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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $67.59
  • October 2010
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-14982-1
  • 608 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

Introduction to Public Policy


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Charles Wheelan (Author, Dartmouth College)


The first introductory public policy text with a strong economics perspective.

A new textbook by Charles Wheelan, author of Naked Economics, Introduction to Public Policy uses economic principles to demonstrate that sound public policy occurs when unfettered private markets provide the greatest good for the greatest number. Only when it does not do this is government intervention needed.


Endorsements & Reviews

“By far the best textbook for a course in undergraduate public policy. I have been looking for a text that really incorporates economics into the study of public policy. One cannot truly understand the politics behind policy, and how to analyze policies, without having a basic background in economics, especially microeconomics…Each chapter is beautifully written… I am looking forward to using this text.” — Daniel Scheller, The Florida State University

“Wheelan’s new text is indeed one of the most fluidly written, engaging, sometimes jaunty and sometimes challenging books on the subject. My students will see many topics come alive with this analytical yet unpretentious treatment of public policy principles. The author draws the students into the questions and then turns them toward economics and public-policy analysis concepts.” — Gregory Gleason, The University of New Mexico

“The text is very well written. It covers a diverse set of issues related to policy-making and analysis and definitely stimulates thought. The many descriptions of policy issues, used to illustrate various topics, is a strength of the text.” — Michael Hammig, Clemson University

The first public policy text to use a true economic framework

Public policy is the process by which groups act collectively—from declaring war to installing stoplights. Introduction to Public Policy is the first textbook to put this process into an economic framework. The book includes chapters on collective action, welfare and social choice, the role of government, and more. It also includes discussions of economics principles such as the power of incentives, moral hazard, and the prisoner's dilemma.  

A well-written, engaging narrative

Charles Wheelan is the author of Naked Economics, a perennial favorite of students and general readers, praised for its readability. In Introduction to Public Policy, the author employs the same engaging tone and narrative style.  

Case studies that make the policy process come alive

Each chapter contains at least two “Policy in the Real World” cases and one “For Discussion” case, including:

• the global eradication of smallpox
• welfare reform
• an SUV arms race
• antibiotics misuse
• adverse selection among public school teachers
• the California recall election
• London’s congestion charge
• plummeting autopsy rates
• the statistics behind the SAT exam
• do community-college degrees raise wages?

The only text to contain substantive material on statistical analysis

Statistical analysis is the most important tool for a public-policy participant to possess. In Introduction to Public Policy, the level is just right, and the presentation is ideal for the introductory class.  

    Section I:  What Is Public Policy?

    Chapter 1:  Public Decision Making

    Chapter 2:  Why Is It So Hard to Make the World a Better Place?


    Section II:  Why We Do What We Do

    Chapter 3:  Understanding Individual Behavior:  Rational Man and Woman

    Chapter 4:  Understanding Group Behavior:  Collective Action        

    Chapter 5:  Evaluating Social Welfare


    Section III:  Markets and Government

    Chapter 6:  The Political Process

    Chapter 7:  The Market System

    Chapter 8:  The Role of Government


    Section IV: Tools for Analysis

    Chapter 9:  Gathering and Measuring Information

    Chapter 10:  Basic Data Analysis

    Chapter 11:  Introduction to Regression Analysis

    Chapter 12:  Benefit-Cost Analysis

    Chapter 13:  Program Evaluation


    Section V:  Making Policy

    Chapter 14:  The Role of Institutions

    Chapter 15:  Policy Design