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Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Reading Groups

Learn more about our reading groups

If you'd like to join us . . .

We meet Tuesday nights from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Please contact Michael D. Thomas at if you would like to get a copy of the readings and observe the group.

Current Readings

"Will Post-Moderns Miss Religion?"

Get ready for an eye-opening experience this Spring 2023!

Join our thought-provoking reading group as we delve into the critical topics of "Innovation, Religion, and the State of the World", and be prepared to join also our Humanomics Symposium.

Selected applicants will have access to the PPE Blueline Group, free copies of the readings, enjoy pre-session dinners, and even receive an honorarium for previous PPE Reading Group participants. This is a unique opportunity to expand your horizons and engage in meaningful discussions.

Led by Dr. Michael Thomas, Associate Professor of Economics, you'll be challenged to think critically and question assumptions.

With five in-person meetings on Tuesday nights from 5 pm to 7 pm at the Harper Center, you'll have the chance to engage with fellow students who share your passion for understanding the complexities of Public Investment.

Attendance at all meetings and to Humanomics Symposium is expected, so please check your class schedule before applying to PPE.

Don't miss out on this chance to explore pressing societal issues and broaden your perspective. Register now to secure your spot for Spring 2024!

Famous Graduates in PPE:

  • Christopher Hitchens
  • Robert Reich
  • James E. Meade
  • Tim Besley
  • David Cameron
  • William Hauge

Academic Journal:

Format of each session:

1) Introduction: The moderator begins with a short discussion of the readings highlighting several possible topics of discussion that might get the conversation started; the cue is then open for anyone who has a response or a new topic of conversation

2) Cue: The moderator keeps a cue that has three distinct categories:

On Point: By pointing down at the table the participant lets the moderator know that he or she would like to contribute to the current discussion

New Point: By raising one's hand this signals to the moderator that the participant would like to add something completely new to the discussion, often to explore a new area of dialogue

SIP (Short-important-point): This is no more than two sentences or a tweet. This can be used to keep the conversation on track if someone introduces material that mistaken or has the potential to mislead the conversation.

This format has been designed to discourage a back and forth debate as different students rotate through conversation. It can be challenging to keep track of different threads of the conversation but is an extremely egalitarian way to have an intellectual discussion.

Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

Past Readings of the PPE Reading Group

The Fall 2023 reading group explored topics of public investment and if it is necessary to build a society.


- Smith, Adam. “The Wealth of Nations” – Book I, ch. 2, 3, 6 & Book V: i.a, i.b, i.c, i.d, i.e

- Read, Dustin and Drew Sanderford. (2017). “Examining Five Common Criticisms of Mixed-Income Housing Development.” Journal of Real Estate Literature, 25(1), 31-48.

- Chyn, Eric, and Lawrence F. Katz (2021). “Neighborhoods Matter: Assessing the Evidence for Place Effects.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 35(4), 197-222.

- Wilson, Patricia and Carol Wise. (2022). “The Regional Implications of Public Investment in Peru, 1968–1983.” Latin American Research Review, 21(2), 93-116.

- Bojanic, Antonio. (2015). “Crowding Out Private Investment in Bolivia: Evidence for the 1988–2010 Period.” Latin America Research Review, 50(3), 225-244.

- Reese, Laura A. (2014). “If all you have is a hammer: Finding Economic Policies that Matter.” American Review of Public Administration, 44(6), 627-655.

- Hicks, Michael J., Dagney Fault, and Srikant Devaraj. (2019). “Tax Increment Financing: Capturing or Creating Growth.?” Growth and Change, (50), 672-688.

- Scherrer, Pascal, Kay Dimmock, Matthew Lamont, and Laura Ripoll Gonzalez. (2021). “Rails Trails Literature: Current status and Future Research.” Journal of Leisure Research, 1-27.

- Taylor, Paul, Warwick Frost, and Jennifer Laing. (2019). “Path Creation and the role of entrepreneurial actors: The case of the Otago Central Rail Trail.” Annals of Tourism Research, (77), 79-91.

- Bradbury, J. C., Dennis Coats, and Brad R. Humphreys. (2022). “The Impact of professional sports franchises and venues on local economies: A comprehensive Survey.” Journal of Economic Surveys, 1-43.

