Founded in 1946, the Political Economy Program offers the oldest interdepartmental major at the College.
The program was designed to give its students an understanding of the many ways that politics and economics interact in the formation of public policy. Majors acquire a substantial mastery of economics, broad knowledge of the American and international political context, an understanding of the economic and moral stakes in key current public policy issues, and the opportunity to analyze policy for themselves. The major is notable for its high degree of structure, with requirements in Economics and Political Science, along with three distinctive core courses.
These courses — POEC 250, 401, and 402 are each usually taught jointly by an economist and a political scientist. The first, Economic Liberalism and Its Critics, considers major thinkers from Adam Smith onward. We discuss moral issues of political economy, such as the justification and distribution of private property, authoritative vs. market allocation, power in the firm, taxation and public goods, education, discrimination, the environment, and failures of government. This is a popular course with non-majors, too.
POEC 401, Contemporary Problems in Political Economy, covers a wide variety of current issues in the global political economy, the United States political economy, and comparative political economy with an emphasis on the advanced capitalist countries.
POEC 402, Political Economy of Public Policy Issues, the second senior capstone course, involves groups of four or five students in major projects that analyze a chosen policy problem. Its highlight is a trip to Washington, DC over spring break, where the groups interview key national experts and policymakers. Late in the spring semester, the students make public presentations to the College community of their policy recommendations.