A. Honors Project
B. SYE Independent Study
C. Choice Beyond Rationality (Motika)
Early economists knew that their models described a simplified, idealized type of behavior, but it is only in the past few decades that we have systematically studied the ways in which human behavior is different from what “rational” models suggest. In many cases this research owes as much to the psychology literature as it does to traditional economic thinking, bridging the gap between the two fields. This seminar will explore theory and empirical research aimed at explaining key differences between standard economic models and the choices made by real people. In the process, we will investigate puzzles from a wide variety of economic settings including labor markets, public choice, gambling, the stock market, and more.
D. 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.
E. 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.
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), autonomous vehicles, 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 Economics of Innovation (Milani)
In this course we will apply the tools of economic analysis to study innovation, a key driver of economic growth. Emphasis will be placed on how economic policy may provide incentives for scientific research in a rapidly changing world. For example, our analysis will explore the following questions: What policies might encourage the transfer of technology from developed to developing countries? How can policy promote the development of clean energy technologies? How can intellectual property rights keep up with the digital age? Specific topics include technology and economic growth, the measurement of technological change, international technology diffusion, intellectual property rights, and the financing of research and development (R&D).
H. Trusts, Contracts, and Social Networks (Blewett)
Throughout history, and in various parts of the world, there have always been ethnic or religious groups that were more commercially successful and wealthier than others. Examples include South Asians (Indians) in East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, Japanese in South America, and Koreans in South Los Angeles. Sometimes success has been credited to either admirable cultural traits or nefarious collusion and exclusionary practices. New Institutional Economics provides another explanation: certain groups are advantaged by social networks that engender trust, allowing for the more effective formation and enforcement of contracts. These groups are thus better able to engage in more sophisticated, and more profitable, economic arrangements unavailable to others. This seminar will develop the economics of trust, contracts, and social networks, using case studies to explore if and how social networks can explain the commercial success of certain minority groups.