The public sector is complex. Instructor
Dr. Andrew Heiss
639 TNRB
Office hours: Sign up here.

E-mail is the best way to get in contact with me—I will try to respond to all course-related e-mails within 24 hours (really).

January 7–April 17, 2019
7:35–9:45 PM
417 SLC

Public administrators, managers, and policy makers need to be fluent in the language of economics and need to be able to engage in and understand quantitative analysis of social policies.

In this class, you’ll learn how to speak and do economics.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, you will (1) be literate in fundamental economic principles, (2) understand the limits of economic theory and free markets, (3) justify government and nonprofit intervention in the economy, and (4) make informed policy recommendations by analyzing and evaluating public sector policies. Specifically, you’ll be able to:

Given these objectives, this course fulfills three of the four learning outcomes for BYU’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program:

Course materials

Most of the readings in this class are free.


We will only use one physical textbook. There are two official textbooks for the class:

CORE Econ is a special new project that aims to make economics education accessible to all, replacing textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars with an open source textbook complete with videos and quizzes and other online resources. It’s even been lauded by The Economist.

CORE’s original book, The Economy, was designed to serve as a 1–2 semester introduction to economics for economics majors. I used it for this class last year, but it was too complex and we only covered half of the chapters. Recognizing this, CORE recently created a version of their materials specifically for those interested in public administration and policy. Economy, Society, and Public Policy is designed for non-economics majors who have no interest in becoming economists, but who want to understand economics and policy. This is an ideal book for our class and I’m so excited to use it. It’s still a beta project, and there might be errors and quirks and bumps in the road, but (1) it’s free, and (2) it’s state of the art and you’re some of the first students to ever use it. So live with the quirks :)

Register for a student account at the CORE website.

Articles, book chapters, and other materials

There will also occasionally be additional articles and videos to read and watch. When this happens, links to these other resources will be included on the reading page for that week.


Finally, you’ll need to listen to at least one economics-related podcast episode every week. We will spend the first few minutes of every class session discussing current events or recent research related to micro, public, or behavioral economics, and podcasts are one of the best ways to do this.You can listen as you commute, wash the dishes, fold your laundry, eat breakfast, or work on homework for other classes!

Here are some of the best ones—subscribe to 3–4 of these:You can listen to all these shows on your computer, but it’s best to listen on your smartphone.

On iOS, you can use Apple’s built-in Podcasts app, or download a third-party app like Overcast (my personal favorite).

On Android, you can use… something, probably.

And these shows are excellent, but not always econ/policy-focused (but they’re definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re interested in behavioral economics and psychology):

Online help and Slack

Economics can be difficult. We have a class chatroom at Slack where anyone in the class can ask questions and anyone can answer. Ask questions about the readings or problem sets in the class Slack workspace. I will monitor Slack regularly, and you should also all do so as well. You’ll likely have similar questions as your peers, and you’ll likely be able to answer other peoples’ questions too.

Course policies

Be nice. Be honest. Don’t cheat.

We will also follow the full list of Marriott School and BYU classroom policies.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Life at BYU can be complicated and challenging. You might feel overwhelmed, experience anxiety or depression, or struggle with relationships or family responsibilities. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free, confidential support for students who are struggling with mental health and emotional challenges. The CAPS office is staffed by professional psychologists who are attuned to the needs of all types of college and professional students. Please do not hesitate to contact CAPS for assistance—getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do.

Basic needs security

If you have difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or if you lack a safe and stable place to live, and you believe this may affect your performance in this course, please contact the Dean of Students for support. Please also consider speaking with your local LDS bishop regarding Church welfare assistance regardless of whether or not you are LDS. Additionally, please talk to me if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable me to provide any resources that I might possess.

Class conduct and expectations

On the first day of class, will come up with rules, expectations, and policies regarding late work, laptop use, and other issues. Those will be listed here.

Assignments and grades

You can find descriptions for all the assignments on the assignments page.

Assignment Points Percent
Preparation (≈ 16.5 × 15) 250 22.5%
Problem sets (8 × 40) 320 28.8%
Economic briefing 40 3.6%
Exam 1 100 9.0%
Exam 2 100 9.0%
Exam 3 100 9.0%
Final project 200 18.0%
Total 1110

Grade Range Grade Range
A 93–100% C 73–76%
A− 90–92% C− 70–72%
B+ 87–89% D+ 67–69%
B 83–86% D 63–66%
B− 80–82% D− 60–62%
C+ 77–79% F < 60%

Red pandas

Hungry red panda

Once you have read this entire syllabus and the assignments page, please click here and e-mail me a picture of a red panda. For real. Brownie points if it’s animated.