By Matthew Radman,
Stillman News Writer
For a small group of students, professors, and experts, the weekend of September 30 to October 1 was one spent Exploring Liberty.
Weekend Exploring Liberty was a colloquia-styled conference organized by The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) and hosted by The College of New Jersey through financial support from the John Templeton Foundation.
IHS is a libertarian-minded organization created in 1961 by a Cornell University economics professor by the name of Dr. F. A. “Baldy” Harper with the mission of educating students and other intellectuals on the topics of social and economic liberty.
Since its inception, the IHS has grown significantly, attracting the expertise of hundreds of professors and experts in their fields; including our very own Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, Kurt Rotthoff.
Professor Rotthoff shared the lectern with other professors and experts including Antony Davies from Duquesne Univeristy, Peter Jaworski from Georgetown Univeristy, Trevor Burrus of the Cato Institute, and James Stacey Taylor of The College of New Jersey. Each speaker brought a unique perspective on different issues.
Associate Professor of Economics Antony Davies discussed the issues associated with an unlimited government. He discussed ideas of public choice economics and cost of information, which causes voters to become “rationally ignorant.” He discussed incentives that drive the decisions of politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists. He later gave a follow-up presentation discussing the aspects of limited government and explained the use of specific metrics called the Gini Inequality Index that is used to measure income distribution and equality.
Assistant Teaching Professor Peter Jaworski spoke on the morality of legalizing certain currently illegal markets, using the market for kidneys as a case study on “moral permissibility.” This is the idea of something being morally right to be exchanged for money. The Polish-born professor also presented on the economics of immigration in the United States.
Cato Institute research fellow Trevor Burrus brought to mind the ideas of The Matrix trilogy in discussing his theory of the Statrix and how government can influence how its citizens see the world. He describes seven steps in how this fogginess can come about.
Associate Professor of Philosophy James Stacey Taylor presented on how different voting procedures can represent voter preferences in various ways. His explanations of anti-plurality and Borda voting illuminate how the United States’ plurality voting system can often not accurately take into account a voter’s preferences.
Finally, our very own Associate Professor of Economics and Finance Kurt Rotthoff, discussed social justice and the minimum wage. He looked at the issue as only an economist can, weighing and describing the costs and benefits of increases or decreases in the minimum wage.
He explained how the shift in technology taking over the jobs of the unskilled laborer needs to weigh in the decision. The most enlightening part of his presentation was a graph which displayed gross income (x-axis) versus net income with taxes subtracted and subsidies added (y-axis).
The chart clearly demonstrates the phenomenon of the “Poverty Trap.” There is a sudden dip in net income around $40,000 of gross income, putting people at that level in line with the net income at those who do not have a gross income at all.
This hole is, of course, frustrating and difficult to escape for those who live on minimum wage. In the end, Professor Rotthoff reminded us of the importance of doing our due diligence and research when deciding how to vote and how to think about this pressing issue.
He reminded us that there is a difference between a policy that sounds good, and policy that is good.
There were many takeaways from the conference which allowed all in attendance to appreciate these topics from a new perspective. Attending this conference was a learning experience for anyone interested in economics, political science, or other related fields. The IHS hosts similar seminars all throughout the year and all through the country about a diverse range of topics, all of which having the ideals of liberty at the core of the conversation.
Visit the Institute for Humane Studies at theihs.org to learn more about upcoming seminars as well as about the non-profit organization in general.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 25th print edition.
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