POL S 270 A: Introduction to Political Economy

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
to be arranged
* *
Travis Nelson

Syllabus Description:


Summer 2020

The University of Washington

POLS 270: Introduction to Political Economy

Full Term, Online

5 Credits



Instructor: Travis Nelson

Office hrs: Online

Office: GWN 36



This course is designed to introduce students to the basics of Political Economy. The course will be broken into two components. The first component of the class focuses on some of the early thinkers in Political Economy, including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes. The second component of the course will be focused on topics in Political Economy, including Rational Choice Theory, Game Theory, Trade, and Development. 


There is one book assigned for the class, The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner. The rest of the readings will be provided as PDFs. The course grade will largely be based on two exams, online discussion boards, and a research paper.


Please see full syllabus for details. 


Week 1: Foundations of Political Economy

    • Readings/Lecture:
      • Heilbroner Chapters 1 & 2 "Introduction" & "The Economic Revolution"
      • Recommended: Caporaso and Levine Introduction and Chapter 1 "Introduction" & "Politics and Economics"

Week 2: The Classics

    • Readings/Lecture:

      • Heilbroner Chapters 3 & 4 ``The Wonderful World of Adam Smith'' & ``The Gloomy Presentiments of Parson Malthus and David Ricardo''
      • Caporaso and Levine Chapter 2 ``The Classical Approach''

Week 3:  Marxism

    • Readings/Lecture

      • Heilbroner Chapters 5 & 6,  ``The Dreams of the Utopian Socialists'' & ``The Inexorable System of Karl Marx''
      • Caporaso and Levine Chapter 3 ``Marxian Political Economy''

Week 4: Keynes and Friedman

    •  Readings/Lecture
      • Heilbroner Chapter 9 ``The Heresies of John Maynard Keynes''
      • Paul Krugman. Who Was Milton Friedman? New York Review of Books, pages 1--13, February 2007

Week 5: Behavior versus Rational Choice

    • Readings/Lecture
      • Caporaso and Levine Chapter 6 ``Economic Approaches to Political Economy''
      • Only Read pp. 1471-1481 Jolls, Sunstein, and Thaler. ``A Behavioral Approach to Law and Economics'' Stanford Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 5 (May, 1998)
      • Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler. ``The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias'' Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 5, Number 1, Winter 1991, Pages 193--206
      • Exam 1

Week 6: Political Economy of Trade

    • Readings/Lecture


Week 7: Globalization and Development

    • Readings/Lecture

Week 8: Political Economy of Health: Global Health

Week 9: Political Economy of Health: US Healthcare

    • Readings/Lectures
      • Baicker et. al ``Saving Money or Just Saving Lives? Improving the Productivity of US Health Care Spending,'' Annual Review of Economics 2012 4:1, 33-56
      • For COVID-19 discussion see IHME Website
      • Exam 2
Catalog Description: 
Political economy as a tool for understanding and evaluating the political world. Combines theory, methods, and insights derived from economics and political science and applies them to a range of substantive issues.
Department Requirements: 
International Relations Field
American Politics Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 4, 2021 - 10:27pm