Dan Hausman dhausman@wisc.edu
5197 Helen C. White Hall 354-6120
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays 2:30-3:30

Philosophy/Economics 524 Syllabus (Revised 9/24/2015)


This is an unusual class, in which I hope to exploit you while at the same time providing a valuable learning experience for you. The reading for the course will consist largely of the rough draft of the third edition of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy (EAMPPP), which is co-authored by Michael McPherson, Debra Satz, and me. EAMPPP aims to provide a general introduction to (a) the influence of ethical considerations on positive economics, (b) the tools and concepts of normative (welfare) economics, (c) the most important ethical theories and concepts that are relevant to the concerns of economists, (d) the ethical limits of capitalist markets, (e) analytical tools forged by economists that may be of use to moral philosophers, and (f) the distinctions between positive and normative economics and the relations between them.

There may also be supplementary readings. There will be some lectures -- how many will depend on how successful you and I are at generating fruitful discussion. I shall distribute reading or study questions before each class and ask you, with the help of those questions to study a chapter or section of EAMPPP and then come to class with tentative answers to the study questions and especially objections, criticisms, questions, and suggestions for improvement. Class discussion will be structured around your comments and questions.  I will, of course, have a good deal (indeed probably too much) to say.

Whether this turns out to be a great class or a mediocre one thus depends crucially on your input.  If you get excited about the issues and are full of questions and challenges, you can make this into an excellent course. Of course, I’ll bear lots of the responsibility, too, in guiding your reading with study questions and in making my contributions to discussion clearly and briefly and then shutting up.

Course Goals:

The overall goal is to give you a grasp of the terrain at the boundaries between economics and ethics where policies are born and die. The guide to the exploration of this territory is the third edition of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy.

More specifically the course aims to accomplish a long list of goals:

  1. To give students an appreciation of the ethical and political commitments that are often implicit in purportedly value-neutral “positive” economic theorizing.
  2. To provide an introduction to standard welfare economics, including the notion of social welfare functions and cost-benefit analysis.
  3. To provide an introduction to those concepts and theories in ethics and political philosophy that are most relevant to normative economics. These concepts include welfare, efficiency, freedom, rights, equality, solidarity, benevolence, capabilities, and justice, and the most important theories are utilitarianism, libertarianism, egalitarianism, and Rawls’ theory of justice.
  4. To provide an understanding of the character and moral implications of market relations among individuals and of the appropriate limits to market relations. In other words, what should and shouldn’t be for sale?
  5. To provide an introductory grasp of tools economists have developed that are of potential value for ethical reflection and political theorizing. These include rational choice theory, social choice theory, and game theory.
  6. To provide a grasp of the relationship between positive economics (which purports to explain and describe in an ethically neutral way) and normative economics and policy, which depend on values.
  7. In addition, a more general goal is to provide an introduction to the nature of argument and of informal logic in general: To the extent that this course helps you to make and criticize arguments, it should be valuable for you, quite apart from its particular subject matter.
  8. Lastly, the course aims to help you to develop your abilities to present and to criticize arguments both in discussion and, in particular, in writing: Every good essay, regardless of the subject matter, is an extended argument for some thesis or conclusion. The only thing special about philosophy essays is the extent to which one focuses upon the logic of the argument. This course should help you to write more sharply organized, focused and effective essays. It is hard to separate bad writing and sloppy thinking.

The extent to which these course goals can be achieved is largely up to you, but it is important that you appreciate what I am trying to accomplish. If you cannot see how any particular discussion or reading assignment relates to the goals of the course, ask about it. In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is. Keep asking "So what?"

Since this course is more concerned with mastering skills than with acquiring information, it demands your active participation, and I think that the interest and importance of the issues we will be addressing will reward that participation.

What this course does not aim to do:

  1. This course does not aim to cover the material that one would expect to find in an introductory economics course. Although there will be significant economic content, it will be limited to matters that are relevant to the goals listed above.
  2. This course does not aim to cover the material that one would expect to find in either an introductory ethics course or in an introduction to political theory. There will be a great deal of philosophical content, but it will be limited to content relevant to the course goals.
  3. This course does not aim to provide simple answers to current problems of economic policy.  I hope that the clarifications this course provides will help you to make up your mind on policy questions, but the course does not aim to answer them. What is important in the course is intellectual honesty and the sort of perseverance that makes one struggle to bring one's convictions and the weight of argument into accord. The course should help you rationally to make up your own mind concerning whether there should be a higher minimum wage, higher (or lower) taxes on the wealthy, reliance on markets or government to provide health care or to protect the environment, and so forth.

