Texas Tech University

McLane Teammates Reading Program

Paternalism — Spring 2020


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The McLane Teammates Reading Program will again operate concurrently at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Baylor University, and the University of Central Arkansas. The program will also launch at Angelo State University during the spring 2020 semester. Each group will discuss the same set of readings.

The theme for the spring 2020 program is Paternalism. Policies, such as prohibiting the use and sale of various substances believed to be harmful, contributing to a pension system (Social Security), or wearing seatbelts and helmets, are justified on the grounds that the affected person(s) will be better off, or less harmed, as a result of the policy. However, when people prefer not to be treated this way, we have a case of paternalism. But, does government have a role to interfere in people's lives, against their will, even if doing so can potentially make them better off or protect them from harm?

Such cases raises other important questions such as:

  • Are people fully rational (as most economists believe)?
  • How should people be treated if they are less than fully rational?
  • What is the difference between hard and soft paternalism?
  • Should governments nudge people into making better decisions simply by changing the presentation of choices without compulsion or coercion (libertarian paternalism)?

Program participants will explore many of these questions, among others.

On February 21-22, 2020, the O'Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at SMU will host a summit meeting with participants from each program. The summit meeting will feature group discussions and formal remarks from Richard McKenzie, the Walter B. Gerken Professor of Enterprise and Society Emeritus in the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. The reading schedule will include selections from Prof. McKenzie's book, Predictably Rational?: In Search of Defenses for Rational Behavior in Economics (2010).

The schedule of readings and topics of discussion for the spring 2020 McLane Teammates Reading Program can be found at the following link:

McLane Teammates Reading Program - Spring 2020 Reading List

Please contact the Free Market Institute with any questions by email at free.market@ttu.edu or by phone at 806.742.7138.

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More general information about the program and application process can be found on the FMI Student Programs page.