Political Economy 100 Assignments and Study Questions

Political Economy 100
Professor Crawford
125 Stephens Hall
Office Hours: M 10-11:30


Assignments and Study Questions


Terms and Conditions (Course Requirement)

Your Instructor

lecture outlines

statement on Plagiarism



First Newspaper Assignment Due October 4, 2012




Who gets what?  Says who?

Week 1 Study Questions

  • What is the role of reason in political debate?
  • Are you for or against raising prices of goods in a national emergency? Present a reasoned argument for your position.
  • Were you outraged at the 2008 "bailout" of the big banks in the wake of the financial crisis? At the "boneses" to CEOs after the bailout? Present a reasoned argument for your position.
  • Was there really such a thing as "price gouging" after Hurricane Katrina? Make a reasoned argument for why or why not.

Week 2 Study Questions

  • According to Hobbes, why does a traffic gridlock bring out the savage in us
  • Can community exist without central authority? Who says so and why?
  • Does Aristotle believe in the social contract?

Weeks 3 and 4 General Questions

Why does a central authority decide who gets what outside the state of nature?

  1. Because citizens need protection?
  2. Or to give citizens a chance to practice their "best selves?"
  3. Or to achieve Justice? Fairness? Happiness? Power? 
  • How does the purpose of the state in the political community determine what citizens deserve and the distribution of goods? 
  • How should a community be governed to achieve its purpose?  
  • What kind of central authority should a community have?
  • Is the state more than social contract theorists bargained for?

Week 3 Questions

  • Is there really liberty in the state of nature (without a state) or is liberty the same as obligation?
  • Does Hobbes' argument about life in the absence of central authority and the debate between the Athenians and the Melians righ true when you think about international politics today?
  • Can international politics be based on a moral order derived from the principles of justice, or will it forever remain the arena of conflicting national interests and power?
  • What might be Machiavelli's recommendation for the Americans in Afghanistan?
  • In a globalized information age characterized by high levels of trade, is Machiavelli's advice to the Prince (based on his beliefs about human nature) obsolete?

Week 4 Questions


  • Is there any validity in the "just price" doctrine or is it just a relic of the middle ages? Defend your answer.
  • Is Thomas Aquinas a closet Marxist? (a precurser of Marx!)
  • What would Thomas have thought about high prices for necessary goods and services after Hurricane Katrina? Find quotes for the arguments that might apply

Week 5 Questions


  • What is Rousseau's argument against slavery?
  • Is the federal system in the United States a "sovereign" in Rousseau's sense, i.e. that the sovereign is indivisable? inalienable?
  • Putting aside the federal system for a moment, in what ways does American politics coincide with Rousseau's idea of the General Will and in what ways is it diametrically opposed?
  • Would democracy be the best system of government to express the general will?
  • Would Rousseau be in favor of the military draft, i.e. military conscription?
  • What does Rousseau think of the death penalty? Why does he think the way he does?
  • Would Rousseau consider Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, a public enemy? Why or why not?
  • According to Rousseau, how can we be both free and subject to laws?
  • Would Rousseau be willing for the community to be ruled by Plato's philosopher-kings?
  • Does Rousseau think that human nature changes when the solitary individual joins community? Would Hobbes agree with Rousseau on this? Which one would you agree with and why?
  • What does Rousseau mean by the phrase: "Liberty may be gained but can never be recovered"?
  • Why does Rousseau think we should risk our lives for the state?


  • What does Bentham mean by "utility?" Do economists today use it in the same way that Bentham did?
  • Do utilitarian decision rules that determine who gets what require the consent of the governed?
  • How should we treat each other, according to Bentham?
  • Are there problems with utilitarianism as a guide to government policy?
  • what is the difference between individual rationality and collective rationality? How would Bentham and Rousseau differ on their beliefs about these two types of rationality?
  • What would Bentham say about the obligations of the wealthy towards the poor?  Is private charity a viable solution to the problem of poverty? 

Week 6 Questions

  • Why should the value of Freedom replace that of community?
  • Is the preservation of individual freedom the best purpose a state can serve?
  • How should the value of freedom guide the production and distribution of goods?
  • Should the desires of the individual trump the needs of the community?

Week 7 Questions

  • How did we get from Community to Freedom
  • How would Smith respond to modern-day claims that an unequal distribution of wealth in the U.S. creates social discord?

Week 8 Questions

  • What is the "invisible hand?"
  • How does Smith differ from Polanyi in his description of the mercantile system?

Some tips for Exam Success

Explain Explain Explain!.....give it the old college try!
Don't just say what you found, But give a reason why!

I dont't have to justify....what is coming next!
But what if J-U-S-T-I-F-Y is written in the text?
It means you've got to give a reason.....your answer needs support!
It means you can't just breeze on.....or your answer will fall short!

If asked to compare two different things, it can put you in a bind!
But you've got to know the difference in two things that you find!

Contrast is something else.....it's the differences you must say.
Find evidence that things oppose each other, and then contrast away!

Assessing the value of something (is it bad or is it great?)
means that what you're doing, is called evaluate!

In sum, means draw things together, bring'em to an end......
Indeed, all of these exam prompts, can drive us 'round the bend!