Note: Students are encouraged to discuss problems concerning the teaching of this course with the instructor and/or the TA. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact Jesse Steinberg, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.


Chapters of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy and any other course readings will be available electronically on the Learn@UW site for the course. It is essential that you download the chapters and bring them with you to class so that we can refer to the text.

I may occasionally assign other readings, but none are planned at this point.


If you have a special need to use a laptop, please speak with me. In general, computers get in the way of discussion, and you’ll learn more from handwritten notes (which require you to be selective in what you put down) than from typing large quantities of material.

Course Web Site:

In addition to the learn@uw site, there is a public web site for the course: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/524/Fall2015/524-Fall2015.htm. You will find useful documents there.

Because we will often refer in detail to the chapters of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy, please print them out and bring them to class.

Students with Disabilities:

I hope to make this course as accessible as is feasible to anyone with a disability. Please let me know as early in the course as possible if you need accommodations in the curriculum, instruction, or assessments in this course to enable you to participate fully. I will attempt to maintain confidentiality of any information you share with me.

Course Requirements:

There will be two essays, five quizzes, weekly homework assignments and a final examination. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (40%), the quizzes (5% each), the final (25%), and the homework assignments (10%).  In addition, there will be either some extra credit or a penalty attached to course attendance.

LECTURES Although I will occasionally lecture on difficult or confusing material, this is meant to be predominantly a discussion course. Attendance is accordingly mandatory and crucial.

HOMEWORK (AND STUDY QUESTIONS): Before most of the class meetings, I will distribute study questions on the material to be covered. These should help focus your reading and help to structure class discussion. Some of the study questions will be designed as a homework assignment. Half of the class will submit homework assignments to me via email by Monday noon to be discussed on Tuesdays and half will submit their homework assignments to me via email by noon Wednesday for discussion on Thursdays. To the extent possible I will accommodate your preferences for which day you submit your homework, but if that is not possible I will work out a schedule that will permit you to submit your homework on the day you prefer most of the weeks. Homework should be sent to me either within the text of an email message or, preferably, as a single-spaced email attachment in Microsoft Word. Homework submissions are limited to 80 words. Each homework will be graded on a pass-fail basis. The standards for passing are both substantive -- the answer or question should show a grasp of the assigned readings -- and formal. Since the responses are short, they should be vigorously and lucidly written, free of grammatical mistakes, awkward circumlocutions and so forth. (For more on my high expectations for your writing, see the material near the end of the syllabus.) Your overall homework grade will depend on how many you pass. You can fail to hand in or simply fail two of the homework assignments without any grade penalty. After that, each missed or failed homework assignment lowers your homework grade by 10% (or, in other words, your semester grade by 1 point).



QUIZZES AND FINAL EXAM Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy divides roughly into six parts. There will be five half-period quizzes on the first five parts, worth 5 points each. The final exam covers the sixth part as well as reviewing the material during the whole semester. The material covered on the quizzes will be as follows. The dates are tentative.

ATTENDANCE: If you attend every class or write a precis for every class that you miss, you will receive 2 points of extra credit. Each class you miss for which you do not write a precis will cost you one point off your semester grade. If you miss a class, you should get hold of notes from some other student in the class and write an organized essay summarizing the content of the class you missed. The essay should be at least 500 words in length. Please email it to me in word, rtf, or text format (or paste it into an email message). Missed lectures must be made up within two weeks of the class you miss or by the last day of classes, whichever is sooner.

WARNING!! Philosophy challenges complacency. It’s hard to know what the truth is concerning hard questions like the ones we will be addressing this semester.

Course Outline (Tentative and Subject to Revision)

Thursday, September 3:  Introduction to the course and to Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy

Tuesday, September 8: Introduction: Ethics and economics and a controversial example

EAMPPP, Preface and Chapter 1, Chapter 2, sections 1-5

Thursday, September 10: Normative economics, and normative intrusions in positive economics

EAMPPP, Chapter 2, Sections 6 and 7; Chapter 3

Tuesday, September 15: Rationality

EAMPPP, Chapter 4, sections 1 and 2

Thursday, September 17: Rationality and its role in positive economics

EAMPPP, Chapter 4, sections 2 and 3; Chapter 5, sections 1-3

*Tuesday, September 22: Rationality and ethics in positive economics, continued

EAMPPP, rest of Chapter 5

Quiz #1 on Chapters 1-3

Thursday, September 24: The virtues and limits of markets

EAMPPP, rest of Chapter 5, EAMPPP, chapter 6, sections 1 and 2

*Tuesday, September 29: The limits of markets, continued; Utilitarianism

EAMPPP, chapter 6

Rough draft of introductory paper due

Introductory Paper Assignment:

