Professor Peter J. Boettke

Comparative Political Economy

ECON380/ECON 676

Spring 2003

T-Th 10:30-11:45am

Enterprise Hall Rm. 279



This is a joint undergraduate/graduate course in comparative political economy.  This semester we will focus our attention on the problems of economic development in general and the globalization debate.  The course will be divided into four sections.  The first section will go over the basic economic concepts and factual information required for a political economy analysis of the pressing public policy issues associated with economic development and globalization.  The second section will go over the problems that socialism as an economic and political system faced in theory and practice and explain why the socialist alternative is not a viable option despite the popularity the idea still has (if boiled down) with many intellectuals and political leaders.  We will also discuss the problems that transition economies have faced over the past decade and why these problems are really problems of underdevelopment rather than something entirely new.  The third section will discuss the difficulties that have been confronted in over fifty years of attempts to solve the problem of underdevelopment.  This section of the class is important for establishing also why it is important to solve the problem of underdevelopment for humanity.  The final section of the class will discuss the globalization debate.  We will discuss not only economics, but also environmental and cultural consequences of a global marketplace for ideas and products.


Students are expected to attend all classes and do the assigned reading before class.  If you are not prepared to bring this level of commitment to this class, please rethink your decision to take this class.  I have assigned five books for this course:


Peter Boettke, Calculation and Coordination: Essays on Socialism and Transitional Political Economy. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Tyler Cowen, Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World’s Cultures. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economist’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

Johan Norberg, In Defense of Global Capitalism. Stockholm, Sweden: Timbro, 2001.

Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents. New York, NY: Norton, 2002.


In addition to these readings I will assign additional newspaper and magazine articles and some on-line sources.  In particular, I want you to read Richard Stroup and James Gwartney’s What Everyone Needs to Know About Economics and Prosperity. Vancouver, BC: Fraser Institute, 1995 and also different entries from The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics edited by David Henderson.  We will draw on these sources heavily in the first section of the class.


We will have periodic quizzes (10 in total), exams (mid-term and final), and a term paper.  Your course grade will be determined on your lowest score on these different assignments.  For the graduate students your term paper will be judged by professional standards. For undergraduate students the term paper is to address specific county and its history and problems with attempting to overcome the underdevelopment problem.  Both undergraduates and graduate students should pick their topic early in the semester in consultation with me.


Course Schedule





January 21



January 23

What We Need to Know About Economics and Prosperity

Gwartney and Stroup, Part I – Ten Key Elements of Economics

January 28

Basic Concepts

Henderson, read the entries on property rights, efficiency, competition and free market

January 30

Why Do Countries Grow?

Gwartney and Stroup, Part II – Seven Sources of Economic Progress


Henderson, read the entries on economic growth, entrepreneurship, free trade, and protectionism

February 4

What is the Economic Role of Government?

Gwartney and Stroup, Part III – Economic Progress and the Role of Government


Henderson, read the entries on tragedy of the commons, public goods and externalities, and public choice

February 6

The Problems of Economic Control

Henderson, read the entries on price controls, and political behavior

February 11

Economic Calculation Under Socialism

Boettke, 7-65.

February 13

The Experience of Socialism in Practice

Boettke, 77-139.

February 18

How Did the Soviet System Work?

Boettke, 66-76; 140-153

February 20

Why Did this Economic System Break Down?

Boettke, 154-190.

February 25

The Problems of Socialist Transition

Boettke, 1-6; 191-233.

February 27

An Alternative Reading of Recent Russian History

Stiglitz, 133-165.

March 4

The Transition Problem as an Infrastructure of Development Problem


Review for Mid-Term

Boettke, 235-247.

March 6



March 11-13



March 20

What Happens When Countries Don’t Grow?

Easterly, 1-19.

Boettke, 266-284.

Norberg, 98-105.

March 25

What Happens When Countries Do Grow?

Norberg, 19-105; 179-223.

March 27

Why Has Growth Been So Elusive?: Investment Gap Theory of Development

Henderson, read entry on Keynesian Economics


Easterly, 25-70.

April 1

The Continuation of Elusiveness:  Why Do Countries Still Lag Behind?

Easterly, 71-139; 217-283.

April 3

Are Institutions the Remedy We Have Been Looking For?

Boettke, 248-265.

April 8

What is the Hope for the Worlds Poor?

Easterly, 143-215; 285-291.

April 10

Why the Discontent with Globalization?

Stiglitz, 3-88.

April 15

Is it all the IMF’s Fault?

Stiglitz, 89-132; 195-252.

April 17

The Problems with the WTO and other International Agencies

Stiglitz, 166-194.


Norberg, 107-177; 225-259.

April 22

Trade Between Cultures

Cowen, 1-46.

April 24

What Is Lost When Trade Between Cultures Occurs?

Cowen, 47-101.

April 29

Does the Market Lift Us Up or Dumb Us Down?

Cowen, 102-152.

May 1

Toward a Political Economy of a Free and Prosperous World

Norberg, 262-274.

May 5

Review for Final Exam


Term papers are due



May 8






Office Hours: 9:00-10:15 T-Th; 1:00-3:00, T-Th or by appointment.

Office Location: 324 Enterprise Hall

Email:; Phone: 703-993-1149