Unit Information Management System

Public Economics (ECON4405, SEM-2, 2017, Crawley)

UWA Business School

Unit Outline

Public Economics


SEM-2, 2017

Campus: Crawley

Unit Coordinator: Dr. Michael Jetter

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Unit details

Unit title Public Economics
Unit code ECON4405 Credit points 6
Availability SEM-2, 2017 (31/07/2017 - 25/11/2017)
Location Crawley Mode Face to face

Contact details

Faculty Business School
School UWA Business School
School website http://www.business.uwa.edu.au/
Unit coordinator Dr. Michael Jetter
Email michael.jetter@uwa.edu.au
Telephone 6488 2498
Consultation hours By appointment
Tutors/ Demonstrators/ Facilitators
Unit contact hours
Lecture time: Wednesdays, 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Lecture venue: Please refer to http://www.timetable.uwa.edu.au 
Online handbook http://handbooks.uwa.edu.au/units/unitdetails?code=ECON4405
Unit website https://www.lms.uwa.edu.au

Unit rules

Prerequisites ECON2271 Business Econometrics
Advisable prior study
Approved quota

Unit description

The aim of this unit is to provide an advanced understanding of typical public policy problems that are faced by society and to discuss potential solutions. It covers those areas of public policy where governments have been strongly involved such as security, education, health care and redistribution and governance.


Unit content

In this unit, we will discuss the deeply rooted justification for the existence of governments and their involvement in today's societies. Departing from theories on why some nations have been successsful in growing economically and protecting their citizens, we will discuss the relationship between formal institutions (i.e., governments) and informal institutions (i.e., cultural aspects).

We then focus on 2 particular issues that have received substantial attention by today's policymakers throughout the world: corruption and discrimination. For both topics, we will review the existing theoretical and empirical evidence regarding the respective measurement and potential policy solutions, discussing the corresponding advantages and disadvantages. The course concludes with an overview of policy solutions that employ insights from behavioural economics.


Learning outcomes

Students are able to (1) explain the basic and advanced concepts related to public economics; (2) critically question public policies and the absence thereof, keeping in mind all possible consequences on the entire population; (3) identify the roles that cost–benefit analysis and the valuation of non-market benefits and costs play in policy decisions; (4) assess the relative merits of different public policy options based on consideration of both efficiency and equity grounds; and (5) demonstrate the capability to write and speak clearly and concisely on public policy issues.

Unit structure

(See Timetable)

Unit schedule

WeekLecture DateTopicSub-topic
12 AugustThe role of institutions in today’s world I Culture, institutions and geography
29 AugustThe role of institutions in today’s world IICorrelation vs causality
316 AugustThe role of institutions in today’s world IIISocial capital and the importance of trust
The weaknesses of democracy
423 AugustCulture and institutions IGlobal cultural differences
530 AugustCulture and institutions IIBeliefs about the role of government
66 SeptemberMid-term examination
713 SeptemberCorruption ICauses, costs and consequences
820 SeptemberCorruption IIEmpirical and theoretical studies
Non-teaching Study break27 September
94 OctoberPresentations IIn-class presentations
1011 OctoberPresentations IIn-class presentations
1118 OctoberDiscriminationRacial & gender discrimination
1225 OctoberBehavioural economics & public policies
131 NovemberFinal test

Teaching and learning responsibilities

Teaching and learning strategies

The course is designed for an interactive classroom environment – the more you participate, the more you will take away. We will frequently draw on current events from a global perspective, using novel empirical strategies to reveal aspects related to the public sector. We will mostly draw from academic papers, discussing their implications, but also their shortcomings and potential for further research.

Teaching and learning evaluation

You may be asked to complete two evaluations during this unit. The Student Perception of Teaching (SPOT) and the Students’ Unit Reflective Feedback (SURF). The SPOT is optional and is an evaluation of the lecturer and the unit. The SURF is completed online and is a university wide survey and deals only with the unit. You will receive an email from the SURF office inviting you to complete the SURF when it is activated. We encourage you to complete the forms as your feedback is extremely important and can be used to make changes to the unit or lecturing style when appropriate.


Participation in class, whether it be listening to a lecture or getting involved in other activities, is an important part of the learning process. It is therefore important that you attend classes. More formally, the University regulations state that ‘to complete a course or unit students shall attend prescribed classes, lectures, seminars and tutorials’. Where a student, due to exceptional circumstances, is unable to attend a scheduled class, they are required to obtain prior approval from the unit coordinator to be absent from that class. Any student absent from class without having had such absence approved by the unit coordinator may be referred to the faculty for advice and may be required to withdraw from the unit.