Read pp. 85-98 of Chapter 6 of Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom and Herbert Gintis' essay, "The Political Economy of School Choice," both of which are available on the learn@uw site for the course. Both essays are arguments against government provision of elementary and secondary education, although both allow a role for government in regulating primary and secondary education and subsidizing it via vouchers. Write an essay EITHER focusing on one SPECIFIC difference between Friedman's and Gintis's proposals and arguing for the superiority of one of the two views OR develop a serious criticism of educational vouchers and discuss whether Friedman or Gintis is able to respond to the criticism. Although your essay need not refer to chapter 2 of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy, it should show your familiarity with the chapter and, in particular, it should not ignore anything in the chapter that challenges what you write in your essay.

The introductory papers should be about 1200 words (roughly 4 double-spaced pages with a 12-point font). They should be correct in their spelling, punctuation, and grammar. When you refer to various texts, be sure to document your references. It is sufficient to include parenthetical references in the text such as (Gintis, p. 494). What is crucial is that your readers be able easily to consult the passages you refer to.

Be sure that your paper is well-organized as an argument for a some substantive thesis concerning the contrast between Gintis and Friedman that you are discussing or concerning the force of the objection to school vouchers that you are considering.

You should feel free to make use of other materials besides EAMPPP, Friedman, and Gintis, but there is no need to do so.

There is no recipe for writing a well-organized, cogent, and intelligent paper. The crucial step, which is also the most difficult step, is determining the central claim that you want to argue for. Ask yourself not what your paper is about, but instead what your paper establishes or demonstrates. Then be sure to integrate the exposition of Friedman's or Gintis's views into your argument.

There is a good deal of information and advice on writing papers near the end of the syllabus as well as references to resources on paper-writing that are available on the web. Please consult that information and try to profit from that advice.

I will read just one paragraph of your papers and let you know whether the writing in that paragraph is acceptable or not. The version that you hand in on October 6 can be identical to the version you hand in today, or you can take advantage of the additional week to go through your essay and improve its writing and its argument.

*Thursday, October 1: Utilitarianism

EAMPPP, chapter 7, sections 1-3

Quiz #2 on Chapters 4-6

*Tuesday, October 6: Utilitarianism, continued; Welfare

EAMPPP, chapter 7, EAMPPP, chapter 8, sections 1-3

Final version of introductory paper due

Thursday, October 8: Welfare and preference satisfaction

EAMPPP, chapter 8

Tuesday, October 13: Introduction to welfare economics

EAMPPP, chapter 9, sections 1 - 3

Thursday, October 15: Welfare economics and cost-benefit analysis

EAMPPP, chapter 9

Tuesday, October 20: Freedom and rights

EAMPPP, chapter 10, sections 1-5

The discussion of libertarianism and the rest of chapter 10 will be postponed until we get to chapter 12 on theories of justice

Thursday, October 22:   Quiz #3 on Chapters 7-9

Tuesday, October 27: What's wrong with inequality? (Probable guest lecturer, Robert Streiffer)

EAMPPP, chapter 11, sections 1-3

Thursday, October 29: Forms of egalitarianism and their operationalization (Possible guest lecturer, Robert Streiffer)

EAMPPP, chapter 11, sections 4-end

Tuesday, November 3: Justice: contractualism and Rawl's theory

EAMPPP, chapter 12, sections 1 and 2

Thursday, November 5: Justice: other theories, including libertarianism

EAMPPP, chapter 12, sections 3-end; chapter 10, sections 6-end

*Tuesday, November 10: Social Choice Theory: Arrow's theorem

EAMPPP, chapter 13, sections 1-3

Term paper due

Thursday, November 12: Social choice and social welfare

EAMPPP, chapter 13, sections 4-end

Quiz#4 on Chapters 10-12

Tuesday, November 17: Game theory: an introduction

EAMPPP, chapter 14, sections 1 and 2

Thursday, November 19: Game theory: applications

EAMPPP, chapter 14, sections 3-end

Tuesday, November 24: Catch-up day

Thursday, November 26: Thanksgiving

Tuesday, December 1: Revisiting the initial examples

EAMPPP, chapter 15, sections 1-4

Quiz #5 on Chapters 13 and 14

*Thursday, December 3: Revisiting the initial examples and applying other moral theories

EAMPPP, chapter 15

Optional revision of term paper due

Tuesday, December 8: Combining ethics and economics to address hard problems

EAMPPP, chapter 16

Thursday, December 10: On Facts and Values

EAMPPP, Appendix

Tuesday, December 15: Catch-up and review

Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Tuesdays and Wednesdays 2:30-3:30) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet. My job is to help you to master the skills and material with which this course is concerned, so feel free to come see me.

