MA Political Economy (Standard Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

Course unit details:
Public Economics

Unit code ECON60202
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Economics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The aim of this course is to introduce students to modern economic theories on public expenditure, taxation and other issues related to the public sector’s role in a modern market economy.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course students should be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of established concepts and theoretical results on collective choice, optimal income taxation, and the effects of income redistribution on the provision of public goods.




Roles of Government: Welfare theorems, social welfare functions, income redistribution.

  • R. F. Inman, 1987, Markets, government and the ``new'' political economy, in HPE, vol. II, pp. 647-663.
  • Myles, Chap. 2.
  • A & S, Ch. 11.
  • H. R. Varian, 1980, Redistributive taxation as social insurance, Journal of Public Economics 14, pp. 49-68.
  • P. Diamond, 1977, A framework for social security analysis, Journal of Public Economics 8(3), pp. 275-298.
  • L. Kotlikoff, 1987, Justifying public provision of social security, Journal of Public Analysis and Management 6 (4), pp. 674-689.

Private Provision of Public Goods: Effects of income distribution and taxation on provision.

  • Myles, pp. 263-268, 279-283.
  • T. Bergstrom, L. Blume & H. Varian 1986, On the private provision of public goods, Journal of Public Economics, 29, pp. 25-44.
  • P. Warr 1983, The private provision of a public good is independent of the distribution of income, Economics Letters 13, pp. 207-211.
  • J. Andreoni 1989, Giving with impure altruism: applications to charity and Ricardian equivalence. Journal of Political Economy 97(6), pp.1447-58.
  • J. Andreoni 1993, An experimental test of the public-good crowding out hypothesis. American Economic Review 83(5), pp. 1317-1327.

Optimal Taxation

  • J. E. Stiglitz, 1987, Pareto efficient and optimal taxation and the new new welfare economics, in HPE, vol. II, pp. 991-1006.
  • J. E. Stiglitz, 1982, Self-selection and Pareto efficient taxation, Journal of Public Economics 17, pp. 213-240.
  • R. A. Musgrave, A Brief History of Fiscal Doctrine, in HPE vol. I. pp. 15-40.
  • A. Sandmo, Asymmetric Information and Public Economics: The Mirrlees-Vickrey Nobel Prize, Journal of Economic Perspectives 13, pp. 165-180.
  • J. A. Mirrlees, Information and Incentives: the Economics of Carrots and Sticks. Economic Journal 107, pp. 1311-1329.
  • Myles, Chap. 5.
  • A & S, Ch. 13.

Collective Choice: Plurality voting, Median voter Theorem & applications, Arrow's Impossibility Theorem

  • J. Levin and B. Nalebuff, 1995, An introduction to vote-counting schemes, Journal of economic Perspectives  9(1), pp. 3-11.
  • R. F. Inman, Markets, government and the “new” political economy, in HPE, vol. II, pp. 682-685.
  • A & S, Ch. 10.
  • K. J. Arrow, 1987, Arrow's theorem, The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, eds. J. Eatwell, M. Milgate and P. Newman. vol. 4, Macmillan.
  • M. McGuire and M. Olson, 1996, The economics of autocracy and majority rule: the invisible hand and the use of force, Journal of Economic Literature, pp. 72-89.




Teaching and learning methods


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Recommended reading

Useful Books:


  1. G. Myles, 1995, Public Economics, Cambridge University Press. [Myles]
  2. Auerbach and Feldstein (eds), 1987, Handbook of Public Economics, North-Holland. [HPE]
  3. A. Atkinson and J. Stiglitz, 2015 (1988), Lectures on Public Economics, McGraw Hill. [A & S]

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
W Chiu Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Pre-Requisite: ECON60101 or ECON60391


Lectures: Friday 9-11am


Return to course details