PPE Research: Gil Hersch

Gil Hersch, a postdoctoral fellow in the PPE Program, will give a lunch-time talk that is organized by the Center for Humanities.

Dr. Hersch will speak about the topic “Can Your Boss Make You Work Out?”. The talk will take place on April 9, 2019, at noon in the Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Building (Room 005).

Here is an abstract of the talk: To what extent is corporate-level paternalism legitimate? Since there has been an increase in both quantity and variety of corporate-level wellness programs and workplace well-being policies in recent years, this is an important question to address. I compare corporate-level paternalism with state-level paternalism, and argue that the former is more permissible than the later. Consequently, if paternalistic policies are deemed legitimate by the state, they can be deemed fair game for corporations. To make this argument I rely on the difference between citizens, for whom the main expressive tool available is ‘voice,’ and employees, for whom ‘exit’ is the main expressive tool available (Hirschman, 1970). Focusing only on this difference, I argue that paternalistic policies are more permissible when the employee can avoid them through ending their relationship with the corporation (exit) than they are when the citizen can influence whether the paternalistic policy is implemented (voice).

PPE News: PPE Undergraduate Club

The PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadors are launching a new club at Virginia Tech.

The PPE Club aims to provide a forum for students to use the intellectual tools necessary to understand the big ideas behind our most important social, ethical, political, and economic questions. In doing so, PPE prepares students for careers in law, business, public policy, academia, government, and the tech industry.

The first PPE Club meeting will take place on March 28, 2019, at 6:30pm in 215 Major Williams Hall. Free pizza and soft drinks will be provided. All undergraduate students are welcome to attend!

PPE Speaker Series: Michael Douma

Michael Douma from Georgetown University will give a talk on the topic “Creative Historical Thinking.” The talk will take place on April 10, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in Brush Mountain A (Squires Student Center). The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

The talk will be based on Professor Douma’s new book Creative Historical Thinking (Routledge, 2018). It will entail an interactive presentation about what it means for a historian to be creative and how to think about history in new ways and explore topics such as visualizations of time in spatial form, creative classroom diagrams, and the history of why men stopped wearing hats.

PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadorships

Each academic year, the PPE Program selects several undergraduate students to serve as ambassadors for the program. The primary tasks of the ambassadors are to (i) work closely with PPE faculty and staff on the development of the program, (ii) serve as a student contact for PPE events, such as the PPE Speaker Series and the PPE Distinguished Public Lecture, and ideally (iii) take on a leadership role in the PPE Undergraduate Club. For more information about PPE events and activities, please follow this link.

The application process for next year’s PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadorships is now open. Any student enrolled in a PPE degree (major or minor) is eligible to apply. Please submit a short personal statement that explains your interest in becoming a PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassador, whether you are a PPE major or minor, and your resume. The application materials must be submitted to Professor Moehler (moehler@nullvt.edu) by April 9, 2019.

We look forward to receiving your application!

PPE Speaker Series: Douglas Noonan

Douglas Noonan, a PPE Visiting Research Scholar from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, will give a talk on the topic “Freeing the Freelancers: Innovation, Crowds, and Markets.”

The talk is co-organized with the Center for Humanities and will take place on February 6, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in the Squires Student Center (Brush Mountain A). The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: Crowdfunding has grown in popularity in recent years, and it offers a useful vantage point to observe some major forces at play in our economy and communities. How does crowdfunding tap into the wisdom of the masses and leverage the crowd? What kind of entrepreneurship uses crowdfunding, and how does that relate to more conventional entrepreneurship? As an innovation itself, how and where might we expect crowdfunding platforms to spur more innovation? Examining crowdfunding platforms as new marketplaces can help highlight some important insights about the power of markets, crowds, and geography.

This talk brings together several studies about entrepreneurship among freelancers and how and where new platforms like Kickstarter can catalyze innovation. Preliminary data analysis indicates a stronger draw for marketplaces like Kickstarter in markets where labor regulations are more restrictive. Further, smaller markets are disproportionately drawn to Kickstarter as it expands the audience for niche products thereby reducing minimum scales needed to launch. Expanding markets and reducing frictions enables these new ventures, and freeing these freelancers reflect the wisdom (and power) of the crowds. The crowd’s influence in individual projects can also be seen in the aggregate when examining where crowdfunding activity occurs. The world is still not flat, and clusters of economic activity – crowds – still drive successful crowdfunding locations.

Yet the geography of crowdfunding is not merely a mapping of people, wealth, human capital, and industry concentrations. First, the number of Kickstarter campaigns in any given city or town is rather evenly spread around the U.S. and Canada, while the total amount of funds raised or the total number of backers for campaigns in those cities and towns is far more geographically concentrated. Ideas can be found anywhere, but successful ideas tend to cluster where economic activity does. Second, digital media projects (e.g., music, videos) tend to geographically cluster more than location-specific projects (e.g., community gardens, theaters). Third, the hotspots of crowdfunding map onto pre-existing clusters of population and economic activity differently for digital media projects than for location-specific projects. The digital media projects cluster more than economic activity does, making a spiky world spikier. Crowdfunded innovations in digital media tend to concentrate more in a few big markets, as creators have freedom to relocate to key hubs while still being able to reach global markets. Conversely, the local projects tend to flatten out the already spiky world. For these location-specific projects, the new online crowdfunding marketplace tends to serve more geographically dispersed crowds.

PPE Discussion Colloquium: Democracy in America

On March 23, 2019, the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics will co-organize a daylong discussion colloquium for selected undergraduate students on the topic “Democracy in America.”

Professor Theodore Christov (George Washington University) will serve as discussion leader in order to facilitate an in-depth exploration of the questions and challenges raised by a set of readings on the topic, in particular by Alexis de Tocqueville.

PPE Events: Spring 2019

This semester, the PPE Program will host two guest speakers, one Visiting Research Scholar (the whole spring semester), and the third PPE Distinguished Public Lecture.

Douglas Noonan (Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis) will speak about freelancers, innovation, and crowds (the talk is co-organized with the Center for Humanities), Dan Ariely (Duke University) will speak about free beer (the lecture is co-organized with the Data and Decisions Destination Area), and Michael Douma will speak about creative historical thinking.

In addition, the PPE Program will organize an all-day discussion colloquium with Theodore Christov (George Washington University) on the topic “Democracy in America,” and the PPE Reading Group will meet biweekly to discuss Elizabeth Anderson’s (University of Michigan) book Private Government.

All PPE events are open to faculty, students, and the general public. For more details concerning these events, please see the PPE Calendar.

PPE Reading Group: Spring 2019

This semester, the PPE Reading Group will discuss Elizabeth Anderson’s (University of Michigan) book Private Government (books provided). For more information about Professor Anderson’s work, please see this profile in The New Yorker.

The PPE Reading Group will meet every other week during the spring semester on Tuesday 4:30-6pm at 215 Major Williams Hall. Enjoy free pizza and soft drinks with our discussion!

Participation is open to any interested student (whether already a PPE student or interested in becoming one). Please sign up with Gil Hersch (hersch@nullvt.edu) at the beginning of the semester to receive your book in time to read.