Use of Email:

Email can be a great convenience, but it can get out of hand. Feel free to email me at dhausman@wisc.edu with any specific questions you have about assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I may post them on the course discussion page or send it to the class list. If you do not want your question posted, you should let me know. Otherwise I will assume that in emailing me, you’ve given me permission to post your question. That way I can serve as many students as possible. Some questions are not appropriate. For example, "Could you please restate the last three lectures?" And some questions are better discussed in person than over email. I’ll do the best I can to be helpful.

A Note on Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is a serious offense, for which there is no excuse. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me or with your TA. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL. It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted. The minimum penalty for plagiarism -- even of just a phrase -- is a zero on the assignment.

In my experience, plagiarism usually happens because it is 3 a.m. on the morning when a paper is due. Your rough draft is going nowhere. You're exhausted and increasingly desperate. And you've come across an obscure web page that says pretty much what you've been trying to say. And ... well you can fill in the rest, perhaps even what happens when you get caught. This is the time to stop and go to bed. Much better to talk with me and get some help, take the mild penalty for not handing the paper in on time, and write a paper that gives you some satisfaction and that doesn't risk expulsion from the University.

Some Hints on Reading Philosophy:

Your objective should be to understand fully everything you read. Here are some detailed hints about how to achieve it:

1. Use your highlighter very sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively challenging and reacting to the text is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)

2. The assignments are usually fairly short, and you should plan on reading the assignments at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:

During the second reading of the assignment, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than merely asking questions about the chapter's purposes, organization, and argument, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the chapter's arguments

General Directions on Writing the Papers:

1. You are expected to give references when you cite detailed claims or arguments made in the readings, and your papers should, where appropriate, show familiarity with relevant materials from the lectures or reading for the course. But you are expected to write essays, not examination answers. So don't introduce irrelevant matters to demonstrate that you have done the course readings. (But you must not ignore relevant supporting arguments and, particularly, objections in the readings.) Cite the readings only when they are relevant. Be sure that your paper is a well organized argument for some clearly articulated thesis.

2. When you quote, paraphrase, or make use of a point made by others, be sure to document the source. I am not particular about what style you use. All that matters is that your references be precise and usable. If you say that chapter 4 says that people are irrational where this is not obviously a few that the chapter defends, it should be clear on what page the chapter makes that claim. The easiest way to give a reference is simply to put the page number in parenthesis. Papers without clear references (where needed) will be marked down.

3. Papers must be typed or printed double-spaced with wide margins (at least one inch) on all sides, so that there is plenty of room for marginal comments. Be sure to keep copies of your papers. Please do not use binders.

4. Papers for the course must be essentially correct in their "mechanical" aspects-- spelling, punctuation, grammar, typing, and so forth. Papers with more than 3 or 4 errors per page will be marked down by 10%, and if they are very messy, they will not only be penalized, but they will also be returned for correction before they are graded. Obviously spelling and typing are of no intrinsic importance, but messy papers are hard to assess; and it is not unfair to expect you to take responsibility for making sure that your papers are correct in these regards. If you have difficulty with the mechanical features of paper writing, please get someone to proofread your paper before you hand it in.

Hints on Essay Writing:

  1. The paper topics are not recipes for writing your essays. You have to decide what it is that you want to maintain in your essays. Do not regard the paper topic as an essay examination question. Although your papers must be on the assigned topic, the point is to write a well-organized and unified argument for some clearly enunciated conclusion.
  2. The task of writing a good essay is virtually identical with the task of thinking out a clear thesis or conclusion that you want to defend and then elaborating and defending it. You should be able to say clearly and precisely not only what your paper is about, but also what your paper maintains. Be sure each of your papers has both a thesis--that it asserts something definite--and a logical organization. Once it is clear what you what to show, you will have a criterion to decide what is relevant and the basis for organizing your paper. Can you put your main point clearly in a sentence? Can you say clearly in a sentence what your paper shows or proves? Are all the parts of your paper relevant to your main point? Is the structure of your argument clear? No good essay merely summarizes things you have read and then offers your remarks or points of comparison or differences you noticed. Every acceptable essay integrates its remarks into an argument of its own. Exposition of the views of others should always be part of your argument for your thesis.
  3. Note that a well-organized paper is not merely orderly. For example, a paper that argues that Chapter 6 argues for claims 1, 2, and 3 and that one can defend claim 1 as follows, claim 2 as follows, but not claim 3 is certainly orderly, and it certainly has a thesis. But it would only be well-organized--truly one paper rather than three--if the discussions of the three claims bore some relations to one another and if the paper added up to some unified and substantive statement.
  4. Avoid first paragraphs that say things such as, "First I will discuss the views in chapter 7. Then I will discuss the arguments in chapter 8. Then I will discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Then I will compare their conclusions and formulate my opinion." Passages such as these make it sound as if your argument will begin only on the last page. Exposition of the views of others has to find its place within your argument, not as a preface to your argument. If you think in terms of what you want to establish, and outline your paper in terms of stages in your argument, your essay will be much stronger.
  5. Try to say exactly what you mean. Pay careful attention to your language. Sentences such as "Welfare is a mistaken principle" are unacceptably careless, since welfare is not of course a principle. Value your words and use them accurately.
  6. To help in organizing your thinking, you should attempt to answer the following three questions:

