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Online Course

State, Law and the Economy I

The University of Hong Kong via edX


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Economic concepts often give a fresh and unobvious perspective when applied to the study of how the state, law, and the economy functions and are interrelated. This course teaches students essential economic concepts in an intuitive manner relevant to the study of political economy. Part One of the course is focused on developing the essential economic concepts. These are then applied to the study of the nature of the liberal democratic state and why it has to be a limited state in contrast to a populist democratic one.

Topics include the contractual nature of the state, public versus private goods, property rights and economic externalities, the logic of collective action, social choice theory, agenda control, the art of manipulation, and the compatibility of two ideas of liberty with the democratic state.

The use of interdisciplinary materials, empirical inference, game theoretic simulation, and cross-referencing with political philosophies and well-known historical cases, provide students an opportunity to connect different perspectives and deepen their understanding of the democratic state in a free society using economic concepts.

The economic concepts developed in Part One of the course will continue to be useful in the other three parts. Part Two covers the nature of the authoritarian state and party rule, rent seeking activity and its economic consequences, and interrelationships between democracy and economic growth. Part Three covers rule of law and their legal origins, consequences of legal origins for growth, law or state as determinants of economic growth, and transition from dictatorship to democracy and their permanence. Part Four is a study of nature of politics in pre-industrial states with examples drawn from China, Europe, the Islamic world, and India. We also discuss the relevance and limitations of the economic approach to the study of law and politics.

以經濟概念研究國家、法律和經濟作用,與及如何相互關聯時,往往產生一種新鮮但不明顯的觀點。 本課程以與政治經濟學研究相關的直觀方式教授學生基本經濟概念。 課程的第一部份著眼於發展基本經濟概念,然後將這些應用於研究自由民主國家的性質,以及為什麼它必須是一個有限的國家,而不是民粹主義的民主國家。



本課程第一部份所談及的經濟概念在其他三個部份亦會談及。 第二部份研究威權國家和政黨統治的性質,尋租活動及其經濟後果,以及民主與經濟增長之間的相互關係。 第三部份包括法治及其法律淵源,法律淵源對發展的影響,法律或國家作為經濟發展的決定因素,以及從獨裁到民主的過渡及其永久性。 第四部份是對成為工業國家以前的政治性質的研究,其中的例子來自中國,歐洲,伊斯蘭世界和印度。 我們還討論了從經濟學角度研究法律與政治的相關性和局限性。


Week1: Some Methodological Issues and Collective Choice
Lectures 1 and 2 consider some specific concerns in applying economic analysis to the study of collective action, namely, (1) the rationality assumption, (2) the use of simplifying models, and (3) the problem of the fallacy of composition in studying collective action. Then we will explore the contractual nature of the state. We consider why the sum of individual choices is not collective choice. The reasons for collective choices are to achieve allocative efficiency and redistribution.

Week2: Pure Public Goods and Coase Theorem
Lecture 3 and 4 utilizes game theory to explain how the structure of payoffs characterizes political choices, including the provision of public goods. We then learn how market externalities can be corrected through collective action and consider the implications of the Coase theorem for public intervention.

Week3: Violence and the Origins of the State and Wisdom of Philosophers
Lecture 5 and 6 considers how the emergence of state institutions with human civilization has reduced violence and life loss. The purpose of moral and political philosophies, from Plato and Aristotle to Locke, Rousseau, and Marx has sought to find practical or ideal political arrangements where humankind can live together in peace and flourish.

Week4: Two Concepts of Liberty, Theory of Social Choice and the Theory of Democracy
Lectures 7 and 8 introduce two concepts of liberty: negative and positive liberty. The two interpretations of liberty are then related to liberal versus populist democracy through the application of social choice theory. We examine how when applied to voting and the design of political institutions, social choice theory provides a new perspective on the just society considered by political philosophers from Plato to Marx.

Week5: The Art of Political Manipulation
Lecture 9 studies how heresthetics—the use of rhetoric and strategic structuring of social choice—is used to achieve a desired political outcome. The example of Abraham Lincoln in ending slavery is used as an illustration.


第3和第4課利用博弈論來解釋支付結構如何突顯政治選擇,包括提供公共物品。 然後,我們將了解如何透過集體行動糾正市場外部性,並研究高斯定理對公眾干預的影響。

第5和第6課關於人類文明國家機制的出現如何減少暴力和人命傷亡。 道德和政治哲學的目的,從柏拉圖和亞里士多德到洛克,盧梭和馬克思,都尋求找到實際或理想的政治安排,使人類能夠和平共存共榮。

第7和第8課介紹兩種自由概念:消極和積極自由。 然後,透過應用社會選擇理論,自由的兩種解釋與自由主義與民粹主義的民主產生關連。 我們研究社會選擇理論如何在應用於投票和政治制度的設計上,為從柏拉圖到馬克思的政治哲學家所考慮的公正社會提供了新的視角。


Taught by

Y.C. Richard Wong

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