Ideas, Economic Emergence, and Society

Professor Michael Munger


Econonomics 99F-02                                            Fall 2004
WF 10:05-11:20 (Art 04)                          Perkins 421

Office:   Perkins Library, Room 330                        direct office phone:  966-4301
Office Hours:   TBA                                                        home phone:  (919) 844-0154
                                                                                                        (not after
9 p.m.!)
 Calendar                  Readings

  Class Home Page:  Go to and click on “courses”

What does it mean to be free? What is the good society?  How have ideas been used to organize societies and allocate resources? Two alternative approaches can be labeled the normative and the engineering, respectively. The normative asks the question: what is the good society? How is that society organized? What ideas of the "good" are embodied in different institutions of government, and exchange? Do ideas "matter" in any important sense, or are there evolutionary forces that drive societies in ways that are complex and independent of ideas. This course will allow students to confront a variety of ideas for "organizing" society, ranging from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged to Thomas More's Utopia and Augustin's City of God. A special emphasis will be placed on examining the conflicts between "spontaneous" order arising from markets and competitive democracy; "planned" order arising from socialism; and "ordained" order arising from religious law.           

In this course we will read selectively some of the great works on both sides of this question.  No definitive answers will be reached, but we will concentrate on three sets of questions in considering each reading.

Ethical foundation:  What does this writer believe is the essence of the ideal place of the citizen in the society?

Dialogue with other work:  In this scheme, are the most important restraints on liberty external and hierarchical, or internal results of spontaneous,  voluntary actions?  How does the writer answer potential counterarguments from other points of view?

Evaluation:  Is the blueprint that this writer creates for society workable?  What techniques of quantitative analysis, including study of data available from published sources, would allow us to evaluate this conception of society?


Bi-weekly two page evaluations of arguments we have read, and talked about, in class.  At first, this “two page” business may seem easy, but it is bad news, trust me.  It is very difficult to make a useful, complete argument in just two pages (600 words).  Specific topic “questions” will be suggested, but the particular point you choose to write on will be up to you.


Grades for this class will be derived from the students performance on a midterm exam, a final exam, and four two-page papers, as well as class participation.   These will have the following weights:

ITEM:                                                                                      WEIGHT:

1. Final Exam:                                                                           40%

Essay format, in scheduled exam period (Monday, December 8, 9 am - noon).

2.  7 2-page papers                                                                    42%

These papers will be graded very aggressively, on both content and style.  Must be typed.

3. Class participation:                                                              18%

Ask or answer questions!  Students are expected to have done the reading before class.


TOTAL:                                                                                   100%

Textbooks (available at Bookstore in Bryan Center)


  • Isaac Asimov, Foundation Trilogy


Foundation and Empire

Second Foundation)

  • Todd Buchholz, New Ideas from Dead Economists
  • Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital
  • Forest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
            In addition, there are occasional handouts and other assignments that will be distributed as the semester progresses.
            Whenever a reading is available on the WWWeb, the URL is given.

Calendar                   Return to Top

     Readings and Schedule:

(August 25, 27):

Nature of Humans:  The Idea of Free Will

1.  Paul’s “Letter to the Romans

2.  Society of Natural Science:

3.  John Calvin,  “Free Will and Predestination,” from Institutes of the Christian Religion. (1537)


4.  Ivar Ekelund, Mathematics and the Unexpected, Chapter 1 (e-reserves)


5.  The Three Body Problem and Chaos


6.  St. Augustin of Hippo, City of God,

Book V (Fate and Free Will)

Book VIII (Death is Penal)


(September 1 and 8) (No class on Sept 3!):

The Purpose and Limits of Government

1)  Isaac Asimov, Foundation (Book 1:  Foundation)


2) Selections from The Federalist:

“About the Federalist”


Federalist #10           


Federalist #51           


3)   Declaration of Independence

US Constition:                    


5)  McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum, entire

(September 10 and 15):

The Good Society:  Who Rules?  Who Serves?


