Biden and Trump: Policy and Economics in the 2020 Presidential Election
Wednesdays, Linfield 301: 12:10 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
This one credit seminar course will examine and analyze the presidential candidates’
positions on major policy issues from an economic perspective. The course will be
organized by Professor Vincent Smith but discussions on specific policy issues will
be lead by faculty from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics with
policy-related expertise in those areas as well as by distinguished guest speakers.
The course will meet once a week for one hour, from 12.10 p.m. to 1.00 p.m. on Wednesdays,
in Linfield Hall, Room 301. Students will participate in seminar discussions and
prepare one short (4 page) paper on the economics of a major policy issue; for example,
immigration, health care (COVID 19 and beyond), civil rights, taxation, and education.
This is a unique opportunity to examine the economics of the politics of the presidential campaign. The pre-requisite for the course is ECNS 204 (Microeconomics) or permission of the seminar organizer (Vince Smith).
While the seminar is an academic course, and students enrolled in the course will attend the presentations on a face to face basis, visitors from within the university and the broader community are welcome to listen to individual presentations that address topics in which they are particularly interested via a WEBEX.
The seminar meets once a week. Each week, up to the election (November 3, 2020),
a faculty member or guest speaker with expertise in a specific policy area will meet
with the class to examine the policy positions of the candidates on a major area of
concern (for example, immigration or social security). Participants are expected
to have researched the policy statements and stated policy positions by the candidates
on that issue prior to class. The speaker will make a presentation on the topic of
the day focusing on a discussion of the economics of the candidates’ policy positions
on the area of focus in the class. Many speakers will provide recommended readings
(short ones, by and large) that will be made available to students prior to the class
After the election, we will examine how well the political markets (e.g., the Iowa Markets) and forecasters like Nate Silver predicated the outcome of the election. We will also examine how well economic models (initially developed by Ray Fair, a Yale economist) that attempt to forecast the outcome of presidential elections performed and the role of campaign contributions in the election.
Course Work and Grades
Each student will be asked to develop a short paper (4-6 pages, not including graphs)
on the candidates’ positions on a specific policy issue.
Grades will be allocated on the basis of class attendance and participation (70 percent) and the quality of the short paper in terms of its economic analysis and how well it is written (30 percent). You are expected to attend all classes in the seminar and to actively participate in discussions. You do not have to be “correct” in any economic analysis you provide but you do have to be willing to ask questions and think carefully about the economics of the issues.
In the context of the MSU campus wide policies to address the COVID-19 crisis, all students will be expected to comply with those policies, including the requirement that all students must wear face coverings or masks as required by the Montana University System and MSU. Individuals requiring a medical exception should work with the MSU Office of Disability Services.
Therefore, students attending lectures without wearing a mask or using a face covering will be asked to leave. Multiple offenses have to be reported to the Dean of Students for a Student Code of Conduct Section 460.00 violation.
Any students exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID 19 infections (fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath etc.) or other contagious diseases should not attend class and seek medical attention, including COVID 19 testing.
This is for the protection of everyone attending the lecture, especially any participants who face high risks of exposure to the virus. In this course, at least one individual does in fact fall into one of the high risk categories.
Vincent H. Smith, Ph.D.
Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics
P.O. Box 172920
Bozeman, MT 59717-2920
Tel: (406) 994-5615
Fax: (406) 994-4838
Location: 104 Linfield Hall