- Lechner, Eva and Harre Alner Solberg. (2021). “The Competition for government funding of major sports events: why do some applicants pass the needle’s eye?” International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 13(1), 13-27.


Lawson and Clark. (2010). Examining the Hayek–Friedman hypothesis on economic and political freedom. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. 74(3), 230-239.

Berggren and Nilsson. (2013). Does Economic Freedom Foster Tolerance. Kyklos, 22(2), 177-207.

Acemoglu and Robinson. (2019). Rents and Economic Development: The perspective of Why Nations Fail? Public Choice, 181, 13-28.

Williamson and Mathers. (2010). Economic Freedom, culture, and growth. Public Choice, 148, 313-335.

Murtazahvili and Murtazahvili. (2015). The Origins of private property rights: States of customary organizations. Journal of Institutional Economics, 12(1), 105-128.

Fike, Rosemarie. (2018). Impact of Economic Freedom and Women's Well-Being. Fraser Institute.

Geloso and Pavlik. (2020). Economic Freedom and the Economic Consequences of the 1918 Pandemic. Contemporary Economic Policy, 39(2), 255-263.

Candela and Geloso (2021). Economic Freedom, pandemics, and robust political economy. Southern Economic Journal. 87(4), 1250-1266.

Callais and Salter. (2020). Ideologies, Institutions, and Interest: Why Economic Ideas Don't Compete on a Level Playing Field. Independent Review, 25(1), 63-78.


The Spring 2023 reading group explored topics of economic and political freedom.


- Vincent Geloso and Pavlik. Economic Freedom and the Economic Consequences of the 1918 Pandemic.
- Friederich Von Hayek. Constitution of Liberty, Chapter 2
- Yeonmi Park. In Order to Live.
- Justin Callais and Alexander Salter. Ideologies, Institutions, and Interest: Why Economic Ideas Don't Compete on a Level Playing Field.
- Storr and Choi. Do Markets Corrupt our Morals?, Chapter 1: Can Markets Be Moral?
- Rosolino Candela and Vincent Geloso. Economic Freedom, pandemics, and robust political economy.
- Christopher Boudreaux, Boris Nikolaev, and Peter Klein. Socio-Cognitive traits and entrepreneurship: The Moderating Role of Economic Institutions.
- Bjornskov. Economic Freedom and Economic Crisis.

The topic for the Spring 2022 Session of PP&E was: "Concentrated Benefits and Dispersed Costs in the Age of Cancel Culture and Identity Politics"

1. Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action
2. Lilliana Mason, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity
3.  Alan Dershowitz, Cancel Culture: The Latest Attack on Free Speech and Due Process


Shoup – The High Cost of Free Parking (updated)

Stroh – Systems Thinking for Social Change: A Practical Guide to Solving Complex Problems, Avoiding Unintended Consequences, and Achieving Lasting Results

Gill – Comparative Endurance and Efficiency of Religion (Public Choice)

Gill – Exchange theory of Social Justice

The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup
Systems thinking for Social Change by David Peter Stroh

Selections from Jean-Jacques Rousseau (A Reader)
The Property Species by Bart Wilson
Range by David Epstein
Emile: Or On Education by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Cormac McCarthy - The Road

Elisabeth Gaskell - North and South

Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray

Friedrich v. Hayek - The Constitution of Liberty

Edmund Burke - A Vindication of Natural Society

Jean-Jacques Rousseau - The Social Contract

John Rawls - Political Liberalism

Adam Smith: Do You Need to be Social to have a Society?

The Theory of Moral Sentiments  | Various Excerpts

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations | Various Excerpts

James C. Scott (2017) - Against the Grain

Amartya Sen (1999) - Development as Freedom

Hernando De Soto (2000) - Mystery as Capital

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (2019) - The Narrow Corridor: States Society, and the Fate of Liberty

Arthur C. Brooks (2019) - Love Your Enemies

Angus Deaton (2008) - "Income, Health, and Well-Being Around the World: Evidence from a Gallop World Poll."

Axel Dreher et al (2011) - "Globalization, Economic Freedom, and Human Rights."

Daniel D'Amico and Claudia Williamson (2015) - "Do Legal Origins Affect Cross-Country Incarceration Rates?"

