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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2009

T C 357 • Politics & Economics in American Thought

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43815 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
MEZ 1.104

Course Description

This will not be the usual political theory course, in which topics such as legitimacy, federalism, and checks and balances comprise the subject matter. Nor will it be a class in economics, in which a theory and mathematical techniques derived from it are taught as scientific truth. Instead, we will focus on American attitudes toward the proper relationship between government and the economy as they have evolved over more than two centuries.

We will address the way Americans have argued about such questions as the following: does the market or the government do a better job creating prosperity and justice? Are small or large units of production healthier for society, and what should government do to encourage units of the appropriate size? Is agriculture or industry more useful for a healthy society? Under what conditions, and to what extent, should government regulate business? Should government attempt to ensure that income is equally distributed? Was there any justification for the $700 billion bank bailout of 2008?

Although much of our reading and discussion will deal with historical subjects, the final two weeks of the course and the final reading assignments will deal primarily with contemporary policy controversies.

Grading Policy

Two unannounced in-class quizzes: 5% each
Class participation: 20%
Two mid-term essays (7 pages each): 20% each
Final essay (12 pages): 30%


John Locke, Second Treatise on Government
Adam Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations
George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty
Gar Alperovitz American Beyond Capitalism
The following sections of Michael Levy (ed.), Political Thought in America: An Anthology: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Webster, Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, Woodrow Wilson, The Populist Party Platform, Franklin Roosevelt, Orestes Brownson, Walt Whitman, William Graham Sumner, John Dewey, Milton Friedman, Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Irving Kristol, Richard Ely

About the Professor

Professor David Prindle is a political scientist whose interests have varied over the years, leading him to publish work in several different areas of the discipline. He began as a specialist in voting and parties, changed to study the politics of oil in Texas, moved on to examine the Presidency in comparative perspective, and for the last several years has investigated the political relevance of the entertainment media. His book that is most relevant to this course, The Paradox of Democratic Capitalism, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2006. Professor Prindle garnered two degrees at the University of California before earning his Ph.D. from M.I.T. in 1977. He won the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence in 1994. His hobbies are racquetball and fishing.


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