Public sector economics│EP

The topic | Objectives | Target audience | Teaching methods

The topic

The contemporary controversy about the relative merits of the State vs the Market—and implications as to which should be used to solve current societal problems—deserves to be debated with the aid of adequate tools. What reasons justify an intervention of the State? How can we design a role for the State that is compatible with market rules? Economic analysis can help us to understand the overall role of public authorities in the economy. One of the challenges is to understand how public spending, the regulation of economic activities, and the taxation system—among other elements—influence the decision to invest, to consume, and to work, etc. There are in fact numerous theories which justify—and condemn—State intervention as well as explain its modalities. The two principal conceptions of the State oppose one another: on the one hand, liberal economic theory suggests that the State should only intervene in case of a market failure; on the other hand, interventionist theory suggests that the State has a mission to stabilise the economy, to redistribute wealth, and to reallocate resources, and therewith to complete a wide range of other tasks.

Some of the documents for this course are available on the online Moodle platform. This tool offers students a platform for exchange; they can interact through it, and it can help them develop ideas about the public policies they have personally chosen to analyse.

If you are interested in applying for a place in the course on Public Sector Economics, why not try our self-evaluation test? By clicking on the link, you will find a short test which will rapidly let you know whether our course will meet your expectations. Ten self-evaluation questions await your answers!



  • Master economic analysis tools in public finance;
  • Identify the limits of traditional normative economic theory;
  • Understand the contribution of positive economic theory in terms of public sector choices;
  • Be able to analyse public policy using economic concepts.


Target audience

  • Students studying for the MAS in public administration (MPA);
  • Students studying for the DAS in public administration;
  • Leaders and managers in the fields of policy and administration;
  • Executives in businesses and journalists.



Teaching methods

Participants on this course have access to an Internet platform through which they can interact with each other and benefit from permanent, personalised follow-up from course staff. The platform is, in fact, far more than a simple online information or documentary library: students - in group - use it to design their coursework.

This involves participants selecting a societal problem of their own choice —for example, the lack of available land in Switzerland—and analysing not only the problem itself but also the possible role of the State. The knowledge gained during the course supports your analysis. The analysis of the problem is then guided by the key subjects covered in the course, week by week (public expenditure, public revenue, monopoly, externalities, etc.). In order to ensure that these subjects do indeed act as a guide for the participant’s analysis, the platform hosts a forum. In the days following each class, the participant must post his or her brief contribution to the forum and the participant receives a personalised commentary on the forum shortly afterwards. This process helps to create a group dynamic outside of the classroom, pushing work forward. Course participants have access to all forum contributions and to all personalised comments. By combining all of these elements, participants can pull together the definitive version of the course project work.


Course led by Prof. Nils Soguel.

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