Wednesday, May 28, 2008

June 2008 Meeting

"Beyond Incentives Matter: Ideas and Institutions in the New Economics of Politics"
Professor Ed Lopez
Wednesday, June 4th
Imaging Arts Gallery
175 King Street
Charleston, SC
5:00 pm Reception 6:00 pm Speaker

Megan Rock

Professor Lopez's presentation will focus on the power and the limitations of incentives in bringing about beneficial political change. Economists have done a masterful job communicating to mass audiences the central idea that "incentives matter". But policies designed to incorporate this idea present two kinds of problems.

First, certain trends suggest policymakers can badly apply the idea or take it too far, resulting in ineffectual policies that increase tax burdens or decrease individual liberties. Many types of "nanny state" policies fall into this problem. Also, some policies that would be beneficial by the use monetary incentives are prohibited because people find them repugnant. An extremely important example is monetary compensation for vital organ donation. Both sorts of problems suggest examining the institutional context within which incentives take shape, as well as the popular beliefs and values that constrain institutions.

Incentives matter in politics, yes, but in limited ways. Understanding the contours of those limitations is critical to bringing about beneficial political change.

About the Speaker:
Edward J. López is Associate Professor of Law and Economics at San Jose State University, and currently Scholar in Residence at Liberty Fund in Indianapolis. He earned a B.S. in economics from Texas A&M University, and an M.A. and Ph.D in economics at George Mason University in 1997. He previously taught economics at the University of North Texas and George Mason University, and he served as staff economist on the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Professor López's main area of research is in public choice and law and economics, with emphases on entrepreneurship, creative expression, voting, political ideology, and political institutions. He has also published articles on antitrust regulation, property rights, campaign finance, term limits, and fiscal policy. Currently Professor Lopez is editing one book on the application of public choice theory to the legal system, titled Law without Romance, and is also co-authoring a book, with Dr. Wayne Leighton, about public choice and social change for a popular audience.

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