Syllabus for Hanson's GMU class:
Economic Problems and Public Policies

Economics 309, meets noon-1:15, Tuesday, Thursday, during Fall 2023, Lecture Hall 3

Instructor: Robin D. Hanson, Assoc. Professor, Economics (,
Phone: Office 703-993-2326, Cell 703-201-8129.
Office Hours: Officially Tuesdays 10:30-11:45a, but I'm available at far more times; email or call.

Catalog Entry:

Economic problems in light of current and proposed public policies. Topics include environmental issues, international trade policies, and regulatory issues and their historical roots. Limited to three attempts. Recommended Prerequisite: ECON 100 or 103 and 104 or permission of instructor.
Class Concept: After reviewing key econ concepts, we will engage with many big policy issues, practicing using econ to identify which way each consideration pushes on each policy question.


Defended Opinion Topics
  1. Should we require a "Gap Decade", starting at earliest of 1st kid or age 22, ending at earliest of a decade or 3rd kid is age 4?
  2. Should blackmail be allowed regarding crimes?
  3. Is the Common Law legal sytsem more economically efficient than the Civil Law system?
Due Dates: Grade Weights: Class Participate 5%, 13% per Quiz and paper, 17% final.

22,24 Aug Review of Econ, Humans
29,31 Aug Paternalism, Talk
5,7 Sep Insurance Quiz Thursday
12,14 Sep Food
19,21 Sep FertilityNo Class Thursday
26,28 Sep Medicine Quiz, Paper Due Thursday
3,5 Oct School, Jobs
10,12 Oct Land No class Tues.
17,19 Oct Finance
24,26 Oct Law Quiz, Paper Thursday
31Oct, 1Nov More Law
7,9 Nov Discrimination
14,16 Nov Emergencies No Class Thursday
21,23 Nov Innovation No class Thursday,
28,30 Nov World, Systems Paper Due Tuesday
7 Dec Final Exam


This one text is required: The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.

All other readings are free online at