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ECON308 Public Economics

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
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The role of government in society is examined using the tools and methods of microeconomics. Topics include welfare economics, public goods, externalities, optimal taxation and voting models.

This paper examines the ways government tax, expenditure, and debt policies affect the economy. It begins with a historical, empirical, and theoretical overview of government expenditure in OECD countries. It then develops microeconomic and macroeconomic tools to explore how government policies affect distribution of resources and the efficiency of the economy. Topics include institutional economics and public choice theory; income redistribution within cohorts and between cohorts; social security and retirement income policies; the distribution and efficiency effects of tax policies; and government finance (debt and asset positions, and the link to monetary policy). A focus of the course is the way that government policy can be used to transfer resources between generations, and how many governments adopt policies that impose large costs on young and future generations.

Paper title Public Economics
Paper code ECON308
Subject Economics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2021 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $872.70
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,405.05

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ECON 201 or ECON 271
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Commerce, Science
Teaching staff

Andrew Coleman


Joel Slemrod and John Bakija (2017) Taxing Ourselves, 5th edition. (MIT Press)

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Ethics, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this paper, you should be able to

  • Explain core micro- and macroeconomic principles relevant to understanding the scope and structure of government interventions in a market-oriented economy
  • Use these principles to identify core problems that may benefit from government intervention, and core problems government interventions may need to overcome to solve these problems
  • Use these principles to identify the trade-offs involved with specific public sector interventions in the economy
  • Use these principles, along with appropriate data sources and literature, to formulate positive critiques of popular policy positions

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Not offered in 2021

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system