Course 2018-2019 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 23
BIG (8 credits - II sem. - OB  |  SECS-P/03)
Course Director:

Classes: 23 (II sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus


Basic micro and macro economics is recommended.

Mission & Content Summary


In OECD countries the average Government expenditure amounts to 40% of the total GDP. A similar figure applies to the average country-specific burden of taxation, taxation representing the main source of Government revenue. Pensions, healthcare, public debt, taxes, inequality and redistribution are all topics at the centre of the economic debate in virtually all contemporary democratic countries, representing crucial concerns for many of their citizens and often driving the political agenda. Should we encourage Government intervention in the economy? On what grounds? What are the different instruments the Government can use in order to achieve its goals? And what should these goals even be? The aim of the course is to equip students with the intellectual framework needed to attempt reasonable answers to these difficult questions. The course builds on robust theoretical and empirical arguments, together with sound institutional analyses, in order to achieve an in-depth understanding of Government reasons to intervene and ways of intervention.


The pros and cons of Government intervention are analysed from a Public Economics perspective, covering the most important topics, such as:

  • Government expenditure, deficit and debt.
  • Education.
  • Social and Health Insurance.
  • Pension systems.
  • Taxation and Progressivity.
  • Taxation incidence.
  • Optimal Taxation.
  • Income Taxation.
  • Consumption Taxation.
  • Inequality and Redistribution.

The goal of the course is to equip the student with the necessary tools to critically assess the main issues related to the role of Government intervention in the economy.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Define the characteristics of Government intervention in the economy, including its evolution in history.
  • Identify the determinants of the evolution of public debt.
  • Understand the taxation system and identify the main institutional decisions behind its construction.
  • Understand the main characteristics of Government intervention in the main macro areas of education, health and pensions.
  • Know how taxation works in the arts, culture and communication.
  • Understand the role of Government intervention on Inequality.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Understand and critically assess the key elements of the debate over the role of Government intervention in the economy.
  • Compare different approaches to public intervention, on the side of both expenditure and revenues collection.
  • Analyse the alternative reform proposals of Government intervention, understanding its implications.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures


Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  x x


  • Students are assessed based on two partial written exams. No minimum grade is required in the first partial exam in order to gain access to the second. The overall grade is a simple average of the grades of two partial exams. The “lode” is assigned at the discretion of the course convenor.
  • Alternatively, students can choose to take a one-shot written examination covering the entire programme at the end of the course.
  • Questions are based both on specific exercises and on the general theory. They test the knowledge of the students on the different topics covered throughout the course. Questions also test students’ ability to apply the acquired knowledge to the public debate on the role and the implications of the different approaches to Government intervention.

Teaching materials


  • Textbook: J. GRUBER, Public finance and public policy, New York, Worth Publishers, a Macmillan Education Imprint.
  • Slides and additional material will be uploaded on the Bboard. On-line teaching materials are compulsory.
Last change 03/07/2018 14:24