David Skarbek (2016) - "Covenants Without the Sword? Comparing Prison Self-Governance Globally."

Literature and Economics

Tyler Cowen and Joseph Pieper - Is a Novel a Model?

Biblical Parables and Greek Myths (Gospel of Luke and Edith Hamilton) 

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Marcelo Fernandes, An Examination of Gulliver's Travels

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Bram Stoker, Dracula

F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Diamond as Big as the Ritz, The Rich Boy, & Babylon Revisit

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath

Charles Dickens, Christmas Carol

Vernon Smith and Bart Wilson (2019) Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century Cambridge University Press

Ryan Patrick Hanley (2011)  "David Hume and the "Politics of Humanity""

Elinor Ostrom (2000)  "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms"

Ernst Fehr and Urs Fishbacher (2004)  "Social Norms and Human Cooperation"

Adam Smith (1795)  History of Astronomy

Pope Francis (2016) "Laudato Si" (selections)

James Konow (2009) "Is Fairness in the Eyes of the Beholder?: An Impartial Spectator Analysis of Justice"

Robert Axelrod (1986) "An Evolutionary Approach to Norms"

Joel Mokyr (2000) Culture of Growth: Chapter 9: Cultural Choice in Action: Human Capital and Religion

Edward Glaeser, David Laibson, Jose Scheinkman, and Christine Soutter (2000) "Measuring Trust"

Vernon Smith (2003) "Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics"

Symposium on April 12 and 13

Theme: Epistemic Humility

Roger Koppl - Expert Failure - Cambridge University Press 

Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall - Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism - Stanford University Press

Cass Sunstein (ed) - Can it Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America - Dey Street Books

Cristina Bicchieri - Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change Social Norms - Oxford University Press

Anthony Gill - Political Origins of Religious Liberty - Cambridge University Press

Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld - In Praise of Doubt - Harper One

Russell Hardin - How do you Know? The Economics of Ordinary Knowledge - Princeton University Press

Phillip Tetlock - Expert Political Judgment - Princeton University Press

Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Group

Session I -- January 31st  -- Ryan Avent, The Wealth of Humans, Introduction and chapters 1-3 (BOOK PROVIDED) --  John Maynard Keynes, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren" (READER)

Session II -- February 7th -- Miroslav Volf, Work in the Spirit, Toward a Theology of Work, Introduction and Part I (READER)

Session III -- February 14th -- John Paul, II Laborem Exercens (READER)

Session IV -- February 21st -- Anthony Heyes (2005) "The Economics of Vocation or ?Why is a badly paid nurse a good nurse?"  (READER) -- Julie Nelson and Nancy Folbre (2006) "Why a well-paid Nurse is a Better Nurse" (READER) John Kelly(1982) "Useless work and Useless toil" Marxism Today (READER) and Joseph Pieper Leisure: The Basis of Culture  pp. 19-51 (BOOK PROVIDED)

Session V -- March 14th -- Tyler Cowen, Average is Over, part I  (BOOK PROVIDED)

Session VI -- March 21st -- Coyne, Munger, and Whaples (Eds), Future: Peril or Prosperity?, Chapters 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 17. (BOOK PROVIDED)


Ethics Group

Session I -- January 30  -- Deep Background: The Changing Conditions of Labor -- Ryan Avent, The Wealth of Humans, Introduction and chapters 1-3 -- John Maynard Keynes, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren"

Session II -- February 6 - More Recent Background: Work in an Age of Precocity -- Jen Silva, "Hardened Selves: The Remaking of the American Working Class," from Coming Up Short (30 pp) -- Michael Lind, "Can you Have a Good Life if you Don't Have a Good Job?" NYTimes (~4 pp) -- Guy Standing, "Meet the precariat" The Precariat (6 pp) -- Miroslav Volf, Introduction and "The Problem of Work," from Work in the Spirit, Toward a Theology of Work (~32 pp, after dropping out the ~10 section on social planning)

Session III -- February 13 - The Ethics of Work in America Today -- Max Weber, Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (~5 pp) -- Miroslav Volf, "Dominant Understandings of Work," from Work in the Spirit, Toward a Theology of Work (15 pp) -- Jon Malesic - "How we talk about Work, Ethics, and Spirituality," from After Work: The Spiritual Costs of the American Work Ethic (23 pp - 8k words) 