Charter of student rights and responsibilities

The Charter of Student Rights and Responsibilities upholds the fundamental rights of students who undertake their education at the University of Western Australia.  The University's charter of Student Rights and Responsibilities is available at www.governance.uwa.edu.au/procedures/policies/policies-and-procedures?method=document&id=UP07/132

Student Guild contact details

The UWA Student Guild is the peak representative body for all students enrolled at UWA. The Guild Student Assist team (consisting of qualified social workers and counsellors) can provide independent, confidential advice on anything affecting your study, including financial, academic, and welfare matters. The Guild also offers hundreds of events, student clubs, volunteering and leadership opportunities, and member discounts. More information and contact details can be found at www.uwastudentguild.com.

Uses of student feedback


Your academic orientation includes three online units which you must complete within the first 10 weeks of your enrolment:

AACE1000 Academic Conduct Essentials (ACE)  (just this for postgraduate)
INDG1000 Indigenous Study Essentials
CARS1000 Communication and Research Skills

Information for students with disabilities

The University has a range of support services, equipment and facilities for students with a disability. If you would like to receive advice on these services please email uniline@uwa.edu.au or visit www.student.uwa.edu.au/life/health/uniaccess

Using peer feedback to assess team contributions

The online tool SPARKPLUS may be used to assess individual contributions to team work. Where Spark is used you will be required to provide feedback to, and receive feedback from, your team members. Based on a series of answers from each team member SPARKPLUS automatically produces two weighting factors: your RPF and SAPA. The use of SPARKPLUS will be explained in class and more information is available on LMS.


Assessment overview

Typically this unit is assessed in the following ways: (1) presentations and (2) tests. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Assessment mechanism

#ComponentWeightDue dateRelates to outcomes
2Mid-term examination35%6 September, in class1,2,3
3Short paper & presentation30%20 September (short paper)
Weeks 9 and 10 (presentation)
4Final test35%1 November1,2,3

Assessment items

ItemDescriptionSubmission procedure
#1 Mid-term examinationWritten examination on the topics discussed in classIn class
#2 Short paper & presentationDiscussed on 1st day of class20 September online via LMS (short paper); in class (presentation)
#3 Final testWritten examination on the topics discussed in class (comprehensive, i.e., material from entire semester)In class

Academic literacy and academic misconduct

The University of Western Australia takes very seriously the matter of academic misconduct by students and has policies in place that define misconduct (including plagiarism) and the penalties that apply. The consequences for misconduct can be severe, including exclusion from the University.

All students are expected to make themselves aware of the definitions and the policies relating to academic misconduct, found at the websites below, and with any additional requirements or stipulations that may be provided by individual coordinators www.governance.uwa.edu.au/procedures/policies/policies-and-procedures?policy=UP07%2F21

Appeals against academic assessment

The full regulations governing appeals procedures are available in the University Handbook at http://rules.handbooks.uwa.edu.au/rules/student_rules/

Penalty for late submission

A penalty of 5 per cent of the total mark allocated for the assessment item is deducted per day for the first 7 days (including weekends and public holidays) after which the assigned work is not accepted. Each 24-hour block is recorded from the time the assignment is due.

 Penalty for exceeding word limit

Where an assignment exceeds the word limit, a penalty of 1 per cent of the total mark allocated for the assessment task applies for each 1 per cent in excess of the word limit.

Textbooks and resources

Recommended texts

We will mostly draw from academic papers that are available via LMS. The following is a preliminary list of papers we will discuss in depth:

Acemoglu, Daron, Johnson, Simon, and James A. Robinson (2000). “The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation,” The American Economic Review, Vol. 91, pp. 1369 – 1401

Alesina, Alberto and Giuliano, Paola and Nunn, Nathan (2013). “On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 128(2), 469-530

Alesina, Alberto, and Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln (2007). "Good-Bye Lenin (or Not?): The Effect of Communism on People's Preferences," The American Economic Review 97(4), 1507-1528

Andersen, S., Ertac, S., Gneezy, U., List, J. A., & Maximiano, S. (2013). “Gender, competitiveness, and socialization at a young age: Evidence from a matrilineal and a patriarchal society,” Review of Economics and Statistics, 95(4), 1438-1443

Baltrunaite, Audinga and Bello, Piera and Casarico, Alessandra and Profeta, Paola (2014). “Gender quotas and the quality of politicians,” Journal of Public Economics 118, 62-74

Barr, Abigail and Serra, Danila (2010). “Corruption and culture: An experimental analysis,” Journal of Public Economics 94(11), 862-869