1)  Isaac Asimov, Foundation (Book 2:  Foundation & Empire)

2)  Plato’s Apology,

3)  Plato’s Crito,  

4)  Plato’s Dialogues, “The Republic:”  Sections 22-29 (stanza 471c to stanza 521b)

PAPER #1:  Due Wednesday, September 22

Topic:  Assume you are Crito.  Take up at the end

of the Dialogue, and convince Socrates to leave with you.


(September 17, 22, 24, and 29):

Slaves and Monarchs, Constitutions and Contracts:

“Covenants, Without the Sword, Are But Words”

1.  Aristotle’s Politics   

Book I

Books III-IV

2.  Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, Parts I and II (Chapter 1 to Chapter 31, inclusive)

 3.  Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.

PAPER #2:  Due Friday, October 1

Topic:  What is the “good society”?  Compare and contrast the visions of ANY TWO of the following visions of the good society:  Aristotle, Hobbes, Rand


(October 1, 6, 8, and 13):

Unit of Analysis:  What is the “good”, and whose is it?


1)  Isaac Asimov, Foundation (Book 3:  Second Foundation)

2)  Nicolò Machiavelli, The Prince,

3)  Sun Tzu, Art of War,

            Chapter I, “Laying Plans”

            Chapter II, “Waging War”

            Chapter XII, “The Attack by Fire”


4)  Thomas Aquinas, “Just War Theory,” Summa Theologica, Question 40


PAPER #3:  Due Friday, October 15

Topic:  What is the position of the nation at war?  What are the duties of the prince, or leader, of a society involved in war?  Is it possible for war to be “just“? 


 (October 15, 20 and 22):

The General Will:  The Paradox of Liberty


1) Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s On Social Contract, Books I-IV



2)  Todd Buchholz, New Ideas From Dead Economists, Chapters 6 and 11


3)  De Soto, Mystery of Capital, Chapters 1 and 2

PAPER #4:  Due Wednesday, October 27

Topic:  What is the moral status of property?  Is property always theft?  Is it never theft?  When can I legitimately and morally say that something is “mine,” and harm you if you try to take it or use it?


(October 27 and 29, and November 3 ):

Markets and “Spontaneous Order”

1)  Todd Buchholz, New Ideas From Dead Economists, Chapters 1-4

2)  Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations,

Book I, Chapter 10

Book III, Chapter 1

Book IV, Chapter 2


3)  De Soto, Mystery of Capital, Chapters 3-7


4)  F. A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” American Economic Review, v. 35, 1945:  519-530.


 (November 5 and 10): 

Spontaneous Cooperation?

1).  G. Mackie, “Ending Footbinding and Infibulation:  A Convention Account.” American Sociological Review, 1996 (available on JSTOR).

2)   R. A. Radford, “The Economic Organization of a POW Camp,” Economica, November 1945, 189-201.  (Available on JSTOR)

3)  Cycles in Decision Processes

PAPER #5:  Due Friday, November 12

Topic:  When are individual goals and public good in conflict?  When are they coincident?  Can we predict which is which with any confidence?


 (November 12 and 17):

John Stuart Mill and Freedom of Speech

1)  Buchholz, New Ideas from Dead Economists, Chapter 5

2)  John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapters I and II


Speech Codes on the College Campus:  Some Resources,1367,56294,00.html

(November 19 and 24):

Justice, Asset Ownership, and Income Distribution

Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1844, with Engels)



Karl Marx, Capital, V. 1, Chapter 1  and  Chapter 26


Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal” (1729)


V.I. Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” (1902)


  • Chapter 2, part A
  • Chapter 3, parts C, D, and E


PAPER #6:  Due Wednesday, November 24

Topic:  Write a speech code for Duke University.  Defend your speech code as appropriate in a college setting, explicitly stating what the goals of a college should be


(November 29 and December 1):

The Market, The Mind, and Hierarchy

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash


PAPER #7:  Due Wednesday,  December 1

Topic:  In “Snow Crash,” we hear of a specific form of organization of society, dictated by the market.  Do you find this kind of system plausible?  Are we tending toward this kind of purely privatized system?  Is it good, or bad?  If it is inevitable, does it matter?  Could society be otherwise?