Session IV -- February 20 - Work and Vocation: Protestant and Catholic Views -- John Paul, II Laborem Exercens -- Gary Chamberlain, "Protestant and Catholic Meanings of Vocation: Is Business a True Vocation?" (20pp)

Session V -- March 13 - Vocation and the Economy -- Anthony Heyes  "The Economics of Vocation or - Why is a badly paid nurse a good nurse?"  (9 pp) -- Julie Nelson and Nancy Folbre - "Why a well-paid Nurse is a Better Nurse" (4 pp) -- Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calgary, "The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries," NYTimes (4 pp) -- Warren Meyer, "The Teacher Salary Myth? Are Teachers Underpaid?" Forbes (11 pp - but short)

Session VI -- March 20 - Against Work? -- John Kelly - "Useless work and Useless toil" -- Joseph Pieper - Leisure: The Basis of Culture (32pp) -- Jon Malesic - "Askesis and detachment from work in the Rule of St Benedict," from After Work: The Spiritual Costs of the American Work Ethic, (19 pp, 7k words)

September 13: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz, pp. 9-77

September 20: Manipulation: Theory and Practice, Coons and Weber (eds),pp. 17-72 

September 27: Pride and Prejudice, ALL         

October 4: The Theory of Moral Sentiments , by Adam Smith. Part III.  (44 total pages) 

October 25: On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill with particular attention to Chapters I, II, and IV. n

November 1: Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, By Sarah Conly,  pp. 16-73                                       

November 8: Why Nudge? The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism, by Cass Sunstein, pp. 1-86

November 15: The Manipulation of Choice, Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism, by Mark D. White,   pp. 1-80

November 29: Anti-Fragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Taleb, pp. 31-80

Jan. 26 - Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace "Vocation of a Business Leader"

Feb. 2 - Samuel Gregg -"Economic Thinking for the Theologically Minded" pp. 3-56 (53 pages)

Feb. 9 - Pope John Paul II "Centesimus Annus : On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum"

Feb. 16 - A. C. Waterman "Market Social Order and Christian Organicism" in Centesimus Annus pp. 220-233 // Michael Naughton "The Corporation as a Community of Work: Understanding the Firm Within The Catholic Social Tradition" Pp. 33-76  (56 total pages)

Feb. 23 - James P. Bailey "Rethinking Poverty: Income, Assets, and the Catholic Social Justice Tradition" pp. 5-59; 127-131, (58 pages)

March 15 - Pope Francis "Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium)" pp. 125-173 (48 pages)

March 22 -  Karl Brunner "Economic Inequality and the Quest for Social Justice" p. 153-158 / /Angus Deaton "Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development" -- pp. 53-72  (24 total pages)

March 29 - Harry G. Frankfurt -- On Inequality  (89 pages)

April 8-10 - Markets and Catholic Social Thought Symposium at Georgetown University with keynote speakers: Samuel Gregg (the Acton Institute) and James Bailey (Duquesne University), ca. 50 students from Creighton University, Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University New Orleans, Catholic University, and Saint Louis University.

Jan. 19 - Why Not Capitalism?, Jason Brennan

Jan. 26 - Cost and Choice, James M. Buchanan

Feb. 2 - Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails, Christopher J. Coyne

Feb. 9 - Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Feb. 16 - Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty

Feb. 23 - Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets, Debra Satz

Mar. 16/23 - Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy, Viviana A. Zelizer

Sept. 9 - Voltaire's letter VI on England, Dani Rodrik's blog post and responses.

Sept. 16 - Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers, Leighton and López

Sept. 23 and 30 - Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark

Oct. 7 - Methodology of Positive Economics, Milton Friedman vs. Evolution, Uncertainty, and Economic Theory, Armen Alchain.

Oct. 28 - Use of Knowledge in Society, F.A. Hayek and I,Pencil, Leonard Reed

Nov. 4 - In Defense of Free Markets, Robert Sirico

Nov. 11 - What Money Can't Buy, Michael Sandel

Nov. 18 - Business as Usual, Paul Mattick

Dec. 2 - The Shareholder Value Myth, Lynn Stout