intermediate Political economy

This is our SPE’s capstone subject. It is designed to increase your confidence and capacity to engage in economic debates, including debates with economists. We provide you with a working knowledge of the key ideas that dominate economic policy making increasing your capacity to informed judgements between alternative policy choices and posit both alternative policies and alternative analysis to underpin those policies.  

Design: This subject is taught in ‘flipped classroom’ mode whereby you first view an online lecture, then undertake some suggested reading and then participate in a weekly 90 minute tutorial zoom discussion (with a short break at the 45 minute mark). Tutorial sizes have a maximum upper limit of 19 people and are typically a bit less than this in order to generate a conversational, easy-going and genuinely interactive experience. The lectures and readings are all downloadable and may be done whenever you like. The lectures can either be viewed, or simply listened to as podcasts. On one one help is provided whenever you need to clarify anything.

Dates and times

Term 4, 2021 Starts 1st Week of October and runs for 9 weeks 

Cost (major currencies list below, contact us for costs in other currencies)

Australian Dollars    AUD$225 (waged), AUD$180 (unwaged). 
US Dollars               US$160 (waged)    US$130 (unwaged)
Euros                       EUR135 (waged)    EUR110 (unwaged)
UK Pounds              GBP120 (waged)    GBP100 (unwaged)

Registration Process 

If you are interested in undertaking this course in 2021 you are encouraged to submit an expression of interest. In doing so, please indicate what day and time would be most suitable for you to attend classes. There will be a mix of tutorials to suit people in different time zones and also the option of face to face classes for those that live in Melbourne, Australia. 

We will then contact you several weeks before the scheduled start of classes to let you know the registrations are open. At this point you can also select the tutorial time that is most suitable for you. We can also advise you payment details so that you can confirm your place in the subject.  

Refunds: If you attend the first class and find that for some reason it is not what you are seeking then we can provide you with a full refund – provided that we are notified within 7 days of your payment. 

Assessment: There are regular questions and answers to allow you to self-test your knowledge, but the results of such self-tests are only available to you. Tutorial discussions are also a great opportunity to test and clarify your ideas.

Accreditation: The purpose of the course is to provide you with a high-quality, accessible, university-level introduction to political economy and economics rather than to provide formal accreditation in the form of a degree, certificate or similar. However, if you undertake and complete the course, you can obviously list that you have done so on your resume and we are able to provide verification of your participation and engagement with the subject.   


Part 1 Key Issues and Policy Debates

In this section we take a closer look at many of the issues that most draw people to political economic/economic inquiry. The analysis builds on material introduced in SPE101 An Introduction to Political Economy and Economics and also complements content from SPE102 Modern World Economy and SPE103 Comparative Economic Systems. 

Week 1 Trade and INvestment 

The focus here is on getting to grips with issues such as the balance of payments, capital controls and the World Trade Organisation. It builds on our previous discussion of issues such as comparative advantage, industry policy from SPE101 An Introduction to Political Economy. It will also complement the discussion of Bretton Woods from SPE102 Modern World Economy and also helps inform the content of SPE103 Comparative Economic Systems

Week 2 Money and Banking: National

The focus here is on how money is created (and destroyed) and by whom. We look at neoclassical, post-Keynesian and MMT ideas concerning money. Topics examined include the money multiplier, financialisation, financial regulation, constraints on money creation, reserve bank independence. 

Week 3 Money and Banking: International

We expand our examination of money and banking to the international level. Topics examined include foreign exchange trading, monetary unification, the role of the International Monetary Fund, and the scope for a Bretton Words Mark 2,  

Week 4. INflation and Deflation

The ‘inflation bogeyman’ is regularly invoked as a response to why various progressive things can and can’t be done and why various regressive things must be tolerated. Accordingly, we take a various look at the various causes of inflation and how they be managed. We will also examine the causes, consequences and management of deflation. 

Week 5 DEBT and Deficits

A staple of political debate concerns the appropriate size of government deficits. We focus here on will be  drivers of both public and private debt and look at when debt is (and is not) something that should be of concern to policymakers. 

Part 2 Engaging Confidently With Orthodox Economics

This section of the course is designed to allow you to better understand the detail of standard economic analysis. As a consequence you should be in stronger position to better scrutinize the details of public policy formulation, engage in active debate about it, and advance your own policy positions. 

Week 6 Key THEORETICAL Problems in ORTHODOX Economics

A focus on some of the most major theoretical issues in orthodox economics. Particular focus is given to problems with aggregate measurement of capital and the difficulties of aggregating individual behaviour and individual markets. For a discipline that prides itself on ‘rigour’ these problems are surprisingly serious and well worth understanding. 

Week 7 Orthodox Microeconomics

A quick tour through the central concepts used in orthodox economics. Issues discussed in deadweight loss, elasticity, externalities, welfare economics, tax incidence

Week 8 orthodox macroeconomics

A quick tour through some basic macroeconomic concepts, many of which are relevant to both political economists and economists: purchasing power parity, measuring GDP, GDP deflator, consumer price index (CPI)

Week 9 understanding applied economics

The focus here is on interpreting applied economic analysis including cost-benefit analysis and economic modelling in general.