intermediate Political economy

This ten-week subject is designed to increase your confidence and capacity to understand, evaluate and potentially engage in economic debates. We provide you with a working knowledge of the key ideas that dominate economic policy making and also examine alternative lines of analysis and policy response. 

Design: This subject is taught in ‘flipped classroom’ mode whereby you first view an online lecture at a time convenient to you, 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 in practice are typically less) 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

SPE104 will run again in 2024. Register an expression of interest to be notified when enrolments open. 

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

Australian Dollars    AUD$250 (waged), AUD$200 (unwaged).
US Dollars               US$170 (waged)    US$130 (unwaged)
Euros                       EUR160 (waged)    EUR130 (unwaged)
UK Pounds              GBP140 (waged)    GBP110 (unwaged)

Payment can be made via electronic funds transfer, credit card, paypal or money order. 

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 (no questions asked) 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. You can also get one-on-one assistance via email, phone or zoom when you need to confirm or clarify any aspect of the course. 

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, the course does provide you with opportunity to acquire (and thus demonstrate to others) a substantial level of economic insight. 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 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 policy positions. 

Week 1 Orthodox Microeconomics

The focus here is on the central concepts used in orthodox economics. Issues discussed in deadweight loss, elasticity, externalities, welfare economics, tax incidence. With these stock in trade concepts under your belt you will be positioned to follow the nature of much debate within economics, particularly in economic policy. 

Week 2 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). Many of these concepts are of general relevance to all schools of macroeconomics and so its worth building up your capacity and confidence with them. 

Week 3 Key THEORETICAL Problems in ORTHODOX Economics

We focus here on the some of the most major theoretical problems in orthodox economics. Particular focus is given to problems with aggregate measurement of capital, the difficulties of aggregating individual behaviours to make coherent and defensible claims about demand or supply, and problems relating to the uniqueness and stability of equilibrium outcomes.

Week 4 understanding ORthodox applied economics

The focus here is on interpreting applied economic analysis including cost-benefit analysis and economic modelling in general. Many public and private initiatives are subjected to some type of applied economic analysis and so the focus here is on enhancing your capacity to understand and assess such analysis.


Part 2 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 consolidates and extends material introduced in SPE101 An Introduction to Political Economy and Economics. 

Week 5 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 and industry policy from SPE101 An Introduction to Political Economy

Week 6 Money and Banking: National

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

Week 7 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 Two.    

Week 8. 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 9. 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 examine when debt is (and is not) something that should be of concern to policymakers. 

Week 10. ECONOMIC Growth, De-growth

It is routinely (and correctly) noted that our current economic and social systems are not environmentally sustainable. Furthermore, there are hot debates between those advocating for green-growth versus de-growth versus steady state models of the economy. Also, some argue that growth (at least as we currently know it) is hard-wired into the very nature of capitalist economies whilst other argue that such a position misconceives the plasticity of what capitalism is (or could be) capable of. The purposes of this week is to survey and evaluate these diverse positions.