Brosig-Koch, Jeannette and Helbach, Christoph and Ockenfels, Axel and Weimann, Joachim (2011). “Still different after all these years: Solidarity behavior in East and West Germany,” Journal of Public Economics 95(11), 1373-1376

Cohn, Alain, Fehr, Ernst and Marechal, Andre (2014). “Business Culture and dishonesty in the banking industry,” Nature 516, 86 – 89

Fisman, Raymond and Miguel, Edward (2007). “Corruption, norms, and legal enforcement: Evidence from diplomatic parking tickets,” Journal of Political Economy 115(6),  1020-1048

Hodler, Roland and Raschky, Paul (2014). “Regional favoritism,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 129(2), 995–1033

Nunn, Nathan and Wantchekon, Leonard (2011). “The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa,” American Economic Review 101(7), 3221-3252

Olson, Mancur (1993). "Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development," American Political Science Review 87(3), 567-576

Shleifer А, Vishny RW (1993). “Corruption,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 107(33), 1-30

Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth (2014). "The cost of racial animus on a black candidate: Evidence using Google search data," Journal of Public Economics 118, 26 – 40

Tabellini, Guido (2010). “Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe,” Journal of the European Economic Association 8(4), 677 – 716

Treisman, Daniel (2000). The causes of corruption: a cross-national study. Journal of Public Economics 76(3), 399 – 457

Suggested alternate texts

Additional texts



Technical requirements

Software requirements

Additional resources and reading

Other important information

Standard of assessment

The Business School must ensure that the processes of assessment are fair and are designed to maintain the standards of the School and its students. The School follows the UWA marks and grades distribution:

Higher distinction






Credit pass












Failed component




The scaling of marks to ensure comparability between classes is an acceptable academic practice. The School and Board of Examiners have the right to scale marks where it is considered necessary to maintain consistency and fairness.

Quality assurance

Your assessed work may also be used for quality assurance purposes, such as to assess the level of achievement of learning outcomes as required for accreditation and audit purposes. The findings may be used to inform changes aimed at improving the quality of Business School programs. All material used for such processes will be treated as confidential, and the outcome will not affect your grade for the unit.

Approved calculators for examinations

The University permits only the use of calculators in examinations when the calculator has an approved sticker and the examiner permits their use.  If the student does not have an approved sticker on their calculator, they will not be permitted to use the calculator.  Calculators can be approved at the Undergraduate Student Centre, the Postgraduate Student Centre or at Student Administration.  Further information is available on the Business School website at www.business.uwa.edu.au/students/assessments

Special consideration/alternative arrangements

If you are unable to attend a class, tutorial or examination due to circumstances beyond your control and are seeking an extension for submission of an assignment or a deferred exam, please read valid reasons for special consideration at www.student.uwa.edu.au/life/health/uniaccess/special-consideration, complete the application form and submit at the Student Centre.
PLEASE NOTE that deferred exams are not available in Summer School units.

Acknowledging Sources of Information and the Business School Policy on Plagiarism

Student Services provides an online plagiarism portal that includes a definition of plagiarism and a link to FAQ www.studentservices.uwa.edu.au/ss/learning/online_services/plagiarism_portal

‘Turnitin' Originality Checking & Plagiarism Prevention is used in the Faculty to allow both educators and their students check written work for improper citation or misappropriated content. More information about 'Turnitin' can be found at http://turnitin.com/static/index.html

eBooks and open book exams

eBooks cannot be accessed at an examination. Please check your exam details and purchase a printed version of any book you would select to take into an open book exam.


It is important that the referencing of any sources used in your written work is done properly, if only to substantiate the points you are making in your assignment or project.  The Harvard style is the preferred and there are some notes for guidance which have been prepared by the library staff:  ‘Citing your Sources Harvard Style’ http://libguides.library.uwa.edu.au/harvard

The EndNote software package is a really good system for building up a database of references.  Not everyone will want to invest the time in using this system but you should consider it if you intend to build up resource materials or plan to undertake extensive research in a particular area.  The library staff have also developed a tutoring package: ‘A Quick Guide to Using EndNote’ which provides the basics for using EndNote with an essay http://libguides.library.uwa.edu.au/endnote

Last day to add a unit offered in a semester

The final date to add a unit is the end of week 2 of the semester.  For further information on important dates for 2017, refer to www.student.uwa.edu.au/course/dates/important


STUDYSmarter helps students get more out of their study by equipping you with additional skills needed at university. Explore the range of free on-campus and online services to help you develop academic communication, research, critical analysis, numeracy and study skills. http://www.student.uwa.edu.au/learning/studysmarter