Freedom, Markets, & Well-being

PPE 160, Fall 2013

An overview of the course

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.

If you think you might be interested in this course, you might want to look at the web site for the 2012 edition as it includes notes for every class session.


The syllabus (PDF) contains a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments. It also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class.


Assignments will be posted here and on Sakai.

The assignments for this course include:

  1. First paper topics (PDF)
  2. Second paper topics (PDF)
  3. The third assignment is a thesis prospectus, due at the end of the term.

You may want to consult my advice on writing philosophy papers.


The best way for registered students to access the site is through Sakai. The Sakai site has links to everything you see here but it also has announcements and pdf files of the readings. When the term ends, the Sakai site will no longer be published but this site will still be here.


Eleanor Brown’s office is Carnegie 216. Her faculty profile has more information about her courses and research.

Michael Green’s office is Pearsons 207. His home page has links to websites for his other courses.

You can find our phone numbers and email addresses by using the Pomona College directory: select Faculty/Staff and enter the name you want.


  1. September 3. Overview and theses (updated September 11)
  2. September 5. Locke on property
  3. September 10. Gibbard on Locke :: Locke on labor (handout, PDF)
  4. September 12. Williams on equality
  5. September 17. Mill on liberty
  6. September 19. Arrow on health care
  7. September 24. Rawls on the difference principle
  8. September 26. The original position
  9. October 1. Dworkin on equality of resources (updated October 2)
  10. October 3. More Dworkin (updated October 5)
  11. October 8. Sen and Nussbaum on capabilities
  12. October 10. Inequality
  13. October 15. Introduction to theses
  14. October 17. Thesis mechanics
  15. October 22. Fall Break
  16. October 24. Theses 1
  17. October 29. Syllabus revision
  18. October 31. Yet more theses
  19. November 5. Warren and Brandeis on Privacy
  20. November 7. Posner on Privacy
  21. November 12. Privacy and the Internet
  22. November 14. Dworkin on Choice
  23. November 19. Experienced Utility
  24. November 21. Libertarian Paternalism 1
  25. November 26. Libertarian Paternalism 2 (updated November 28)
  26. December 3. Real Libertarians on Nudge
  27. December 5. Nearly final thesis ideas 1
  28. December 10. Nearly final thesis ideas 2