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Economics for Policy Analysis

A Crash Course in Economics Analysis and the Political Economic Philosophy of Free Markets and Free People

Course Outline

Handwritten notes for Oct 30, 2021 lecture for YHLP participants


References and Readings

Review of Supply and Demand

These are non-technical notes that I hope help refresh or teach the basics.


Law and Economics

We discussed the American perspective on law and also an economic perspective. They aren't 100% the same, but understanding an economic perspective aids in understanding US law and legal thinking, especially in the areas of policy.


During our discussion we talked about the idea of using property rights to solve tragedy of the commons problems.  While now my area of expertise, here are some links to get you started if you are interested.

Instructional Videos

Economics of Price Controls

  • Rent Controls as an example of price controls generally. Marginal Revolution University video (9:42 min total):

  • Rent Controls Specifically.  Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute Prager U video (2016, 5:12 min total):

I. Mutually Beneficial Exchange

  • Understanding the heart of the argument for free markets and free people

  • The keys that make it work

  • The required role of government

  • What makes it break down​​


II. An Economic Tool Kit for Policy Analysis

  • Supply and Demand Analysis

  • The Roles of Prices and Making it all Work

  1. Transmission of Information

  2. Incentives

  3. Determining the Distribution of Income

  • The implications for policy

III. Special Topics

  • Income inequality, justice and fair systems

  • Government owned businesses

  • Government support for business, technology (e.g., electric cars) or cause (e.g., affordable housing): subsidized risk and private profit

  • achieving collective goals through private  vs public/government arrangementsvalues, culture and maintaining a good social order

  • Government charity

  • Christianity and Political-Economic arrangements

  • price controls:

    • minimum wages

    • rent controls

  • international trade

    • tariffs

    • is free trade the same when one partner isn't free - should we trade with China?

Interviews and Speeches by Ronald Reagan

Reagan, in my view, had as close to the correct views as possible, both his private moral and social moral philosophy.

  • Reagan Interview (print) in Reason Magazine, 1975.  This is a famous interview because he argues he is a Libertarian-Republican.

  • "A Time For Choosing" (video) is Reagan's 1964 televised address for Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign. Approx. 30 minutes.

  • Presidential Candidate Reagan on the "Firing Line" (video) with William F. Buckley Jr. in 1979.  Note Buckley walks through 100% hypothetical scenarios of what a "would be" President "would do" if ...  One of the first questions is on the appropriate response if there are riots, looting and burning in towns and his answer is interesting in light of the protests and riots of the summer of 2020.  Approx. 1 hour.

  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Enjoyable 2 Part Interview with former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan on 01/03/1975 (videos)

Additional Course Materials

Thoughtful and Challenging Videos

(Videos in blue are for the HIF scholars workshop in DC)

A Two Part Conversation with James Buchanan

Growth and Institutions


Inequality and Minorities: Broad Issues

  • Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools

    • 1 hour biographical documentary of a great American economist.​

    • Great on the foundations of freedom and on racial inequality

  • Walter Williams: The State Against Blacks 

    • 1 hour documentary on the role of the state, especially the well-intentioned "welfare" state, in making the situation worse.​

  • Walter Williams' website

Inequality and Minorities: Equal Pay Laws

  • Milton Friedman: "The Case Against Equal Pay for Equal Work". 


    • Edited from a speech.  Professor Friedman explains how support for "equal pay for equal work" helps promote sexism. Thanks to

    • From Wikipedia on Apartheid. Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s.

The Problem of Government Spending, Debt and Deficits

Private vs Social Moral Underpinnings of Policy

I feel that a major mistake in much thinking about public policy is confusing private morality and social morality.  That is, my personal moral views should also be the moral views of our political and social structure. I feel that is meaningless and causes many confusions.

Rand's Objectivist philosophy criticizes altruism as a destructive view and promotes selfishness instead. Additionally, it is "objectivist" because it argues for the superiority of rationality and reason as determining all truth and "objective" reality.

She makes these points in this interview.

I think her insight into altruism as a bad "social moral norm" is right.   My disagreement comes in taking the social morality and assuming it's also good for the individual's moral view/philosophy.

Private vs Government Charity

  • Podcast EP 218: TRUE CHARITY, WITH JAMES WHITFORD by the Christian Libertarian Institute

  • Very interesting conversation about how charity and actually helping people requires very personalized approaches, not one-size-fits-all government approaches.  And, very realistic about what works and doesn't and how government programs drive out private activity.

About the Course

I developed the idea that I could teach some core tools of economic analysis (namely basic supply and demand analysis) to almost anyone in a short period of time when I started teaching Managerial Economics for adult MBA students at Quinnipiac Unviersity in 2003.  I found that thinking individuals from almost any background could quickly learn and apply the basics and that they all found this infinitely helpful in their lives immediately both at work and in terms of watching the news and thinking about policy issues.

As my own world view has evolved over the years, I began ..

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