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Topics in Political Economy

Module Code: EC417B

Module Title: Topics in Political Economy

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas Term
  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures and approximately 4 hours of seminars
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Professor Nicola Mastrorocco

Module Content

The first part of the module address fundamental topics in political economy.

Topics discussed during Michaelmas Term include:

  • Preferences
  • Voting
  • Preferences Aggregation;
  • Collective Action;
  • Agenda Setting and Veto Players
  • Institutions
  • Political Systems and Economic Outcomes
  • Lobbying

Module Learning Aims

The course will introduce students to the field of political economics, which applies the toolbox of economic analysis to the study of politics.
The course will be organized around a series of topics: starting with the economic analysis of voting decision, it will then focus on the selection and motivations of politicians and their impact on public policy, and on questions such as political accountability and corruption; it will then examine the role of mass media and its impact on electoral politics and policy-making, as well as the issue of political distortions through examples such as patronage politics, lobbying, and political connections; finally, it will discuss issues related to organised crime, conflict and violence, as well as the origins, persistence and impact of political institutions

This module aims to:

  • provide students with an exposure of the fundamental ideas in the field of political economy. The course will cover both theoretical and empirical papers
  • introduce student to the variety of ways in which economists think about political economy and, more precisely, at the interplay of political science and economics.
  • provide students interested in interdisciplinary work with a bridge between subjects as diverse as economics, political science, sociology, history, and philosophy;
  • Political economy uses tools from economics (mainly game theory and econometrics) to study how political actors, institutions, and choices shape economic or political outcomes. Hence, students will be exposed to various concepts in game theory (e.g., Nash Equilibrium, Perfect Bayesian Equilibrium) as well as methods in empirical analysis (OLS, Instrumental Variable, Panel Data).
  • provide students with the skills to write and argue coherently and persuasively; and provide students with the intellectual foundations on which an undergraduate dissertation can be written.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Comfortably analyze different theories of social choice (how do groups of rational individuals take decisions) and collective action (how do groups of rational individuals take actions) and voting
  • Analyze the effect of political variables on the determination of economic outcomes. What is the impact of different political systems on economic outcomes (Growth, Inequality, Fiscal Policy, Public Goods)? How can special groups of individuals enhance their well-being by political action? What is lobbying? What is the effect of contributions to politicians on political outcomes?

Recommended Reading List

Michaelmas Term:
The course will be primarily based on the reading of recent research academic papers and the in-depth discussion of their theories, empirical methods, and results.

The following books are recommended as supplements to what is covered in the lectures.

  • Besley, Timothy: Principled Agents? Oxford University Press [2006] (henceforth: Besley)
  • Mueller, Dennis: Public Choice III, Cambridge University Press [2005] (henceforth: Mueller)
  •  Persson, Torsten & Guido Tabellini: Political Economics, MIT Press [2000] (henceforth P&T)
  • Shepsle, Kenneth: Analyzing Politics, Norton [2010] (henceforth Shepsle)

Module Pre Requisite

This course is open to a multi-disciplinary audience. However, students should have completed one module in intermediate Economics (equivalent to EC2010) successfully. Exceptions to this rule are to be discussed with the Lecturer.

Assessment Details

Single-term students will hand in one written essay based on their reading of the literature for this term, accounting for 100% of the overall grade.

Module Website