Editor’s Note: Today, anything-but-dismal economist Jim Leitzel talks about Regulating (and Teaching) Vice, the syllabus of which appeared yesterday. Read on to find out why he did what he did, why he quit doing it and what he did instead, and, by way of conclusion, the market forces that just might make him do it all again.
On opening day, I try to meet my moral (and legal) duty to the students by emphasizing that I am an economist, not a physician or a lawyer, and they should not mistake anything we discuss in class as constituting medical or legal advice! I also indicate that the Regulation of Vice class addresses public policy, not private policy, and that I will not ask anyone to share their personal vice experiences – though some students do, anyway. (Last year in the Teaching Points series, Sarah Carnahan discussed a course with a much different approach to classroom self-disclosure.) Another point I try to make concerns the (perhaps surprising) centrality of vice policy within public policy more generally; for instance, in the US, Supreme Court vice-case decisions help delineate the bounds for speech controls and police search and seizure practices.
Regulation of Vice, cross-listed between economics and public policy, follows Phil Cook’s mid-1990s course at Duke University in placing the focus on concepts, not vices: I try to avoid a “Tuesday is heroin, Thursday is pornography” syllabus.