Freedom, Markets, and Well-being PPE 160, Fall 2010

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.

The exact content of this year’s course is a bit up in the air as of July 2010. It will probably look a lot like the course offered in 2008.

Class notes

  1. September 6. Locke and Gibbard
  2. September 8. Williams and Nozick
  3. September 15. Rawls on justice
  4. September 20. Dworkin on equality
  5. September 22. Dworkin’s insurance markets
  6. September 27. Menzel on consent and equality
  7. September 29. Arrow on markets for health care
  8. October 6. Cost Benefit Analysis
  9. October 11. Menzel on QALYs
  10. October 13. Handout: PPE Theses 2007–2010
  11. October 25. Studies of ideas about fairness
  12. October 27. Experienced utility
  13. November 1. Nudge, part 1
  14. November 8. Political libertarians & libertarian paternalists
  15. November 10. Handout: Aristotelian Essentialism
  16. November 15. Health care policy in the US
  17. November 17. Oregon’s Medicaid plan
  18. November 22. Health reform in Massachusetts
  19. November 29. When gods roamed the earth
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Freedom, Markets, and Well-being