Foundations of Capitalism

Apr 22, 2008May 09, 2008
George Mason University

The Economics Department at George Mason University is offering a one-credit course for the Spring 2008 term entitled “Foundations of Capitalism.”  It will be taught by University of Arizona, Professor of Economics and Philosophy David Schmidtz who is a visiting scholar to the Mercatus Center. 

The course will explore the foundations of market society’s implicit commitment to individual liberty and individual responsibility. 

There will be 6 sessions, conducted on Tuesdays and Thursdays over a 3-week span.  Attendance is required.  There will be 15-minute mini-lectures from time to time, but mainly the course will be conducted as a graduate seminar, that is to say, a discussion among peers presumed to have read the material in advance.  Participants will not be expected to be world experts.  They will simply be expected to have something to say, to have questions, to be interested, to be willing to speculate, to be willing to contribute information that they have learned from their own reading and experience, and so on.

1. Conceptions of freedom: what we’re talking about when we talk about freedom
2. Prehistory: trade, slavery, technology
3. Rule of Law: the framework for the marketplace (and for freedom of religion)
4. Economic Freedom
5. Civil Rights
6. Psychological Freedom: how we diverge from homo economicus, and why it matters

A Brief History of Liberty by David Schmidtz and Jason Brennan, forthcoming in Blackwell Publishers’ Brief History series.
There will be optional supplemental texts as well, such as Benjamin Friedman’s Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Robert Wright’s Non-Zero, Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues, work by authors like Smith, Bastiat, or Hayek, plus any other book you want to add to the list—any book dealing in some significant way with some aspect of the history of liberty.


April 22, 2008 to May 8, 2008
Class dates:  4/22, 4/24, 4/29, 5/1, 5/6, 5/8