Rethinking Public Economics

SE 040789, fall 2015
The course starts October 6, ends January 26, 2016.

8 ECTS credits, English.

Content: This course offers a fresh perspective on Public Economics by asking how Behavioral Economics promotes our knowledge of Public Economics.

Public Economics traditionally addresses issues like government taxation and spending and efficiency-based reasons for government intervention. In a broader perspective, public economics also covers all aspects of public policy and political economy.

Behavioral Economics incorporates insights psychology and other neighboring disciplines in the social sciences into economics to make economics a more powerful science of human behavior.

Method: Students present and discuss recent research in behavioral public economics in class. They also provide short papers which summarize and critically reflect on selected recent research.

Aim: Students learn to be critical consumers of current research in behavioral economics. Students learn to contrast the empirical and theoretical findings in behavioral economics with conventional approaches and results in selected topics of public economics. Students critically reflect on the challenges for theory and policy applications of conventional public economics. The course provides ample opportunity for students to foster their presentation, writing and debating skills.

Requirements: Participants need to have taken an introduction to Public Economics, for example my lecture “Grundzüge der Finanzwissenschaft”.

Organization: Depending on the number of participants, students will present and discuss papers individually or in work groups (max. 3 students). A typical plan for a session is 30’ presentation, 15’ questions for clarification, 45’ general discussion. Students working in groups are individually graded insofar as their individual performance can be clearly assessed. Otherwise, all students in a group get the same grade. We determine the “Group in Charge” for each session/topic in the first session. It is therefore imperative to participate in the first session where I briefly summarize the papers, students form groups and pick which ones to present. Students who cannot (for a good reason) participate in the first session should send me an e-mail by 6 pm on the day before the first session naming at least three papers from the reading list which they are committed to present.

Successful students earn 8 ECTS credits. Each part i) to iv) below is graded on a scale 1 to 5 and the final grade is the weighted average of these grades according to the weights indicated below.

i)     Present. The Group in Charge presents the paper(s) they were assigned in about 30’ and answers questions for clarification by the participants and the instructor (about 15’). Send me your slides by e-mail. Deadline: 6 pm on the day before the presentation (35% of final grade). To be posted on Moodle. See separate guidelines.

ii)    Submit comments and questions. Each individual student (this is not group work) submits a short summary in his or her own words (max. 1 page) and questions to at least two papers (max. 2 comments or questions per submission). Briefly comment on your question (i.e. provide a short motivation for why the question may be relevant or interesting to discuss, max. 1 page per question). Raise these questions in class to structure and guide the general discussion of the paper. Deadline: 6 pm on the day before the respective seminar, by e-mail to me (35% of final grade. Two best shots count). Questions will be posted on Moodle. The Group in charge is supposed to have a look at the questions and think of possible answers. See separate guidelines.

iii)    Discuss. Grading is also based on active participation. Students must not miss more than two sessions else they are graded “fail” on this part (10% of final grade).

iv)    Submit and present a proposal (in groups of max. 3 students) on how to apply behavioral insights to increase tax compliance and reduce tax evasion. Imagine you were responding to a call by the Austrian Ministry of Finance to submit a concise proposal for implementing an “evidence-based” policy measure to increase tax compliance and reduce tax evasion in Austria. Provide a description of the measure you suggest, briefly explain why you expect it to work (possibly with reference to some scientific literature), describe an experiment / pilot phase to test the effectiveness of the measure before it is implemented on large scale. Deadline for handing in: 19.1.2016, 6 pm (max. 3 pages). Present it (5’) on Jan. 26. 20% of final grade.

Admission to this course is as follows:

  • Master students in economics are automatically admitted.
  • Master students from other fields (e.g. Business administration) can be admitted provided they have taken my course "Grundzüge der Finanzwissenschaft" or have similar knowledge. 
  • Bachelor students in Economics can also be admitted if they have taken my course "Grundzüge der Finanzwissenschaft" or have similar knowledge. However, the credits earned in this course will not count towards your BA studies but to your (consecutive) MA studies (if any).
  • To be admitted in the last two cases mentioned above, please contact Vice-SPL Prof. K. Podczeck.

Readings: see handout (readings are also provided on Moodle)

Schedule     Guidelines