The structure of the major


The PPEL program aims not simply at breadth of knowledge, but detailed understanding. To do this the major is composed of 45 units.

Disciplinary Foundations (12 units)

In their first and second years of university study, potential PPEL majors must complete four courses of disciplinary study.

Economics Foundations (BOTH of the following)

  • ECON 200: Basic Economic Issues (3 units)
    National and international economic issues. An introduction to economic analysis.
  • ECON 205: The Ethics and Economics of Wealth Creation (3 units)
    The study the ethics and the economics of such phenomena as market competition, institutions of private and public property, trade restrictions, globalization, and corporate welfare.

Philosophy Foundation (1 of the following)

  • Phil 210: Moral Thinking (3 units)
    It is important to "do the right thing". But how can anyone tell what "the right thing" is? The aim on this course is to gain an overview of this area of philosophy. We shall examine three main ways of thinking about ethics: those that focus on the outcomes of actions, those that focus on the nature of the actions themselves, and those that focus on the character of the one who acts. We shall also glimpse a couple of emerging alternatives. While we certainly cannot pretend to cover everything that is important in ethical theory, we can hope to gain a good familiarity with several main issues, which can serve as a solid background for more advanced work in ethics, as a resource for thinking about moral issues, and as a piece of general education valuable for understanding certain practical aspects of human life.
  • PHL 250: The Social Contract (3 units)
    In a world in which we disagree deeply about the ends of life and the requirements of morality, how can we live together? The social contract tradition has sought to base society and political life on an agreement by individuals to live according to rules of justice. This course focuses on the search for this agreement, in the classical theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, as well as contemporary theories such as that of John Rawls.

Politics Foundations (1 of the following)

  • POL 203: Political Ideas (3 units)
    Basic issues in political thought, with emphasis on contemporary problems of democracy, liberty, authority, obligation, and ideology.
  • POL 206: Public Policy and Administration (3 units)
    Theory and practice of executive agencies, including policy making and other functions, processes, personnel and fiscal management, and administrative law.

Core curriculum (21 units)

Students admitted to Advanced Standing are required in their junior year to take PPEL 301, 310, 320 and 326; in their senior year they must take PPEL 340 and 350, as well as the capstone seminar, PPEL 496.

The PPEL program guarantees course and place availability, allowing all students to complete the core in their third and fourth years of university study. Except with special permission, only students who have completed their disciplinary foundation courses can enroll in the core courses.

Junior Year Core Curriculum (2018-19)

  • PPEL 301 (3 units) Fundamentals of Economics
    A survey of economic analysis covering topics in microeconomics and welfare economics.
  • PPEL 310 (3 units) Economic Analyses in Philosophy and Politics. 
    This course introduces students to the ways in which economic analysis has been applied to issues in social philosophy and the study of politics. Game theory, axiomatic social choice theory, and public choice theory are discussed.
  • PPEL 320 (3 units) Classics in Political Economy 
    This course acquaints students with the contributions to PPEL by, among others, John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, J.S. Mill, Karl Marx, F.A. Hayek and John Maynard Keynes. The course considers why the field of political economy, combining social philosophy, politics, and economic analysis, flourished for most of the nineteenth century, but broke into separate fields at the end of the century, and the consequences of this rupture.
  • PPEL 326 (3 units) Law Legal Theory 
    This writing-intensive course explores basic legal doctrine and legal theory in one or another central area of the law. In general, philosophical and/or economic analysis will be brought to bear on substantive areas of law. In a given semester, the course might focus on basic constitutional law and constitutional theory, basic property law and theory, the law of torts and tort theory, or criminal law and the philosophy of criminal law. The focus of a course in a given semester TBA.

Senior Year Core Curriculum (2018-19)

  • PPEL 340 (3 units) Justice and Welfare 
    This course considers what constitutes a better economic distribution, or a fair way to sustain social and economic cooperation. The course centers around two broad families of approaches: those that focus on fairness or justice, and those that evaluate on the basis of welfare improvements. Topics to be considered include the morality of markets, egalitarianism, the Pareto criterion, economic desert, and mutual gain.
  • PPEL 350 (3 units) Behavioral and Experimental Economics for PPEL
    Given the growth of interest in behavioral considerations, experiments are increasingly used to test theories of behavior, gather stylized facts and design public policy. Experimental Economics may be the fastest growing field in economics today. It is a field that began with the proposition that economic theory can be testable in a controlled laboratory setting. Experimental work has been conducted in all fields of economics including Industrial Organization, Game Theory, Public Finance, General Equilibrium Theory and even Macroeconomics. Students will be introduced to the methods of experimental science, explore major subject areas that have been addressed through laboratory experiments, and learn how to design experiments of their own. Topics to be included reflect a variety of splits in the field: behavioral economics is more closely linked to psychology, neuroeconomics records brain wave activity during the experiment in an attempt to link behavior to specific areas of the brain, while the main branch, experimental economics, tries to learn about individual and group behavior given economic institutions and questions.
  • PPEL 496 (3 units) Capstone Seminar
    In their fourth year all PPEL students take a capstone seminar, of no more than 15 students. This seminar will be on a topic in philosophy, politics, economics or law chosen by the faculty member, but the aim of all the seminars will be to bring the student's PPEL skills to bear on a problem or issue.

Areas of Concentration (12 units).

The third element of the PPEL major is 12 units of advanced work in the allied disciplines.