PPE 3003 - Choices, Models and Morals: Foundations of Public Policy

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2024

Good public policy should be fair, effective, and rational. But all of these attributes are conceptually contentious. In this capstone course for the program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, we will take an interdisciplinary approach to these fundamental ideas in policy design and evaluation. The course will include at least the following topics: understanding theoretical explanations of social phenomena and the nature of economic models; the role of rationality in economic models (rational choice theory and game theory); causal models and causal inference in social science, and their role in policy interventions; the idea and reality of evidence-based policy; the nature of welfare, well-being, and welfare economics; markets and morals, including market failures; inequality, fairness, and distributive justice. The emphasis is on conceptual issues accessible to all PPE students. As a capstone, the course also provides a key opportunity for the PPE cohort to engage with one another.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PPE 3003
    Course Choices, Models and Morals: Foundations of Public Policy
    Coordinating Unit School of Humanities
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 6
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange N
    Prerequisites ECON 2507 and ECON 2514
    Incompatible PPE 2002
    Assumed Knowledge At least 6 units of Level II PHIL courses and at least 6 units of Level II POLIS courses
    Restrictions Available only to students enrolled in the Bachelor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program
    Assessment Major essay, Minor essay, Group presentation, Discussion preparation
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Elyse Chapman

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1. Individually, and in collaboration with peers, investigate and present the main controversies around rational choice theory and evidence-based policy;
    2. Demonstrate understanding of major theoretical approaches from philosophy, politics, and economics to public policy through oral and written argument;
    3. Identify relevant contemporary policy challenges and demonstrate the ability to apply the major foundational approaches covered to a particular policy proposal.;
    4. Explain and evaluate, through extended written argument, selected proposed foundations for successful policy development.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    The course textbook is

    Julian Reiss (2013), Philosophy of Economics: A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge.

    This is available online via the library.

    We will read a number of book chapters and articles as supplements to the textbook. These will be available through a course reading list in MyUni.
    Recommended Resources
    Several books that might be useful supplements to the core textbook:
    • Bykvist, Krister (2010) Utilitarianism. A Guide for the Perplexed. Continuum.
    • Cartwright, Nancy (2012) Evidence Based Policy: A Practical Guide to Doing it Better. Oxford University Press.
    • Hausman, D., McPherson, M., and Satz, D. (2016). Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy. Cambridge.
    • Kahneman, Daniel (2012) Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin.
    • Peterson, Martin (2009) An Introduction to Decision Theory. Cambridge University Press.
    • Quiggin, John (2019) Economics in Two Lessons. Princeton University Press.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course is taught in small group seminar. Seminars are structured by an initial presentation of course material and then leading into whole class discussion. Appropriate to the advanced level of the course, students are expected to take high levels of responsibility for their own learning, and to be proactive in class preparation and in facilitatating and enabling class discussion by their own example.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Note: this is a 6-unit course.
    Up to 3 hours lecture equivalent per week 36 hours per semester
    1 x 3-hour workshop per week 36 hours per semester
    Sub-total 72 hours
    10 hours reading/independent thought per week 120 hours per semester
    2 hour discussion preparation per week 24 hours per semester
    8 hours assignment preparation per week 96 hours per semester
    Sub-total 240 hours
    TOTAL 312 hours
    Learning Activities Summary
    1. Introduction
      1. PPE and the Philosophy of Economics
    2. Explanation in Economics
      1. Economic Explanation
      2. Rational Choice and its Limits
      3. Game Theory and Decision Theory
    3. Economic Theory and Observation
      1. Causal Explanation and Economic Models
      2. Statistics and Experiment in Economics
      3. Evidence-Based Policy and Evidence
    4. Ethics, Politics, and Economics
      1. Welfare and Well-Being
      2. Welfare Economics
      3. Markets and Market Failures
      4. Inequality and Distributive Justice
    5. Conclusion: Beyond the Individual
      1. Social Choice Theory
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Major Essay Summative 40% 1,2,3,4
    Shorter Essay Formative and Summative 25% 1,2,3,4
    Group Presentation Summative 25% 1,2,3
    Workshop activities Formative and Summative 10% 1,2
    Assessment Detail
    AssessmentDescription% weighting
    Major essay An extended essay of 4000 words on the foundational issues discussed in the course. 40
    Shorter essay An essay of 2000 words on the conceptual aspects of the first half of the course 25
    Group presentation This group activity, completed by groups of students, will take the form of a policy paper, identifying, analysing, and proposing a resolution to a specific policy challenge, with reference to the course material. Work will be assessed on a group presentation and a report, which should involve equal contributions from each group member. The contributions of each individual to the presentation and report will amount to the equivalent of 2000 words. 25
    Workshop activities Students should attend the workshop and participate in class discussion. 10
    All essays, group reports, and weekly discussion answers must be submitted electronically through MyUni. Please do not submit a hard copy of your essay. In this course, essays and reports will be checked with Turnitin.

    It is your responsibility to submit assessments correctly, and to ensure that at all times you act with integrity and responsibility during the creation and submission of assessments.

    Assignments are marked using an electronic rubric, in line with University grade descriptors. You will be able to access the electronic rubric used for marking from the assignment page, and you should familiarise yourself with the rubrics while writing.

    I will be using anonymous grading for essays.  So please omit your name and other identifying information from the pages of your submitted essays. MyUni will assign you a unique identifier which connects with your name. (We will know the identity of students at the conclusion of the assessment process – but not during it.) Group assignments cannot be anonymously marked.

    Queries about grades should be directed to the course coordinator, unless it is just to clarify a comment on your assignment. The university’s assessment grievances policy applies if you wish to request a re-mark. Note that disappointment with your mark is not grounds for a re-mark; see the University’s guidance on grounds for assessment grievances for more detail.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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