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Topics in Political Economy

Module Code: EC417C

Module Title: Topics in Political Economy

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

Module Content

Hilary Term:
This part of the module uses the skills and concepts acquired in the first semester to analyze a set of concrete topics which are at the frontier of the research in political economy.

Topics discussed during Hilary Term include:

  • Media Bias and its impact on politics and economics
  • The political economy of social media
  • The political economy of immigration
  • The political economy of organized crime
  • The political economy of conflict
  • Redistribution and Taxation
  • Inequality and Public Goods

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 organized 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

  • Analyze the effect of Mass Media on political outcomes, individual perceptions and voting decisions. How do media shape individual opinions and therefore their voting decisions? How does media affect citizens’ capacity to hold politicians accountable?
  • Analyze the effect of Organized Crime and Corruption on political outcomes, economic decisions (public goods, fiscal policy) and social cohesion?
  • Study the political economy of immigration in an era of refugees’ crisis.
  • Analyze the most important political economy theory on redistribution and fiscal policies.

Recommended Reading List

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 problem set (10% of the overall grade) a reaction paper (10% of the overall grade) and  awritten essay based on their reading of the literature for this term, accounting for 80% of the overall grade.

Module Website