Contemporary Society in Multiple Perspectives - Reforming Social Institutions
Fall 2006 GMU Syllabus

Honors 131 (Section 003), meets Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30-11:45pm during Fall 2006, in room Robinson A Room 249.

Instructor: Robin D. Hanson, Asst. Professor, Economics (,
Office Hours: 9:30-10:15am, at Carow Hall office, Room 10A, 703-993-2326. I'm at Carow many other times as well; call or email to be sure. I'm also in my Arlington office, Truland Building Room 400Q, 703-993-4854, Mondays 5-6:30pm.
Catalog Entry:

HNRS 131 - Section 3 - Reforming Social Institutions. In this seminar we will learn to evaluate, and even to create, ideas for reforming our social institutions. After a two week overview of basic concepts about social institutions and some general considerations regarding their reform, we will go one by one, week by week, through major institutions of modern life. One week we might consider education, another week medicine, another week parking, another week marriage, and so on. For each such area, we will review the basic features and supposed functions of existing institutions, some common complaints about those institutions, and some suggested reforms. We will then critically evaluate proposed reforms, and try to imagine new solutions. In the process we hope to see some of the complexity and facades of familiar institutions, and how they need not remain as they are.
Recommended Texts: (None are required.)
Barry J. Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, Why Not?: How To Use Everyday Ingenuity To Solve Problems Big And Small, Harvard Business School Press, 2004, ISBN 1591396816.

Alexander Tabarrok (Editor), Entrepreneurial Economics: Bright Ideas from the Dismal Science, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0195145038.

Assignments: Discussion Guidelines
Please follow these standard economist practices: Focus on the consequences of an institutional change, relative to the status quo, for the people who would be effected. Evaulate these changes using the preferences these people actually have, not the ones you wish they had. Count everyone effected similarly, and assume many of them will try to game any system for selfish or partisan ends. What the founding fathers intended, or what God wants, are irrelevant except as they may influence the above considerations.
DateLecture Topic
30 Aug, 1 Sep Introduction, Basic Economics
5,7 Sep Market Failure, Basic Design
12 Sep Garbage, Organs No class Thursday.
19,21 Sep Parking, Housing
26,28 Sep Large Scale Social Reform Short paper due Thursday.
3 Oct Basic Evolutionary Pyschology, Signaling No class Thursday.
12 Oct Education No class Tuesday.
17,19 Oct More Education, Insurance
24,26 Oct Health and Charity
31 Oct, 2 Nov Romance and Marriage Short paper due Thursday.
7,9 Nov Work
14,16 Nov Management
21 Nov Innovation No class Thursday.
28,30 Nov Law and Government Short paper due Thursday.
5,7 Dec Government and War
14 DecFinal Exam 10:30am-1:15pm

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 703.993.2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through that office.