PubPol 902: Ethics of Public Policy

Reader requirements: professional experience in any area of public policy-making and an interest in ethics.

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. William Pizer

Introduces PhD students to normative frameworks for evaluating public policies and governance processes drawing on social choice theory, political theory and social theory. Provides student with normative and analytical bases to evaluate the public good, tradeoffs between efficiency and equity, political legitimacy and justice.

 Student Projects:

  1. One the arguments against legalizing assisting dying has been that legalizing it would lead to a drop in the quality of palliative care – perhaps due to less funding being devoted to palliative care and/or less incentive to continue improving palliative care services. I’d like to examine this issue further through a comparative analysis of US and Belgian policies and palliative care outcomes to answer the rough questions – Does assisted dying legislation affect palliative care quality? And if so, how? If data indicates that places with legalized assisted dying actually leads to an improvement in palliative care quality, I’d like to try to better understand the mechanisms underlying that.
  2. In my paper, I will use insights from behavioral economics, particularly for the poor, aspirations, and peer networks literature to examine how low socio-economic status young adults choose to invest time, effort, and money in passing through higher education. I’ll choose a specific context. Potential Questions How strong of an effect do peers have on one another in their aspiration development? When does higher aspiration lead to investment, and success in higher education? What sort of supports do successful peers offer slightly younger peers? Do peer connections helps explain why some low SES youth succeed in navigating higher education despite many disadvantages? If peer connection and aspiration development appears promising, could there be a role for social institutions to systematically connect or strengthen existing relationships between slightly older successful community members with aspiring students?
  3. Following recent executive orders, Miami became the first to reverse sanctuary city status. In this paper, I want to study the effect of reversing sanctuary status on the labor market. Specifically, I want to investigate whether undocumented workers acts as substitutes or complements to American workers. I hypothesize that reversing sanctuary status could lower wages because undocumented immigrants act as complements to citizens in the labor market.
  4. There are many competing theories for the purpose of foreign aid. One of which argues that foreign aid is used as a tool to advance a donor state’s political agenda. I propose to test this theory using Sweden as a case study. Sweden has long claimed to be a champion of equal rights and in 2015 Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, announced that Sweden would adopt a feminist foreign policy. Do the data reveal that Sweden’s foreign aid contributions support a feminist agenda? I propose analyzing foreign aid data from Sweden and other Nordic countries to determine if Sweden’s foreign aid contributions reflect this goal (especially relative to the other Nordic countries, who share similar cultures and social democratic leanings but have not openly characterized their foreign policy agenda as feminist).
  5. Under the Trump administration, the United States is unlikely to take steps at the federal level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change. This reality raises the likelihood that various states will seek to implement state or regional climate change policy. In the case of regional emissions reduction schemes, we face the concern of emissions leakage—higher production costs in the regulated region can cause production, and therefore emissions, to shift to unregulated regions. Since carbon is a uniformly mixed pollutant, shifting emissions from one region to another only harms the regulated region while doing nothing to mitigate against climate change. Therefore, preventing emissions leakage is a key priority for policymakers. This paper will synthesize previous research on the evidence of leakage in existing carbon markets and strategies for mitigating leakage. Then it will seek to identify industries at the highest risk of leakage across state and national boundaries, building on recent research (Fowlie et al. 2016, Fowlie et al. 2016, Hamilton et al. 2016).
  6. The U.S. has historically relied on a public school system to provide basic and high-school education, but new voices emerge asking for more space for private schools, in particular for charter schools. In this proposal we will analyse the behaviour of private schools in Chile – a country with a highly liberalized educational system, where voucher schools educate more than 90% of students, and schools are allowed to be for profit. In particular, we will analyse how competitive school markets in different geographical settings and if market conditions are correlated with (1) low provision of quality education, (2) high student segregation, (3) Poor job conditions for teachers and (4) rent seeking behaviour. After analysing these factors, we will generate policy proposals to tackle the problems found.


Student – Reader Interactions

Research Proposal for graduate work:

  • 1 paragraph about idea
  • Outline (~ 2 pages) including lit review sources, types of data that might be collected, etc
  • Complete draft (~15 pp) due after spring break
  • Final paper (~15 pp) due reading week

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More