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TRN160Y1: Public Policy and Public Good


This course highlights the broad theoretical, philosophical, and historical basis upon which public policy in the West — and more specifically public policy in Canada — is conceived, enacted, and implemented. We examine the meaning and the shifting boundary between the public and the private and explore the philosophical and political relationship between the community and the individual. We consider classical and contemporary views on the public good, and analyze political, democratic, and technocratic views of policy formation and implementation. We also evaluate some of the institutional constraints on public policy formation and implementation in terms of constitutions, international treaties and agreements, as well as in terms of bureaucratic inertia, complexity, and the problem of unintended consequences. Important topics include power, interests, ideologies, democracy, and public reason.

Breadth Requirements: 0.5 FCE  2) Thought, Belief and Behaviour + 0.5 FCE 3) Society and Its Institutions


All assignments in TRN160Y1 will require critical thinking and engaging with the views of others. These assignments include:

  • Short papers
  • Seminar participation
  • Presentations
  • Final research paper

Note: Assignments can vary year to year.


Drawing on readings in philosophy and political theory, the course considers a variety of approaches to interpreting the nature of the public good and asks how policy makers should respond when competing goods (e.g., freedom and security) clash with each other.


How should I prepare for this course?

TRN160Y1 covers current policy issues relevant to Ontario and Canada. To prepare for TRN160Y1, ensure that you are up to date on a variety of Canadian policy issues in the news, and pay special attention to the differences in viewpoints being presented by important policy actors such as politicians, academics, and activists. Consider reading reputable Canadian news sources from across the political spectrum (ex. CBC, Toronto Star, National Post, and The Globe and Mail).

What should I know before starting this course?

Classmates will often have different views on policy issues than you do. Rather than treating instances of disagreement as adversarial, try to approach those circumstances as learning experiences where you can evaluate new views with an open mind. By treating policy issues through an academic lens, you and your peers will be able to collectively arrive closer to the truth and you’ll build stronger interpersonal relationships in the process.

What if I'm nervous about speaking in front of my class?

Because this course lasts a full year, you have lots of opportunity to develop the ability to speak in front of your peers. This might take a couple weeks, but once you start to develop a level of familiarity with your professor and classmates, the prospect of sharing your ideas won’t seem so daunting. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about sharing, speak to the professor before each class for some advice about how to contribute.



David Carvounas , PhD

Email: david.carvounas@utoronto.ca

Dr. David Carvounas is a lecturer on the history of political thought at the University of Toronto and Glendon College. His interests include the history of political thought, theories of democracy, political ethics, modernity and temporality, globalism and the rise of post-globalist politics.


Contact Us:

Sharon Reid
Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program Coordinator (Acting)


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