SyllabusSpring08W - Economics 253W: Public Finance Spring...

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1 Economics 253W: Public Finance Spring 2008 Tentative Syllabus Department of Economics University of Connecticut Professor: Dhammika Dharmapala Office: Monteith 306 Office Hours: Tues, Thurs 11-12 Email: [email protected] Outline Economics is generally defined as the study of how scarce resources are allocated among competing uses. While much of economics focuses on the allocation of resources through markets, a substantial fraction of society’s resources are allocated through the public sector (for example, Federal, state and local government expenditures represent approximately one third of GDP in the United States). The field of public finance (also known as “public sector economics” or “public economics”) analyzes the role of government in the economy, using various tools of economic analysis (in particular, price theory, welfare economics, and game theory). This course provides an introduction to the economics of the public sector. It begins with a brief review of basic microeconomic concepts, including welfare economics and game theory. Then, it covers the theory of government expenditures (including externalities; public goods; political economy; social insurance) and the theory of taxation (including tax incidence and optimal taxation). Following this, it provides a brief introduction to the basics of tax law and policy. Finally, it applies these theoretical and conceptual tools to the analysis of public policy issues of current interest, focusing on the following questions: 1) How should Federal budget deficits be controlled? 2) Should the Congressional budget process be reformed? 3) How should the Social Security and Medicare systems be reformed to ensure long-term sustainability? 4) Should employer-provided health insurance be subsidized? 5) Should the US Federal income tax be replaced with a consumption tax? 6) Should capital gains and dividend income be tax-favored? 7) How should the foreign income of US corporations be taxed? 8) How should the income tax system respond to financial innovation and tax shelters? Prerequisites This course assumes knowledge of intermediate microeconomics at the level of Economics 218 or, equivalently, at the level of a textbook such as Pindyck, R. S., and D. L. Rubinfeld Microeconomics , 6 th ed., Prentice Hall, 2004
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2 The first topic in this course briefly reviews basic microeconomic concepts. These should be familiar from past courses, and the review is not intended as a substitute for the prerequisite class. Course Website The course website is available through WebCT Vista ( It will be used to post assignments, readings and other relevant materials. Textbook Gruber, J. Public Finance and Public Policy , 2 nd edition, Worth Publishers, 2007 You are expected to read the assigned material from the textbook before class. Note also that you are responsible for all material in the assigned readings (specified in the detailed syllabus below), whether or not it is covered in lectures. On the other hand, some topics will be covered in greater
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course ECON 253 taught by Professor Damika during the Spring '08 term at UConn.

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SyllabusSpring08W - Economics 253W: Public Finance Spring...

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