DevP 233
 Syllabus: Law, Politics, and Policymaking

DevP 233 
Law, Politics, and Policymaking


Tu, Th. 2-3:30 311 Wellman Hall


Zilberman Addendum


3/7 – Lecture 17 – On the economic discipline: How political economy and development economics fit

The purpose of the lecture is to enhance students’ understanding of scientific disciplines and how they evolve, as well as the mechanics of science. Political and development economics illustrate this point.


Development practitioners need this understanding because they will be consumers of science, will engage in applied science, and will work with scientists and academic institutions.


3/9 – Lecture 18 – The economics of voting

The purpose of this lecture is to increase student understanding of the calculus of achieving and maintaining power. This includes how to think systematically about building an agenda, fundraising, and positioning. We will also understand different voting systems and recognize that voting is not synonymous with democracy.


3/14 and 3/16 – Lectures 19 and 20 – Rent-seeking and the distribution of surplus

The purpose of the lecture is to introduce students to differences in allocation between political and economic systems, and how politics affects economics. The emphasis will be on how political and economic considerations affect the differences in distribution of rent between groups. We will emphasize that there are two ways to look at distribution of income – (i) statistics, using notions like Gini coefficients, which are useful descriptions, but lack operational meaning, and (ii) political economics, which analyzes distribution of surplus among groups within regions. This approach is much more operational, and can identify how policy and political factors may shift rents between groups, and develop mechanisms to identify sources of losses in efficiency due to corruption and political considerations.


3/21 and 3/23 – Lectures 21 and 22 – Professor Leo Simon on Polarization

The purpose of the lecture is to illustrate how society may be polarized among different groups that maintain different views of the world. The result is, at times, malfunction of the government. This phenomenon has occurred throughout history, and in all regions of the world. Polarization may be based on class, beliefs, tribal identities, etc. The recent resurgence of populism in the US, Europe, and elsewhere are recent examples.


4/4 – Lecture 23 – How risk and uncertainty affect choices

This lecture will familiarize students with basic theory of risk and their impact on policy making. We will start with safety rules, which were used heavily in development analysis. We then move to expected utility, meaning risk aversion, the role of insurance, diversification. Then we move to behavioral economics, which means loss aversion, and its implications. Finally, we move to perceived self-efficacy, which leads to the economics of self-esteem.


4/6 – Lecture 24 – Principal-agent problem and political economy

This lecture will focus on operating in a world of incomplete information. Mechanisms include signaling, sorting, discrimination, alternative mechanisms for learning and adaptive behavior, moral hazard, and self-selection. There will be several examples.


4/11 – Lecture 25 – Professor Gerard Roland on China


4/13 – Lecture 26 – Professor David Roland Holst on political economy of corruption


4/18 – Lecture 27 – Lecture on Law


4/20 – Lecture 28 – Lecture on Law


4/25 – Lecture 29 – Zilberman on political economy of agriculture


4/27 – Lecture 30 – Zilberman on Political economics of Research & Development and Conclusion

  1. Assessing the problem of underinvestment in research and public goods
  2. Alternative mechanisms to finance research
  3. Issues of regulatory capture
  4. Intellectual property rights
  5. Applications in agriculture and medicine; access to innovations in developing countries


I may have two pizza and policies. One will be on reforming UC Berkeley in mid-March and the other will be on the economics of chocolate.

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