In modern economics, the rules governing socioeconomic behavior are viewed as fundamental determinants of a country's economic performance. These rules are called 'institutions'. The course aims to develop the student's understanding of how to use economic methods to study both formal institutions (e.g. laws, courts, regulations) and informal institutions (e.g. cultural norms on trust, family roles, moral rules). We will examine why economists think the study of institutions is important; how to study institutions; which economic methods are most useful in understanding institutions; how, why, and where good institutions arise; and how institutions shape economic performance. Discussion of these questions will use practical examples from economics, law, and politics, and will reflect the experience of many different countries. Throughout the course, the emphasis is on connecting the course material to current developments in economic research, but making those connections at levels of analysis consistent with the skills possessed by a typical student.
A note on how this course might, and might not, fit into your educational plans. Please note that a significant part of the grade will be awarded for the quality of a paper you write that employs the ideas developed in the course. Class size is smaller than in other upper-level, undergraduate Econ courses so that Professor Murrell will have time to give full feedback on your paper ideas as they develop. Preliminary discussions will occur to advise you on how to develop ideas that you have and then how to bring them to fruition using analytical tools learned in the course. First drafts of papers will be read so that you will get feedback that will facilitate improvements in your papers before final assessment is made. That is, it is hoped that this course will improve skills that are relevant to writing research papers in economics. If these are the types of skills that you want to develop, then this course if you. To provide you with more information, here is a copy of the handout that was given to describe the paper assignment at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester: Paper Assignment ECON 410 Fall 2021.