Wednesday, December 8
Exam time:
7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

If you cannot make this exam,
you must tell Prof. Munger

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Academic Calendar—also online

For 2004-2005

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; The Pratt School of Engineering; The Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Science; The Graduate School; The Graduate Nursing Program

Consult calendars of the various schools for additional information.




March 24

Wednesday. Registration begins for all Summer sessions

May 13

Thursday. Term I classes begin

May 17

Monday. Drop/Add for Term I ends

May 31

Monday. Memorial Day. Classes in session

June 9

Wednesday. Last day to withdraw WP or WF from Term I classes

June 21

Monday. Term I classes end

June 22

Tuesday. Reading period

June 23

Wednesday. Term I final examinations begin

June 24

Thursday. Term I final examinations end

June 28

Monday. Term II classes begin

June 30

Wednesday. Drop/Add for Term II ends

July 23

Friday. Last day to withdraw WP or WF from Term II classes

August 4

Wednesday. Term II classes end

August 5

Thursday. Reading period

August 6

Friday. Term II final examinations begin

August 7

Saturday. Term II final examinations end.


FALL 2004


August 17

Tuesday. New graduate student orientation

August 18

Wednesday. New undergraduate student orientation begins; assemblies for students entering Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and The School of Engineering

August 19

Thursday 11:00 a.m. Convocation for new undergraduate students; 4:00 p.m. Convocation for graduate and professional school students

August 23

Monday. 8:00 a.m. Fall Semester classes begin; Drop/Add continues

September 3

Friday. 5:00 pm, Drop/Add ends

September 6

Monday. Labor Day. Classes in session.

October 3

Sunday. Founders' Day

October 8

Friday. Last day for reporting mid semester grades

October 8

Friday. 7:00 p.m. Fall break begins

October 13

Wednesday. 8:00 a.m. Classes resume

October 22-24

Friday-Sunday. Parents' and Family Weekend

October 27

Wednesday. Registration begins for Spring Semester, 2005

November 19

Friday. Registration ends for Spring Semester, 2005

November 20

Saturday. Drop/Add begins

November 24

Wednesday. 12:40 p.m. Graduate classes end

November 24

Thanksgiving break begins at the end of period 3

November 29

Monday. 8:00 a.m. Undergraduate classes resume

November 29-December 5

Monday-Sunday. Graduate reading period; length of the 200-level course reading period is determined by the professor

December 2

Thursday. Undergraduate classes end

December 3-5

Friday-Sunday. Undergraduate reading period

December 6

Monday. Final examinations begin

December 8

Wednesday. Undergraduate reading period (9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)

December 11

Saturday. 10:00 p.m. Final examinations end




January 12

Wednesday. 8:00 a.m. Spring Semester begins: ALL classes normally meeting on Mondays meet on this Wednesday only; Wednesday ONLY classes begin Wednesday, January 19; Drop/Add continues

January 17

Monday. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday: classes are rescheduled on Wednesday, January 12

January 26

Wednesday. 5:00 pm, Drop/Add ends

February 25

Friday. Last day for reporting midsemester grades

March 11

Friday. 7:00 p.m. Spring recess begins

March 21

Monday. 8:00 a.m. Classes resume

March 30

Wednesday. Registration begins for Fall Semester 2005, and Summer 2005

April 15

Friday. Registration ends for Fall Semester 2005; Summer 2005 registration continues

April 16

Saturday. Drop/Add begins

April 22

Friday. Graduate classes end

April 23-May 1

Saturday-Sunday. Graduate reading period; length of the 200-level course reading period is determined by the professor

April 27

Wednesday. Undergraduate classes end

April 28-May 1

Thursday-Sunday. Undergraduate reading period

May 2

Monday. Final examinations begin

May 4

Wednesday. Undergraduate reading period (9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)

May 7

Saturday. 10:00 p.m. Final examinations end

May 13

Friday. Commencement begins

May 15

Sunday. Graduation exercises; conferring of degrees

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