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For Fall 2014, I am co-teaching a Freshman Foundation Course entitled, "Humanomics: Exchange and the Human Condition", with Jan Osborn from the English Department.

The three guiding questions of the semesters are: What makes a rich nation rich? What makes a good person good? And what do these questions have to do with one another? While exploring these and other questions about markets and ethics, students will challenge the perception of economics as distinct from the humanities.  This course combines an economic inquiry into the human propensity to exchange with the cultural interpretation of the human condition in novels, short stories, poems, and films. The instructional methods include Socratic roundtable discussions of the texts, laboratory experiments, journaling, focused free writes, and four expository papers/short stories.

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As part of the fledgling Humanomics program at Chapman, Jan Osborn and I will be co-teaching an upper-division course during Interterm 2015. Crosslisted in Economics and English, the course is entitled, "Humanomics: Liberty, Economics, and the Knowledge of Good and Evil."

To be human is to know good and evil. To be human is not to be an angel but to have the liberty to decide. To be human is to be limited, to face trade-offs. This course dialogically explores John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost and Thomas Sowell’s Knowledge and Decisions to shape one of the most fundamental questions of economics outside the Garden of Eden—not what must be decided but who shall decide. How do we apply the knowledge of good and evil in a society of strangers? Do we praise or blame the individual free to choose? Or the results of an economic order incomprehensible to any one mind? "The world [is] all before [us], where to choose."

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In Fall 2014, Vernon Smith and I are co-teaching "Spontaneous Order and the Law" for the Fowler School of Law. This course shows how experimental economics can be used to understand how spontaneous, self-generating orders emerge (out of apparent chaos) in law and economics. This course uses a combination of hands-on learning in laboratory experiments and Socratic roundtable discussions of readings. 

Students who take this course will learn how rules of law, property in particular, emerge to undergird exchange. Our guiding texts will be R. Ellickson’s Order without Law, S. Buckle's Natural Law and the Theory of Property: Grotius to Hume, and F.A. Hayek’s Rules and Order and The Fatal Conceit. By building on this experience students will develop projects to explore different applications to property.

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During Interterm 2014, Jan Osborn and I co-taught an upper-division course entitled, "Humanomics: Ethics in Economic Growth and Economic Growth in Ethics," which was cross-listed in Economics and English.

This course engages students in analyzing and synthesizing, via literature, history, and film, the exponential economic growth of the last two-hundred years—the “Great Fact”—by exploring retail commercialism in its nascence and the new ethics of bourgeois dignity and liberty that not only make the Great Fact possible but also further embourgeoisfy and open society.  How can this economic growth be relentless but principled, destructive but creative? Has the Great Fact been narrowly exploitative or broadly prosperitive?  We consider literary works and economic theory as co-constitutive social texts that have historically both helped produce the complex structure of bourgeois ethics.

Required Texts:

Davies, Andrew. Mr. Selfridge. Masterpiece Theatre. PBS. Television.

Hayek, F.A. 1961. “The Non Sequitur of the ‘Dependence Effect’,” Southern Economic Journal 27(4): 346-348.

McCloskey, Deirdre N. Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.

Zola, Emile. The Ladies’ Paradise. Brian Nelson, Trans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1874/1995.


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At the request of our students, Vernon and I in the spring 2013 semester co-taught an advanced seminar on "Spontaneous Order and the Law II".  Our focus will be on law as the evolution of abstract rules governing human conduct. Our primary texts will be Hayek’s The Mirage of Social Justice, Peter Stein’s Legal Evolution: The Story of an Idea, and Adam Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence, and for a modern application to economics we will read James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds.

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In Spring 2013, I taught a new honors course (HON 340) entitled, "Social Justice: Mirage or Oasis". This course attempts to clarify our understanding of the pervasive and yet obscure concept of social justice in the modern world. F.A. Hayek contends that the concept, despite well-meaning intentions, is meaningless, incoherent, and harmful to the prosperity of a free society. David Miller argues that when considered contextually the principles of desert, need, and equality can be used to delineate a theory of social justice as a viable political ideal.

The course begins by asking what are the origins of liberty and justice in human development.  Is justice a rational ideal, an instinct, or a moral tradition? What makes a civilization of strangers possible and what roles do justice and liberty play in the development of trade and a prosperous civilization?  Then we will explore critiques of a world of trade and how these criticisms are rooted in a newer notion of justice.  Through the lens of this broad perspective of human history, the course will explore the philosophical and jurisprudential foundations of social justice. Is social justice a relief for economic distress or an illusionary cure for a misidentified economic disorder?

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I have also co-taught with Vernon Smith a section of HON 357 for the Honors Program.  The course entitled, "Foundations of Economic Exchange", is crosslisted as ECON 420 in the Argyros School of Business and Economics.

From the perspectives of two forms of rational orders, constructivist and ecological, the course studies economic exchange and its implications for economic policy. We examine the extent to which reason and the deliberate action of a constructivist order and the undesigned principles of norms and traditions in an ecological order can inform our understanding of impersonal exchange in markets and personal social exchange with friends, neighbors, and family. On the topic of impersonal exchange, the course covers such issues as international trade and a stock market for predicting presidential elections. In juxtaposition to the observed self-interested behavior in markets, we also study the pervasive cooperation that people simultaneously exhibit in social settings and how it is supported by the biological and cultural evolution of the mind.

This course used a combination of hands-on learning in laboratory experiments and roundtable discussions of readings. In additional to the our own research, the readings ranged from works by 18th century Scottish philosophers Adam Smith and David Hume to 20th century Nobel economist F.A. Hayek. 
 

 

This site was last updated 05/13/14.