Freedom, Markets, & Well-Being PPE 160, Fall 2008

Course Description

This course uses the three disciplines of the PPE major, philosophy, politics and economics, to describe the liberties and safeguards that promote human flourishing and to look at the roles played by market economies and political institutions in the construction of contemporary society.

One of our themes will be the tension between freedom, as exemplified in economic markets, and equality, as exemplified by government action to alter unequal market outcomes. A second theme is institutional roles. What aspects of life are best handled through markets, by government, or in the sphere of personal relations? A third line of inquiry explores human well-being. Is it a subjective matter of getting what we want, whatever that may be, or are there objective standards of the good life? What light do empirical studies of happiness throw on the nature of well-being and the policies that best promote it?

One purpose of the course is to develop cross-disciplinary thinking and analysis. Specifically, the course is designed to prepare PPE majors to write a senior thesis that brings the insights of abstract and wide-ranging scholarship to bear on issues of public policy. With this in mind, we turn to one of the richest areas of contemporary domestic policy debate, the provision of health care. In this part of the course, we will read a Politea prize-winning thesis and talk about how to write one of your own.

Class notes

Health updates. Last update: 01/14/09.

  1. Thursday, September 4. Locke; updated September 5 and September 6.
    Class handout: Locke on Rights and Property
  2. Tuesday, September 9. Williams on equality; updated September 10.
    Class handout: Williams on Equality
  3. Thursday, September 11. Nozick and Menzel on Williams.
    Class handout: Criticisms of Williams.
  4. Tuesday, September 16. Dworkin’s auction.
    Class handout: Key terms and concepts in Dworkin’s article.
  5. Thursday, September 18. Dworkin’s insurance markets.
  6. Tuesday, September 23. Anderson’s criticism of markets.
    Class handout.
  7. Tuesday, October 7. Utility theory: do we know what makes us happy?
    Class handout on Kahneman and Thaler.
  8. Thursday, October 9. Class handout on Kahneman and Kruger.
  9. Thursday, October 16. Nudge links. [added Oct. 31]
    Class handout on Nudge.
  10. Thursday, October 23. Slippery slopes and libertarian paternalism.
  11. Tuesday, October 28. Aristotelian essentialism. [added Oct. 31; updated November 9]
    Class handout on Aristotelian essentialism.
  12. Thursday, October 30. Sen on freedom and development. [added Oct. 31]
  13. Tuesday, November 4. Sen on markets and democracy.
    Class handout, lightly edited.
  14. Thursday, November 6. Menzel’s project.
    Class handout: Single and individual payers.
  15. Tuesday, November 11. Class handout on measuring social values.
  16. Thursday, November 13. Pricing life?
    Class handout on consent and pricing life.
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Freedom, Markets, and Well-Being