Student Reading Groups

 

Reading Group at TTU

Fall 2020 (April 27 Application Deadline) 

The O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom invites applications for five undergraduate reading groups for Fall 2020. The Bridwell Scholars Reading Group will meet on Mondays, the McLane Teammates Scholars Reading Group will meet on Tuesdays, and the Armentrout Scholars Reading Group will meet on Wednesdays, all at 6-8 pm. There will also be a second McLane Teammates Scholars Reading Group that will meet on Fridays at 11am-1pm. The Monday and Friday groups are led by Dr. Meg Tuszynski; the other two are led by Dr. Dean Stansel. All four groups will have the same reading list. The Advanced Reading Group, which will have a different reading list, will meet Thursdays at 6-8 pm, led by Dr. Ryan Murphy. Dinner (or lunch) will be provided. Our reading groups are one semester, non-credit programs where participants will read and discuss selections from classic works in political economy and from contemporary scholars that address the relationships between and among entrepreneurship, economic freedom, and social progress. 

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout/Bridwell Fall 2020 program will be “Exploring Inequality.” Inequality is frequently said to be a growing problem that needs to be addressed. Students will read and discuss works on this issue from a variety of perspectives. Authors will include Milton Friedman, Joseph Stiglitz, Tyler Cowen, and Paul Krugman. We will explore questions such as: What do people mean by the term “inequality”? How do you measure it? Is it changing substantially over time? What can (and should) public policy do to address it? What other solutions are there? 

The McLane/Armentrout reading groups complement parallel programs at Baylor University, Texas Tech University, Angelo State University, and the University of Central Arkansas. Students will examine the same set of readings and have the opportunity to interact at a joint summit on October 16-17, 2020, hosted by SMU. Attendance at that summit is mandatory.

The title for the Advanced Reading Group will be “History and Political Economy of Food.” This semester, applications are open for the Advanced Reading Group to students who have not taken part in an O'Neil Center reading group before, although we will still be giving preference for those who have previously participated. Among the readings that will be covered are Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History by Rachel Laudan, An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen, and Agricultural & Food Controversies: What Everyone Needs to Know by F. Bailey Norwood, Pascal Oltenacu, Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo, and Sarah Lancaster. Students of the Advanced Reading Group are not required to attend the full McLane/Armentrout joint summit, but are expected to participate in O'Neil Center events during the semester. 

Students will receive a $1,000 stipend upon successful completion of the program.

There are many more applicants than available spots, so the application process is competitive. The online application will require you to upload an unofficial SMU transcript showing your cumulative GPA and to provide the following information: what year of school you’ll be in, your major and minor, your hometown, whether you have participated in a previous O’Neil Center reading group (if so, which one), and which nights you are available to attend. It will also require you to provide short answers to the following questions: 1) What unique insights do your major and minor provide on the topic? 2) What are the three most influential works you have read? 3) What do you hope to get out of participating in this program? The deadline for submission of applications is Monday April 27, 2020. If you have questions, contact Prof. Dean Stansel at dstansel@smu.edu.

Submit the online application here.


Previous Programs

 

Spring 2020

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Spring 2020 program was “Paternalism: Do We Want a Nanny State?”. Participants read and discussed works by scholars such as John Stuart Mill, Nobel economist Gary Becker, Richard Thaler, and Cass Sunstein. They examined what paternalism is and if the government has a legitimate role to interfere in people's lives, given that economic theory assumes that individuals are rational and will make the best judgement of what is good for them. They explore if people truly are rational and should governments try to “nudge” people into making better decisions simply by changing the presentation of choices without compulsion or coercion.

The program for the Advanced Reading Group was “Ecological Irrationality, Public and Private”. Students read Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter, followed by the Ryan Murphy's new publication, Markets against Modernity: Ecological Irrationality, Public and Private, along with several supplementary readings. Murphy's work draws parallels between errors in public opinion about public policy and irrationality expressed in the market, with many novel implications. 

Fall 2019

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Fall 2019 program was “The Past, Present, and Future of Work". Participants read and discussed works by scholars such as Milton Friedman, Claudia Goldin, Price Fishback, and David Card. They examined what the future holds for immigration, labor unions, occupational licensing, and minimum wage in labor markets.

The program for the Advanced Reading Group was “How to Be a YIMBY: Market Urbanism and Regional Economics.” which covered issues surrounding the re-invigoration of major cities, and the new challenges faced by cities experiencing rapid rises in housing costs in recent decades through readings such as Triumph of the City by Ed Glaeser, with other readings considering issues such as the relationship between housing and the global financial crisis, and how best to interpret the legacy of the famed activist, Jane Jacobs. 

Spring 2019

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Spring 2019 program was “The Economics of Knowledge.” Participants read and discussed works by scholars such as F.A. Hayek, Joseph Stiglitz, Bryan Caplan, and Cass Sunstein. They examined the importance of appropriate institutions for facilitating knowledge discovery and transmission, and explored a variety of applied topics. 

