Freedom, Markets, and Well-being Fall 2017

Starting Gate


After reading the syllabus we went around the table to see what people are thinking about for their thesis projects.

Where we are starting

I asked everyone to give their first thoughts about possible topics. No one is committed to these; it’s just a good time to get the ball rolling.

Nico was thinking about the regulation of an apparently victimless crime: prostitution. He also had some thoughts about a project more centered on campus life. (Philosophy and economics)

Shakira was struck by the odd pricing of luxury goods in the US and China. Why does a bag cost less in the US than it does in China, where it is made? Good question! (Politics and economics)

Jacob had clinical trials for cancer drugs on his mind. E.g., when should patients be allowed to use drugs that have not yet been approved? (Economics and politics)

Blake was thinking about health care systems. The US system is unique in the developed world and Blake was curious about whether identity politics explains why.

Jessica is curious about the relationship between ethical theories and outside intervention in African countries.

Ian is going to pursue conspiracy theories. (Politics and philosophy)

Jesal was thinking about police brutality and racial discrimination.

Tristan is bothered by the rise of fake news. Paid trolls do not make for a functioning marketplace of ideas. Can this be regulated? (Philosophy and politics)

Paul has a project like Nico’s; his concerns the criminalization of drugs.

Will has a couple of ideas. First, what are the ethical implications of overpopulation? The second is about the ethics of giving and charity. He will enjoy our day on effective altruism!

Aaron, like me, has been reading Achen and Bartels’s book on democracy. Unlike me, he is going to pursue solutions to the problems they identify. For instance, would proportional representation create a better system? Also, perhaps politicians should take a different view of their roles, given what we know about how voting works.

Etelle has already been working on the problems faced by refugees. She wants to pursue questions about what societies owe to refugees.

Matthew has three ideas. (1) Viewing political polarization through and ethical lens. (2) Applying Mill’s harm principle to education. For example, should schools teach virtuous behavior or not? (3) Looking at the growing imbalance between the executive branch and the other branches of the US government.

Adrian also had multiple ideas. (1) Social media echo chambers; I see connections with Tristan and Ian here. (2) The economic and political effects of greater automation.

Nathaniel is worried about real estate and so is considering reviving Henry George’s ideas about land taxes. He might be interested in zoning too.