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Money v. People: Is Democracy Still a Factor in the Ways We Govern?

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

Does our vote matter or does our pocketbook? Big cities are going into bankruptcy, big businesses are buying elections, and entire countries are going into default. This class considers the impacts of public finance on democracy using political economy literature, current events, and a simulation we explore the implications of economics on democracy.

In this course, we develop answers and solutions to the "big questions" in political economy, especially American political economy.

Why should we study public finance? In a time when the global economy is crumbling in front of our eyes, it is imperative to examine past events and eye those forthcoming. Cities appear to have less control over their own affairs and seem to be at the mercy of economic change. This course will use cities as a lens to explore the impact of financial crisis on democracy. In order to accomplish this, we will do an in-depth analysis of various cities and countries, such as Detroit, Vallejo, and Greece, which have undergone major economic restructuring. We explore cities because municipal governments, not national or state governments, are the ones with which citizens interact the most, and that have the biggest day-to-day influence on routine life. They have substantial power in areas including education, public safety, and public works, to name a few. Cities operate at the level of basic needs: running water, sewage maintenance, clear streets, and safety from crime and life-threatening injury. But what happens when the city runs out of money? Do we sell off the water company or the roads? Do we raise taxes on the low income people living in the central city? This class will help with critical thinking and problem solving methods to manage financial crisis.

The course will be an interactive seminar, which focuses on and explores the economic factors in the government. We know that money matters, but during these two weeks we will explore to what extent. This course will examine what it means to govern during a time when individuals' voices are muted by large donors and the bottom line of a budget. We will also think about the correctives that make sure the voices of the people are still heard in spite of budgeting concerns.

By the end of this course each student will not only be able to understand the basics of public finance, but also have worked hands on to make some of the tough decisions as it relates to governmental budgeting. The students will be able to think critically about political choice and economic choices. This is the ideal course for anyone considering politics, finance, or advocacy because we explore the role of every stakeholder in this course.

No prerequisites for this class. I just ask that students have a basic knowledge of American government.

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