Economics Travelogue #4

5 minute read

A  picture I took of Monroe Hall, where all of KFP's lectures take place

The first speaker encountered at the KFP seminar was Donald Critchlow, a prestigious professor who has taught at SLU, Notre Dame, ASU (currently); founded the Journal of Policy History (published by Cambridge), and is the director for the Center for Political Thought and Leadership. In case his credentials do not show it, let me make it clear that the man definitely knows his history and political philosophy.

Professor Critchlow's opening lecture covered the political philosophy and history of the US Constitution, and as well as the politicking that went behind the creation of the United States. While I think everyone here at KFP is probably well educated on the Founders, I still learned plenty of information from his lecture. I also really enjoy his general presentation skills, as Professor Critchlow communicates that esteem of a well educated, but also well grounded, academic.

Dr. Wenzel giving his lecture "Trade, Exchange, and Property Rights"

Next up is my current favorite speaker/professor here at KFP, professor Nikolai Wenzel of Flagler College. A graduate of George Mason University and Georgetown, professor Wenzel has taught economics at Hillsdale and Florida State, is a fellow at the University of Paris Law School, and is a member of the Board of Scholars for FEE. From what he revealed at the opening social, his area of study typically covers new institutional, Austrian economics, and economic history.

Professor Wenzel made it known from the very beginning that his lectures were geared towards an audience that had little-to no experience in economics, and yet despite the lay nature of his presentation, they remained engaging and informative even for more experienced economic students. The very first presentation consisted of a trade experiment that many introductory economic courses use, and it still managed to capture the same level of entertainment as I experienced my first semester last fall. Every Koch Fellow was given a paper bag with a certain good in it, and students were to gauge their 'happiness' with said good after several rounds of speculation and eventually trade. Using the experiment, professor Wenzel lectured on the concepts of the knowledge problem, information as/symmetry, gains from trade, subjective value, and more.


Monday's lecture by Professor Wenzel covered the topic of Public Choice theory, where he gave an extensive background and solid introductory analysis of public choice field. What consumed most of Wenzel's time was his analysis of the problems with different types of states, and the blurry line of issues that can lead one form of state into another, such as a 'protective' state (defense & courts only) to a 'productive' state (classical liberal state). While the lecture remained on a very introductory level, I enjoy Wenzel's teaching style and his ability to incorporate higher level topics (such as Tiebout's model of government) into the lecture he gave to students.

Ryan Yonk giving his lecture 'Good Sense and Nonsense: Which is Political Science?'

Professor Ryan Yonk and I had previously met at the opening social for KFP, and he is really an awesome guy to know. Knowledgeable on just about anything, professor Yonk is an assistant professor of economics and finance at Utah State, the executive director of Strata, research director at the Institute for Political Economy, fellow at the Independent Institute, and has written multiple books.

First, and foremost, professor Yonk considers himself a political scientist and his first lecture covered the field of political science. Despite his title, however, professor Yonk's lecture involved bashing on the field of political science as it currently exists. Why? Because Yonk believes that the current pedagogy and methodology used by much of the political science community fails to actually achieve any meaningful gains that hit at the root of political science. FYI, by 'root of political science,' Yonk means Laswell's original conception of political science as "politics is the study of who gets what, when, how."

Yonk's next lecture covered 'Political Ecology,' which analyzed environmentalism and environmental policies through political economy. In Yonk's view, most environmental policies are done through the viewpoint of a 'homeostatic' Nature, meaning that man inherently violates the natural state of the environment. This results in policy making that is often unscientific, inflexible, and inefficient. While the issue of environmental preservation remains a tricky issue, Yonk believes that voluntary agreements that engages all stake holders offers the most viable and efficient option. I think the issue raised was a fantastic topic and that it only makes the issue of environmental policy more interesting to me.

Alexei Marcoux giving his lecture 'Competing Conceptions of Justice'

The final speaker on Sunday evening was Alexei Marcoux, the professor of business ethics and society at Creighton University's Heider College of Business. Professor Marcoux is also a research scholar at Creighton's Institute for Economic Inquiry, has written multiple text books on business ethics, is a board member for the Sage Encyclopedia of Business, Ethics and Society, and is a founder of the Business Ethics Journal Review.

Professor Marcoux's first lecture covered the concept of justice within the broad school of liberalism, particularly the difference and conflict between procedural and distributive justice. The lecture basically came down to an analysis of Rawl's and Nozick's views on justice, particularly the role of the state in delivering it. I feel guilty now for never finishing Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and God only knows my reading list will not allow for it now.

Mr. Marcoux discussing entrepreneurship and its role in a free society

The next lecture professor Marcoux gave on Monday was on the importance of the entrepreneur in society and two major theories that account for the nature of the entrepreneur. Introducing, contrasting, and comparing Schumpeter's and Kirzner's theory of the entrepreneur in a free society, their importance, and entrepreneur theory's influence on policy. This entire lecture was extremely interesting to me because I honestly have no experience with the economic analysis of entrepreneurs.

Mr. Trevor Burrus giving his lecture 'How Politics Makes Us Worse'

Mr. Trevor Burrus, a lawyer from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, was a new speaker on Tuesday. He currently works at the Cato Institute's Constitutional Studies program and his work has been published in multiple media outlets and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Hilarious and witty, the man comes across as a really social guy who is willing to talk to anyway about political/legal issues.

Mr. Burrus' lecture today concerned his belief that politics make people hostile and crude due to the inherent nature of the activity. Whereas communally handled issues can form on the basis of social cooperation, voluntary association, and foster a legitimate sense of community, politics dichotomize issues and force individuals to take sides, form groups, and fight over resources.