline of economics.
D. Senior Honors Seminar (Blewett)
Designed for senior majors who are eligible for departmental honors as well as seniors doing a 300-level independent study, this seminar is focused on enhancing your ability to engage in scholarly work in economics. In this course, you will learn how to “do” economics. While your coursework up to this point has given you a strong foundation in economic theory, this course teaches you how to apply theory to meaningful economic research. The overarching goals of the semester are two: 1) developing a research project and getting matched up with a faculty member to supervise and mentor you; and 2) getting a significant chunk of a first draft of that project completed by the end of the semester. To accomplish those goals, we will work our way through a number of sub-topics involved with producing a polished research paper, including: What do we mean by research? How do we develop research questions? If I need data, then how do I find the data I need? How do I analyze that data effectively? How do I make good arguments? What does it mean to be a good writer of economics?
E. Game Theory (FitzRandolph)
Checkers, chess, hockey, auctions, divorce trials, international treaty negotiations, teen age dating, collective bargaining, and faculty meetings have something in common.. Each constitutes a situation where two or more “players” match wits, where outcomes depend on player strategies, and where there is significant interdependence between players. “Game Theory,” the framework commonly used to analyze such situations, was first developed by Von Neuman and Morgenstern in 1944, and has been refined and extended by others including John Nash, a Nobel laureate portrayed in the recent movie A Beautiful Mind. Since, in the words of another Nobel Prize winner Paul Samuelson, “to be literate in the modern age you need to have a general understanding of game theory”, this course provides an introduction to the theory of non-cooperative games. It then explores applications in the fields of economics, politics, law, and sociology.
F. Transportation Economics and Public Policy (Janusch)
In this seminar we will apply microeconomic concepts of demand, costs, pricing, and project evaluation to analyze transportation activities. We will examine the tradeoff of efficiency and equity concerns surrounding transportation public policy issues such as congestion pricing, transportation network services (e.g., Uber and Lyft), urban parking, transit systems, efficiency standards, airports and airlines, transportation mobile applications, and other alternative modes of transportation demanded by passengers and shippers. Our discussions will also address rent-seeking behavior, environmental effects, and the welfare implications of particular policies.
G. The Euro Crisis (Jenkins)
European policy makers set a rigorous plan of action for the creation of the euro. Notably, strict economic criteria for member states to meet to adopt the euro were included in Maastricht Treaty of 1992 which formally established the euro. The euro was launched as an accounting currency in 1999 and in notes and coins 2002. This deliberate process appeared successful. The euro’s introduction was smooth and the Eurozone experienced generally good economic performance for the euro’s first decade. Now Greece is in the midst of slump that matches the great depression and several other Eurozone countries have required assistance from the International Monetary Fund. How did this happen? What does this mean for the euro, the European Central Bank, and for the economies of the countries that use the euro? These are some of the issues that we will explore in this seminar on the euro and its crisis.