The program for the Advanced Reading Group was “History of Economic Thought,” which covered classical economics, the birth of modern economics, the challenge of Keynes, and more recent developments using secondary sources, such as The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner, and The Clash of Economic Ideas by Lawrence White.

Fall 2018

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Fall 2018 program was “ The Role of Government in a Free Society.” Participants read and discussed works by scholars such as Adam Smith, J.S. Mill, John Locke, and Karl Marx, and more contemporary works by Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Robert Nozick, and John Rawls, that examined what a variety of economists, political philosophers, and public policy experts contribute to this topic. 

The program for the Advanced Reading Group was “History of Libertarianism in the United States,” which covered Brian Doherty's lengthy book on the topicThe semester was punctuated by a series of brief readings covering events since the publication of this book in 2007, including recent challenges to libertarianism in 2018

Spring 2018

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Spring 2018 program was “ Freedom and Human Flourishing: Poverty, Prosperity & Quality of Life around the World.” Participants read and discussed works by scholars such as George Ayittey, Daron Acemoglu, Bill Easterly, and Deirdre McCloskey that examined the role of personal freedom, markets, and culture in promoting human flourishing.  

The program for the Advanced Reading Group was “Numeracy,” which covered various perspectives on the best practical and scientific ways of thinking about data, but without any prerequisite coursework in advanced mathematics or statistics. Among the topics covered were Bayesian inference, behavioral economics, prediction markets, and the “Replication Crisis.” Readings included works by Philip Tetlock, Nate Silver, Daniel Kahneman, and Andrew Gelman. 

Fall 2017

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Fall 2017 program was “Economics and Social Issues: Markets and the Marginalized.” Participants read and discussed work by scholars such as Claudia Goldin, Walter Williams, and Thomas Leonard that examined how disadvantaged groups fare in wealthy societies.

The program for the Advanced Reading Group was “A Brief History of Civilization,” which covered the competing and complementary explanations of the emergence of the modern world. Among these explanations are human capital, social norms, democracy, and economic freedom. The purpose was to give students a varied and subtle review of an important, disciplinary topic. Readings included works by scholars such as Deirdre McCloskey, Douglass North, Francis Fukuyama, and Daron Acemoglu.

Spring 2017

The theme for the McLane/Armentrout Spring 2017 program was “Cities, Local Government, and Local Governance” Participants will read and discuss classic and contemporary works by economists, political scientists, and urban scholars – such as Jane Jacobs, Elinor Ostrom, Edward Glaeser, Gordon Tullock, Anthony Downs, and Richard Florida.

The program for the Advanced Reading Group will be, “A Brief History of Civilization,” which will cover the competing and complementary explanations of the emergence of the modern world. Among these explanations are human capital, social norms, democracy, and economic freedom. The purpose is to give students a varied and subtle review of an important, disciplinary topic. Readings will include works by scholars such as Deirdre McCloskey, Douglass North, Francis Fukuyama, and Daron Acemoglu.

Fall 2016

In Fall 2016, two groups of students read and discussed classic and contemporary works by economists and philosophers such as G.A. Cohen and F.A. Hayek that explore the moral dimensions of market exchange. We’ll explore questions such as: Which is more just: socialism or capitalism? By what moral standard should we evaluate markets? What moral norms do markets need to function effectively? Does capitalism make us selfish? Do markets corrupt our character or destroy communities? What sorts of markets should be allowed? Should we be allowed to sell our organs, or rent our bodies?

In addition, for the first time, there was an Advanced Reading Group, directed by Ryan Murphy, open to alumni from previous reading groups. The readings were on the topic of political psychology and included readings by Bryan Caplan, Jonathan Haidt, F. A. Hayek, Matthew Ridley among others.

Spring 2016

The theme for the Spring 2016 program was “Markets & Economic Development: Does Capitalism Help the Poor?” Participants can expect to encounter the classic works of P.T. Bauer, Gunnar Myrdal, Douglass North, and Friedrich Hayek along with more recent work by Jeffrey Sachs, William Easterly, Jared Diamond, Hernando de Soto, and others. Students read classic debates about the origins of poverty from geographic, sociological and institutional views. We will then look at the history of development and economic growth examining what has worked and what hasn't in different countries. Has capitalism contributed to the recent global reduction in absolute poverty around the world?  Are there downsides?

Fall 2015

In Fall 2015, students read selections by Paul Krugman, Fredrich Bastiat, Jeffrey Miron, James Q. Wilson, Steve Horwitz, Robert Higgs, Chris Coyne, Nelson Mandela, William Hutt, Jane Jacobs, Ed Glaeser, Charles Murray, W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, Ben Powell, Russ Sobel, Thomas Piketty, Deirdre McCloskey, Michael Clemens, and George Borjas, among others.

Spring 2015

In Spring 2015, students read selections by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Ludwig von Mises, Oskar Lange, Friedrich Hayek, Peter Boettek, John Maynard Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter, Hernando De Soto, James Buchanan, William Baumol, and Edmund Phelps, among others. 

Spring 2014

In Spring 2014, students read Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson and David Boaz's Libertarianism: A Primer.