Economics and Ethics
All economic policy involves the application of value judgements to positive propositions about the consequences of alternative actions. This module studies economic policy to determine how these value judgements are, and should be, formed. Areas include distribution, international and intergenerational justice, environmental issues affecting future generations, the case for growth, the economics of happiness and the costs and benefits of saving or destroying lives.
Full module specification
|Module title:||Economics and Ethics|
BEE1029 or BEE1034 or BEE1036 and BEE1037
|Duration of module:||
Duration (weeks) - term 1: |
All economic policy making involves applying value-judgements to positive analysis of the consequences of alternative policies. We currently study the latter intensively but not the former. This module will fill the gap. It is also aimed to contribute towards your employability by increasing your literacy and capacity for logical thought.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. explain clearly the difference between positive and normative and judgements and where each one applies;
- 2. identify the ethical presuppositions concealed in policy decisions.
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 3. demonstrate expertise in welfare economics and cost-benefit analysis;
- 4. apply the economics of equality, happiness and distribution;
- 5. distinguish clearly between the different concepts of justice and equality (e.g. income, wealth, dignity).
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 5. communicate effectively in written English;
- 6. demonstrate ability in logical thinking.
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities||22||Lecture (11 x 2 hours)|
|Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities||10||10 x 1 hour exercises / experiments / seminars|
|Guided Independent Study||118||Reading, research and reflection. Preparation for lectures, coursework and exam|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Individual Presentations||10 minutes, delivered in seminars||1-6||Verbal comments by tutor & other students|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Essay||20||2000 words maximum (no minimum)||1-6||Written|
|Exam||80||2 hours||1-6||Examiners will explain their mark to students if this is requested|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Exam (80%) + Essay (20%)||Exam (100%) 2 hours||1-6||August/September Reassessment Period|
Students who fail the module will be re-assessed on the exam only.
Students who are granted a deferral will be re-assessed in the deferred component.
Positive economics and value judgements. How complete is the separation between the two?
Does welfare economics depend on utilitarianism? Should it do so more or less than it does at the moment?
Can we make interpersonal comparisons of utility? What are the ethical consequences of acting as if we can / we can’t?
GDP and other measures of welfare. Which one should we choose? Do we need to choose between them at all?
Happiness economics. Should happiness be the goal of economic policy?
Consumerism versus a good life. Why do so many intellectuals want people to have less?
Is there anything ethical or unethical about free markets or are they just another way of delivering the goods?
How can we define equality? Is equality desirable? How much and what kind?
Comparing theories of distributive justice (Mill, Hayek, Rawls, Nozick etc.)
International distributive justice. Have rich countries an obligation to help poor ones? What about extraterrestrial life (if found)?
Intertemporal distributive justice. What rate of discount should we apply to the interests of future generations?
How should life be valued and where does this lead in policy terms?
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Wilfred Beckerman Economics as Applied Ethics, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
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Last revision date