Economics Working Papers

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Working Paper

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As an interdisciplinary field, economics and ethics has been taught in many different ways, including in my experience teaching the course over many years. This paper describes the challenges teaching this subject involves and the strategy I ultimately adopted for doing so after trying different approaches. This strategy was meant to address the needs of a heterogenous collection of students, many of whom had limited knowledge of economics and were likely not take many additional courses in it. The course was structured around four modules opposed to one another in two pairs:

(1) Ways economics influences ethics: The market vision

(2) Ways economics influences ethics: Rationality and efficiency

(3) Ways ethics influences economics: Moral limits of markets

(4) Ways ethics influences economics: Taming the market

Each module was built around real world applications. The course finished with a fifth module in the form of a capstone exercise – Rationing health care – that required students rank who had a priority for care from four individual cases of varying life circumstances drawn from Cookson and Dolan (2000). Students used the views they had developed in the first four modules to do this, and then explained and discussed both their rankings and the overall rankings that prevailed over all students. The course was taught both in person and online and in both long and short teaching terms, emphasized student interaction and openness to different views of how economics and ethics can be connected, and argued for democratic values in pluralist societies.

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