Prosperity: The Ethics and Economics of Wealth Creation

10,000 years ago, everyone everywhere was dirt poor. 500 years ago, the world hadn't much changed. Today is a totally different story. Why are so many people now so prosperous? Why have some societies grown so rich in such a short period, while others remain poor? Can prosperity be replicated in the under-developed world? How do societies that foster growth, structure the distribution of wealth therein? What are some of the ethical issues that arise from market economies relative to other systems? How do market economies relate to various ethical standards of justice such as poverty, equality, fairness, power relations and environmental quality? This course is an interdisciplinary study of what makes societies fair, free, and prosperous. We will evaluate the institutions of market economies using the tools of ethics, political philosophy, economics, history, and political science. We will investigate issues concerning the nature of human rationality, trade, property rights, prices, the division of labor, interventionism, entrepreneurship, and economic growth. We will critically look at the major alternative systems of economic organization applied amidst the twentieth century: socialism and capitalism. Lastly, we will survey the potentials and limitations for promoting economic development in poverty-stricken environments around the globe today. 

Global Justice

Traditionally, theories of global justice treat "free market capitalism" as a problem that the theory of global justice is meant to redress. This course considers a different possibility: from the perspective of the world's most poor, a system of free markets may constitute a form of global justice. In particular, we consider an interpretation of global justice that is launched from libertarian mantra, "Free Trade, Free Migration, and Peace." What are the attractions and shortcomings of such a global ideal? In what sense, if any, might a global system of open markets claim to be fair or just, especially with respect to the world’s most disadvantaged? 

Capitalism: For and Against

Are capitalist societies just or are they full of inequality and exploitation? Do they give people freedom or oppress them in one way or another? Do they encourage virtue or vice, excellence or mediocrity, happiness or misery? Are there other types of society that would be preferable? What might be done to improve capitalist societies? This course will investigate these questions through a study of some of the seminal philosophical arguments for and against capitalism, from its origins to the present day. 

Economic Analysis of Political Behavior

In short, this course is about using the lens of economic theory to view “politics without romance.” Slow economic growth, over a decade of continuous war, and other controversial policies have led many to question the extent to which government is a force for the common good. Blame is often assigned to specific politicians or ideological perspectives. Public choice economics instead analyzes the incentive structure within which political decisions take place, seeking to uncover the forces guiding the behavior of voters, legislators, judges, and other political agents. This course will examine the insights and limitations of the public choice perspective in the context of electoral politics, legislation, bureaucracy and regulation, and constitutional rules.

Freedom Seminar

Freedom has been called the greatest political concept of the modern world. But what is freedom? And if freedom is important, what should we do about it? Does freedom conflict with other important values, such as gender equality or distributive fairness? Can political systems that claim allegiance to freedom also make room for other values? Is the best society the one that cares only about freedom? 

Liberty and Incarceration

Many of the most renowned theorists of classical criminology were, in fact, self-identified political economists and political philosophers amidst the classical liberal and enlightenment tradition. Patterns of crime and punishment have significantly changed since the enlightenment period. This course asks simply: what would the enlightenment classical liberals have to say about today’s unique trends? Whereas Adam Smith was fascinated by and arguably successful in comprehending why some countries are rich and others poor; we borrow his analytical toolkit to investigate why some societies incarcerate more than others.