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Tikvah Institute for High School Students

Yale University, June 25—July 6, 2017

Economics and the Human Good

How can economics contribute to the prospects of creating a humane and just society? In this course, we will investigate political economy, or the discipline that attempts to join moral philosophy with economic reasoning, asking: What are the moral values that our society should champion, and how can we achieve them given the material, psychological, and other constraints we face?
We will read selections from a handful of the most important contributors to political-economic inquiry, including Bernard Mandeville, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Wilhelm Röpke, Friedrich Hayek, and Irving Kristol. Our goals will be not only to understand their contributions, but also to explore the benefits and liabilities—including the moral benefits and liabilities—of a market economy.

  • What exactly is a market economy and what are the main arguments in favor of it?
  • What conceptions of human nature and human virtue are assumed or encouraged in market economies?
  • Why are some places wealthier and more prosperous than others?
  • What are some of the main worries about or objections to market economies?
  • To what extent should we endorse or oppose a market economy?

Instructor: James Otteson