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Psychology and Public Policies

(University of Pennsylvania, Spring 2012, Fall 2012)


"It's the economy, stupid" was Bill Clinton's catchphrase during his 1992 presidential campaign, arguably because what matters more to people is the rate of unemployment. The goal of the course is to convince you that when it comes to public policy, psychology is as important as economics. Our starting point will be the study of human nature. We will examine in which ways humans differ from the classic homo economicus: their life is not just about money but also about social relationships, they are moved by incentives but also by moral considerations, they care more about their relative income (how much others make) than about their absolute income (how much they make), etc. We will see how these considerations can inform both the goals and the means of public policies.

Successes and failures in the supply of public goods: Explaining human institutions

(University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2011, Fall 2012)

Why are some countries richer than others? Why did democracy and industrialization first appear in the West?  Why Southern Italy remains so different than Northern Italy? Why is the welfare system less developed in the US than in Europe?  Why has forest disappeared in Haitia while it still exists in Dominican republic? Why are African states so corrupted? In this class, we will study the way people manage to cooperate together and organize efficient institutions. We will study a range of institutions such as associations, states and international organizations and try to understand why some work and other fail.