• University of Nottingham

The Politics of Economics and the Economics of Politicians

Investigate links between economics and politicians with Sir Vince Cable and leading economists at the University of Nottingham.

14,934 enrolled on this course

Illustrations of political leaders

The Politics of Economics and the Economics of Politicians

14,934 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Find out about the link between politics and economics with Sir Vince Cable.

How does economics impact on politicians? And how do politicians impact on economics?

You will study both contemporary economics and the political leaders who have put key economic theories into practice throughout history.

Learn from experts in the field

The course is led by Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Honorary Professor of Economics at the University of Nottingham.

You will also learn from leading economists at the University of Nottingham, including Head of School Professor Kevin Lee and Professor of Political Economy Cecilia Testa.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Politics and economics are usually studied as separate subjects, but in the real world they’re interconnected. Politicians often talk about economic matters– jobs, prices, wages, profits, trade, investment, productivity, growth. And economists produce theories leading to policies which politicians implement. Politics, it’s been said, is economics studied seriously. Great economists like Adam Smith called their subject “political economy,” with good reason. This course brings politics and economics together by looking at political figures who have changed economic history. Of the seven I’ve chosen, only one actually studied economics, Ludwig Erhard, whose policies enabled the post-war German economic miracle. By contrast, Franklin Roosevelt– FDR, author of the American interwar New Deal– boasted that he knew no economics.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds But he did have good economic advisors, as did Mrs. Thatcher, who applied what she called common sense housewife’s economics in the UK. In the case of the modernising Japan, the Meiji emperor was just a figurehead for effective technocrats. Some of our economic heroes are seriously improbable. I mean, nobody in history has done more through economic policy to lift literally hundreds of millions of people out of poverty than Deng Xiaoping. Almost as improbable is the man who gave effect to the immensely powerful idea of free trade, Sir Robert Peel. And Alexander Hamilton, who 200 years ago laid the economic foundations of the United States.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds Throughout the course, we’ll use the economic principles espoused by these seven political figures as a starting point to explore deeper economic theories and the wider impact they may have had on the world in which we live today.


  • Week 1

    Introduction, Alexander Hamilton, and Sir Robert Peel

    • Politics and Economics

      Sir Vince Cable introduces the Politics of Economics and the Economics of Politicians course. In particular, Vince distinguishes between normative and positive economic statements and offers a framework to explore economics today.

    • Alexander Hamilton

      Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. In this activity, we explore his views on manufacturing and federalism and see how his policies laid the foundation for America's economy success.

    • Sir Robert Peel and Free Trade

      Sir Robert Peel was arguably the most important political figure in the first half of the 19th century. In this activity, we examine one of his biggest impacts on the economy: the establishment of free trade in Britain.

  • Week 2

    The Meiji Emperor, President Franklin D Roosevelt, and Ludwig Erhard

    • The Meiji Emperor

      A change of dynasty in Japan was responsible for a dramatic shift from a feudal system to a strong, centralised, modernising state which reformed agriculture, industrialised rapidly and absorbed western technology.

    • President Franklin D Roosevelt

      President Franklin D Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression, the New Deal, secured him a spot in the pantheon of great American presidents. In this activity, we explore his relationship with Keynesian economics.

    • Ludwig Erhard

      As finance minister and then chancellor, Ludwig Erhard could be claimed to have laid the policy foundations for the post-war German economic miracle or ‘wirtschaftswunder’. In this activity, we explore his economics policies.

  • Week 3

    Margaret Thatcher, Deng Xiaoping, and Conclusions

    • Margaret Thatcher

      Margaret Thatcher is one of the few politicians with an 'ism' named after herself. In this activity, we explore the key components of Thatcherism - Monetarism and Privatization - and see their impacts on Britain.

    • Deng Xiaoping

      Deng Xiaoping, through economic policy reform, lifted more human beings out of poverty than anyone in world history. His reforms ushered in a remarkable economic transformation which has turned China into an economic superpower.

    • Conclusion: Politics and Economics

      Professor Cecilia Testa reviews the seven leading figures we have covered in this course and offers suggestions as to how we as citizens can keep our elected representatives accountable.

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On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in economics and politics, and for those studying economics at pre-university or undergraduate level. No previous experience or qualifications are required.

Who will you learn with?

Former MP and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 2010–2015. Visiting Professor at University of Nottingham and Professor in Practice at LSE. Lib Dem leader since July 2017.

I am a professor at the University of Nottingham. My research interests lie in the area of Political Economy.

Who developed the course?

The University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham is committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring students with world-leading research and benefitting communities all around the world.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$54/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 3 Aug 2024

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