The Market for Ideas Reading Groups

Market for Ideas Reading GroupsThe Market for Ideas Reading Groups provide a forum for students to engage with key texts in economics and related disciplines with a cohort of their peers under the guidance of a Bagwell Center affiliated faculty member. Each reading group will meet for a total of four hours per semester to discuss readings assigned by the faculty member. Student participants will receive the assigned reading materials, plus a $200 honorarium for each reading group completed (each individual student can potentially participate in up to 3 reading groups).

REQUIREMENTS:

  • Remain enrolled as a student in good standing at Kennesaw State University throughout their participation in the Market for Ideas Reading Groups.
  • Attend and actively participate in all scheduled programming.
  • Arrive on time and prepared for each meeting, having carefully read any assigned readings in advance.
  • Participants are also encouraged to attend Bagwell Center events and to build relationships with other participants and Bagwell Center faculty.

The deadline to apply is January 15, 2021.

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Spring 2021 Offerings 

Title: Law’s Order: What Economics Has to Do With Law and Why It Matters
Author: David Friedman
Faculty leader: Prof. Brian Albrecht
Description: What does economics have to do with law? Suppose legislators propose that armed robbers receive life imprisonment. Editorial pages applaud them for getting tough on crime. Constitutional lawyers raise the issue of cruel and unusual punishment. Legal philosophers ponder questions of justness. An economist, on the other hand, observes that making the punishment for armed robbery the same as that for murder encourages muggers to kill their victims. This is the cut-to-the-chase quality that makes economics not only applicable to the interpretation of law, but beneficial to its crafting.

Drawing on numerous commonsense examples, in addition to his extensive knowledge of Chicago-school economics, David D. Friedman offers a spirited defense of the economic view of law. He clarifies the relationship between law and economics in clear prose that is friendly to students, lawyers, and lay readers without sacrificing the intellectual heft of the ideas presented. Friedman is the ideal spokesman for an approach to law that is controversial not because it overturns the conclusions of traditional legal scholars — it can be used to advocate a surprising variety of political positions, including both sides of such contentious issues as capital punishment — but rather because it alters the very nature of their arguments. For example, rather than viewing landlord-tenant law as a matter of favoring landlords over tenants or tenants over landlords, an economic analysis makes clear that a bad law injures both groups in the long run. And unlike traditional legal doctrines, economics offers a unified approach, one that applies the same fundamental ideas to understand and evaluate legal rules in contract, property, crime, tort, and every other category of law, whether in modern day America or other times and places — and systems of non-legal rules, such as social norms, as well.

Title: The Economic Naturalist’s Field Guide: Common Sense Principles for Troubled Times
Author: Robert H. Frank
Faculty leader: Prof. James Boudreau
Description: Ask a dozen talking heads about how the economy works and what course of action we should take and you’ll get thirteen different answers. But what if we possessed a handful of basic principles that could guide our decisions? Both the personal ones about what to buy and how to spend but also those national ones that have been capturing the headlines? Robert H. Frank, (a.k.a. the Economic Naturalist) has been illustrating those principles longer and more clearly than anyone else. In The Economic Naturalist’s Field Guide, he reveals how they play out in Washington, on Wall Street, and in our own lives, covering everything from tax policy to financial investment to everyday decisions about saving and spending. In today’s uncertain economic climate, The Economic Naturalist’s Field Guide’s insights have more bearing on our pocketbooks, policies, and personal happiness than ever.

Title: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
Author: Marc Levinson
Faculty leader: Prof. Robert Gmeiner
Description: In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. The Box tells the dramatic story of the container's creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about.

Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world and made the boom in global trade possible.

But the container didn't just happen. Its adoption required huge sums of money, both from private investors and from ports that aspired to be on the leading edge of a new technology. It required years of high-stakes bargaining with two of the titans of organized labor, Harry Bridges and Teddy Gleason, as well as delicate negotiations on standards that made it possible for almost any container to travel on any truck or train or ship. Ultimately, it took McLean's success in supplying U.S. forces in Vietnam to persuade the world of the container's potential.

Drawing on previously neglected sources, economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography, devastating traditional ports such as New York and London and fueling the growth of previously obscure ones, such as Oakland. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.

Title: Uncle Sam Can't Count: A History of Failed Government Investments, from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy
Author: Burt & Anita Folsom
Faculty Leader: Burt Folsom
Description: Drawing on examples from the nation's past and present—the fur trade to railroads, cars and chemicals, aviation to Solyndra—Uncle Sam Can't Count a sweeping work of conservative economic history that explains why the federal government cannot and should not pick winners and losers in the private sector, including the Obama administration.

From the days of George Washington through World War II to today, government subsidies have failed dismally argue Burt and Anita Folsom. Draining the Treasury of cash, they impede economic growth, and hurt the very companies receiving aid.

Why does federal aid seem to have a reverse Midas touch? As the Folsoms reveal, federal officials don't have the same abilities or incentives as entrepreneurs. In addition, federal control always equals political control of some kind. What is best for politicians is not often what works in the marketplace. Politicians want to win votes, and they can do so by giving targeted CEOs benefits while dispersing costs to others.

Filled with examples of government failures and free market triumphs, from John Jacob Astor to the Wright Brothers, World War II amphibious landing craft to Detroit, Uncle Sam Can't Count is a hard-hitting critique of government investment that demonstrates why business should be left exclusively to private entrepreneurs.

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