93424 - Topics In Economic Policy (50)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Decent work and economic growth Reduced inequalities Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course provides an introduction to and overview of some main points of debate on the economic policies of contemporary societies. Using historical and contemporary examples, and simple models and data sets, students understand the importance of well-designed and well-functioning economic institutions and policies and the complexity of economic governance.

Course contents

The course is taught in the second semester, in the Campus of Forlì. It is divided in two modules.

In the first module (Prof. Rovelli), students first review the main policy prescriptions from established micro and macro theories, and are encouraged to challenge them with relevant examples of institutional or policy failures. In the second part, students are invited to explore how capitalist societies have built institutions and adopted policies to address some of those failures, and to discuss which institutions and policies may be needed to address (some of the) current and future challenges.

In the second module (Prof. Montinari), students are provided with a general overview of how principles and methods of behavioral economics can be used to improve welfare and design better and more effective policies.

MODULE 1: Prof. Riccardo Rovelli (14 lectures)

Part 1. Overview: policy prescriptions & main issues

1. Introduction & Course overview (1 lecture)

2. Economic efficiency (2 lectures):

  • When (and how) does the Invisible Hand succeed, and when does it fail?
  • Pareto Efficiency: what does it imply and how does it matter for the design and the evaluation of policy interventions?

3.Economic growth (2 lectures):

  • Does economic growth benefit everybody?
  • Does Growth always lead to Full Employment?
  • Does Growth require Inequality?
  • Does Growth lead towards (In)Equality?

Part 2. Institutions and policies.

4. Efficiency and market failures (2 lectures)

  • Competition vs Monopoly: Which goals should Antitrust authorities pursue?
  • Infrastructures
  • Externalities: Coase vs other solutions
  • Public Goods (local and global). Common goods

5. Modes of economic relations: not only markets (1 lecture)

  • Markets and alternative modes of economic relations
  • Reciprocity, redistribution and exchange
  • The nature of firms: Coase and beyond
  • The State: Market rules, Command and Redistribution
  • Non-market production, consumption and exchange

6. Institutions: What they are; Why they matter (4 lectures)

  • Brief overviews of: property rights, money, finance, corporations, trust
  • Institutions and politics. Capitalism and democracy
  • Varieties of capitalisms. The role of the state

7. The limits of markets (2 lectures)

  • Ethical markets
  • What should firms do? Friedman vs. Social Corporate Responsibility
  • Interference with market prices: Minimum wages.

Intermediate test

MODULE 2: Prof. Natalia Montinari (10 lectures)

  1. Behavioral Economics in Theory (3 lectures)
    1. Individual Decision making
    2. Other regarding preferences
  2. Behavioral Economics in Action: Nudging (2 lectures)
    1. Nudging or sludging?
    2. Other tools of behavioral change
    3. Designing your nudge in 10 steps
  3. Applications of Nudging (5 lectures)
    1. Spending, Saving and Financial Decisions
    2. Health and wellbeing
    3. Education
    4. Energy Efficiency and the Environment
    5. Tax Compliance
    6. Developing Countries

Final test


For each module, a dedicated website will contain all the required readings and documents, including the lecture notes.

Details about each website and the required readings (scholarly articles, book chapters and internet documents) will be provided in the first lecture of each module.

Teaching methods

Lectures will be delivered in presence.

  • In case of a continuation of the pandemic and the related safety restrictions, lectures will be switched online, in which case (some) classes will meet on Teams.

All lectures in presence will take place at the Forlì Campus. No activities take place at the Bologna Campus.


Lectures will be supported by PC-based presentations. Students should download and read these presentations (and possibly the related readings) before lectures.

Students are encouraged to take an active part in many class discussions.

Sttudents will be taught and encouraged to search for and obtain relevant information (data; official documents; academic literature; policy analyses) through the Internet, and to evaluate and discuss them critically.

Assessment methods

For students who attend classes ("Studenti frequentanti") and take the intermediate test (after Module 1) and final test (after Module 2), the final mark is equal to the sum of the points obtained from the two tests. The two tests are described below:

Module 1 (Maximum 18 points). Students can choose:

Option A:

  • Intermediate test: written answers to 3 out of 5 questions (max 9 points; 45 minutes)
  • plus a short essay (max 9 points; 2000-3000 words). The essay title must be chosen before the date of the intermediate test, and must be approved by the instructor. In general, it will involve a (literature-based) assessment of some policy-relevant issue, related to a topic discussed during lectures.

Option B:

  • "Long" Intermediate test: written answers to 6 out of 7 questions (no essay; max 18 points; time: 1h 30').

Module 2 (Max 12 points). Students can choose:

  • Option A: written answers to 3 out of 5 questions (max 6 points; time: 30 minutes), plus a short essay designing a nudge intervention (max 6 points; max 3000 words or 5 pages). The essay topic and title must be chosen before the date of the intermediate test, and must be approved by the instructor. In general, it will involve a (literature-based) assessment of some policy-relevant issue and the design of a nudging intervention, related to a topic discussed during lectures.
  • Option B: written answers to 6 out of 9 questions (no essay; max 12 points; time: 1h).

For both modules:

  • An extra point may be given to students who have been especially active in class debates and for particularly good final essays. Students who obtain overall 31 or 32 points will be given full marks "cum laude".
  • Exams take place at Labic; exam questions will be delivered through EOL.
  • One exam may be missed exclusively for grave reasons (to be authorized explicitly), in which case it will have to be taken in the first “appello di esami” in the June session.
  • In case of a continuation of the pandemic and the related safety restrictions, exams will be delivered remotely. In that case, students must have installed ZOOM on their PC and will access the exam through EOL (https://eol.unibo.it/).


Students who do not attend lectures (“non frequentanti”), or who do not show up at the written tests, will take a single written test in a regular exam session (“prova totale”).

This test will require short answers (max 250 words) to several questions (from both modules), with the same examination program as for the students who have attended class (Time: 2h30').

Teaching tools

Lectures are supported by PC-based presentations.

Lecture notes, required readings and internet resources are accessible from dedicated websites (one for each module). The Internet address will be communicated during the first lecture of each module.

A password will be required to access the required readings.

During online classes on MS TEAMS, students are expected to interact with the teacher (and with each other) via the "Chat" line.

Office hours

See the website of Riccardo Rovelli

See the website of Natalia Montinari