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2020/2021  KAN-CPOLO1911U  Topics in Public Economics

English Title
Topics in Public Economics

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Fourth Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc i International Business and Politics, MSc
Course coordinator
  • David Jinkins - Department of Economics (ECON)
Main academic disciplines
  • Economics
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 02-07-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Precisely define key terms related to the topics we discuss in the course
  • Describe the fundamental problems and tradeoffs associated with climate change, artificial intelligence, inequality, and other topics covered in the course
  • Develop rational and well-thought out arguments backing up positions on course topics
  • Summarize positions on course topics in well-organized writing
Topics in Public Economics:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Duration 2 weeks to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Public economics is the economics of collective decision making and collective
action. This domain of economics research is concerned with both positive and
normative questions. We will study both how collective actions affect the world,
but also which collective actions we should take. As pointed out by David Hume,
moving from "is" to "ought" is a difficult step, and a passing acquaintance with
politics will show that not everyone agrees about which policies are best. The
goal of this course is to deepen students understanding of several important
issues faced by contemporary society, and how collective responses to those
issues which will shape their futures.


The course will be structured around four themes. Each theme will be broken
up into four segments or modules: The core positive economics of the topic,
the normative or welfare economics of the topic, discussion of recent research,
and debate.


1 Taxation
1. Review of basic public economics results on taxation
2. When is taxation justified? Arguments from efficiency vs arguments from
3. Capital taxation and concentration, arguments from consumer welfare vs
arguments from politics
4. Debate: Should we tax bequests?


2 Inequality
1. Public economics of transfers: A taxonomy of inequality
2. Distributive justice, and when inequality is wrong
3. Poverty, Wealth taxes and transfers
4. Debate: Are open borders incompatible with a welfare state?


3 Climate Change
1. Public economics of climate change
2. How should we treat future people?
3. Uncertainty and disaster
4. Debate: Developing countries should be compensated


4 Automation
1. Public economics and technological change
2. Work in a robot economy, required or protected?
3. Hollowing out the middle: Automation or trade?
4. Debate: Universal basic income, yes or no?

Description of the teaching methods
This course will involve both elements of traditional lecturing, as well as class
discussion. Students will be asked to prepare for class by reading assigned texts.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students will be asked to formally participate in one in-class debate
(in groups). Debates are meant to prepare students for the exam, in which they
will be asked to discuss and defend a claim related to one of the course themes.
Feedback on the debates will be given in class.
Student workload
Class 30 hours
Preparation 176 hours
Expected literature


Readings will be provided to students before each lecture. Sources will include:

-          Lectures on Public Economics, by Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Atkinson

-           Lectures on Microeconomics: the big questions approach, by Roman Pancs

-          Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy, by Daniel Haus-

man and Michael McPherson

-          Reasons and Persons, by Derek Parfit


Relevant research papers will also be assigned, including:

-           Weitzman, Martin L. "On modeling and interpreting the economics of

catastrophic climate change." The Review of Economics and Statistics 91,

no. 1 (2009): 1-19.

Last updated on 02-07-2020