If you cannot answer these questions clearly and easily, then there are serious problems with your paper. Do not regard your papers as finished or acceptable until each clearly implies answers to the above questions. (But an essay is not, of course, a list of answers to any set of questions.) Taking the task of answering these questions seriously can make a big difference in the quality of your paper.

Special Considerations in Writing Philosophy Papers:

1. In a political debate, the point is to win, and one consequently tries to make the arguments of one's opponents sound as ridiculous and worthless as possible. In a philosophical debate (or in writing a philosophy essay), in contrast, the objective is to learn the truth. So you should try to make the arguments conflicting with your views as compelling as possible, before you answer them. If there are any objections to what you are maintaining that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side".

2. Although many economic, sociological and historical facts are relevant to the issues you are addressing in your essays, be careful to keep your focus philosophical. If you aren't sure whether your papers are philosophical or not, check with me.

Some Recommendations on How to Write Badly (adapted from Martin Hassel  http://lacasahassel.net/cv/martin/howto.htm):

1.  Begin with a sentence that is clear and direct:
Karl Marx vigorously condemns capitalism.

2. Change its verbs, adjectives, and adverbs into abstract nouns:
Karl Marx presents a vigorous condemnation of the acceptability of capitalism.

3. Make the sentence passive:
A vigorous condemnation of the acceptability of capitalism is found in the works of Karl Marx.

4. Use two words where one would do:
A vigorous and strong condemnation and critique of the acceptability of capitalism is found in the works of Karl Marx.

5. Use plenty of 'in regard to,' 'as to' and similar terms:
A vigorous and strong condemnation and critique in regard to the acceptability of capitalism under possibly all circumstances is found in the works of Karl Marx.

6. Sprinkle with words that add little or nothing
An interesting and quite vigorous and reasonably strong condemnation and forceful critique in regard to the acceptability of capitalism under possibly all circumstances is compellingly presented in the works of Karl Marx..

7. Use negatives:
A not uninteresting and quite vigorous and not unreasonably weak condemnation and not timid critique in regard to the unacceptability of capitalism under not unrestricted circumstances is not uncompellingly presented in the works of Karl Marx.

Seeking Help :

When working on the final versions of your essays, feel free to come to your teaching assistant or me for help. You do not need to do further research, but you can consult with us if you want references for further reading.

There are some excellent resources on the web for writing philosophy papers. I particularly recommend:

Paper Grading Criteria:

An "A" paper typically has all of the following virtues, although in exceptional cases papers with only five of the six virtues might merit an "A"

  1. It has a well-defined thesis and a logical organization.
  2. It shows good sense, intellectual honesty and struggle. It defends a sensible thesis and takes objections seriously.
  3. It is well-informed. It does not ignore relevant passages in the readings, particularly if these challenge what the essay claims. The paper shows an awareness of conceptual distinctions developed in the course.
  4. It is intelligent, logical, and careful. It develops its argument carefully and anticipates and answers obvious objections.
  5. It is significant. The issues discussed, although typically details, matter, and the essay makes clear how they matter.
  6. The writing is grammatical and lucid.

A "B" paper has the following virtues:

  1. As before.
  2. As before.
  3. As before.
  4. It is logical and not careless. The argument is well articulated.
  5. It is not trivial. The essay provides some motivation for its topic.
  6. The writing is grammatical.

A "C" paper has at least the following virtues:

  1. It is orderly and has some focus.
  2. It shows some serious concern with the issues it deals with.
  3. It is not uninformed. Where relevant, it shows awareness of the content of the course.
  4. There are some definite and cogent arguments in the essay.
  5. The paper has some point.
  6. The paper is readable and has few grammatical errors.

A "D" paper

  1. Has some intelligible organization.
  2. Shows some concern with the issues it deals with.
  3. Shows minimal awareness of the course content.
  4. Makes some relevant and sensible argument
  5. Has some point.
  6. Is comprehensible.