The History and Theory of the U.S. National Debt

Sample Syllabus for Upper Division or Graduate Level Reading Seminar

This seminar seeks to familiarize students with the political and economic history of the U.S. national debt. The course begins by surveying the economic and historical literature on sovereign debt and debt-related matters. It then examines the ways in which the U.S. government has problematized and sought to address the national debt and deficit since the 1970s. It concludes by taking a look at the ways in which other countries have dealt with their debts and considers whether current concerns about the U.S. national debt are overblown.


Week One - Debt and World History

Week Two - Debt and American History

Week Three - The Emergence of the Contemporary Fiscal Paradigm

Week Four - The Reform of Congressional Budgeting

Week Five - Reagan and the Age of Deficits

Week Six - George H.W. Bush: Budgetary Politics at a Crossroads

Week Seven - Bill Clinton and the Mixed Legacies of the 1990s

Week Eight - George W. Bush and the Crisis of American Budgeting

Week Nine - Global Examples and Counterexamples

Week Ten - The Current Debate

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