Public Policy and Political Economy
This course examines four central conversations spanning four centuries on the theoretical and practical relationship between economics and politics. Each conversation addresses an important crisis, and participants articulate the problems and recommend the solutions in their own words. The first conversation between Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, in the 17th century, concerns the original human condition, the purpose of government, the right to acquire private property, and the status of democratic government. The second occurs between Americans from 1763 to 1776 as they interpret the Lockean principles of natural rights, capitalism, and democracy in response to specific economic and political crises, culminating with the Declaration of Independence and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. The third conversation is between Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill as they criticize and defend, respectively, capitalistic democracy and human freedom from historicist and utilitarian perspectives. The 20th century conversation, between such authors as John Kenneth Galbraith, Michael Harrington, Milton Friedman, and Irving Kristol, considers current policies related to the role of the public sector, community responsibility, free markets, and capitalistic democracy.