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).


  • 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.
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Spring 2020 Offerings 

  • Title: The Road to Serfdom
    Author: F. A. Hayek
    Faculty leader: Prof. Alex Maslov
    Description: A classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in England in the spring of 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would inevitably lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.
  • Title: FDR Goes to War: How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling National Debt, and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped Wartime America
    Authors: Burt and Anita Folsom
    Faculty leader: Prof. Burt Folsom
    Description: History books tell us the World War II economy was a boon, ending the Great Depression thanks to massive government spending. But the skyrocketing national debt, food rations, crippling taxes, and labor strikes of the time tell a story that is hardly the stuff of recovery. Instead, Roosevelt’s poor judgment and confused management left Congress with a devastating fiscal mess after the final bomb was dropped and ushered in a new era of imperialism for the executive branch. In this provocative book, Burton W. Folsom and Anita Folsom make a stunning case that will force America to take a second look at one of its most complicated presidents.

  • Title: The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America
    Author: Prof. Burt Folsom
    Faculty leader: Prof. Burt Folsom
    Description: The Myth of the Robber Barons describes the role of key entrepreneurs in the economic growth of the United States from 1850 to 1910. The entrepreneurs studied are Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, James J. Hill, Andrew Mellon, Charles Schwab, and the Scranton family. Most historians argue that these men, and others like them, were Robber Barons. The story, however, is more complicated. The author, Burton Folsom, divides the entrepreneurs into two groups market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs. The market entrepreneurs, such as Hill, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller, succeeded by producing a quality product at a competitive price. The political entrepreneurs such as Edward Collins in steamships and in railroads the leaders of the Union Pacific Railroad were men who used the power of government to succeed. They tried to gain subsidies, or in some way use government to stop competitors. The market entrepreneurs helped lead to the rise of the U. S. as a major economic power. By 1910, the U. S. dominated the world in oil, steel, and railroads led by Rockefeller, Schwab (and Carnegie), and Hill. The political entrepreneurs, by contrast, were a drain on the taxpayers and a thorn in the side of the market entrepreneurs. Interestingly, the political entrepreneurs often failed without help from government they could not produce competitive products. The author describes this clash of the market entrepreneurs and the political entrepreneurs. In the Mellon chapter, the author describes how Andrew Mellon an entrepreneur in oil and aluminum became Secretary of Treasury under Coolidge. In office, Mellon was the first American to practice supply-side economics. He supported cuts on income tax rates for all groups. The rate cut on the wealthiest Americans, from 73 percent to 25 percent, freed up investment capital and led to American economic growth during the 1920s. Also, the amount of revenue into the federal treasury increased sharply after tax rates were cut. The Myth of the Robber Barons has separate chapters on Vanderbilt, Hill, Schwab, Mellon, and the Scrantons. The author also has a conclusion, in which he looks at the textbook bias on the subject of Robber Barons and the rise of the U. S. in the late 1800s. This chapter explores three leading college texts in U. S. history and shows how they misread American history and disparage market entrepreneurs instead of the political entrepreneurs. This book is in its seventh edition, and is widely adopted in college and high school classrooms across the U. S.