Mancur Olson Scholars Archives

Spring 2022 Scholars

The Rise and Fall of Dictatorships

Read: Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy by Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson; The Desktop Digest of Despots and Dictators by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert; Defeating Dictators by George B.N. Ayittey; How to Be a Dictator by Frank Dikotter; Speeches that Changed the World published by Quercus; and Freedom: A Philosophical Anthology published by Wiley-Blackwell

Explore: The rise and decline of dictatorships in the 20th century.

Student quotes: "I enjoyed the ability for so many unique individuals to come together and discuss ideas while challenging each other to think critically."

"I gained a lot of knowledge not only from the assigned readings but also from what the other students had to contribute to the conversation and looking deeper into topics that were covered during the discussions."

Top row: Garrett Bryan, Zachary Cullen, Sawyer Aleckson, Hayden Hogenson
Middle row: Brooke Bergen, Cory Brodeur, Micah Aanerud, Austin Cherkas
Bottom row: Jason Fincel, Hope Scheresky, Joy Dahlen, Dr. Kerianne Lawson
Not pictured: Garrett Kuhn


Challenges in Higher Education

Read: Cracks in the Ivory Tower by James Brennan and Phil Magness; The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan; The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti

Explore: How to get the most from the college experience, for ourselves and for society.

Student quotes: "The program has helped me build great connections, see others' worldviews and opinions, get outside my day-to-day pattern, and just come away with a better understanding and knowledge of the world around me."

"I thought the topics were relevant and thus made the discussion extremely interesting."

"I liked the motivation the group provided for me to expand my typical reading sphere."

Top row: Katie Osborne, Logan Guenterberg, Garret Hoff
Middle row: Kirsten Warcup, Autumn Kranz, Dr. Thomas Krumel, Isaac Dubovoy
Bottom row: Jade Berg, MacKenzie Teigen, Kyler Smith, Rachel Burkman, Chloe Schneider
Not pictured: Dr. Raymond March


Fall 2021 Scholars

Why (Some) Nations Fail

Read: The Rise and Decline of Nations by Mancur Olson; Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Explore: Institutions that foster stability and economic growth and factors that lead to poverty, conflict and stagnation.

Student quotes: "I enjoyed the discussion with others outside my major that are passionate about this topic."

"I think this reading group is a phenomenal opportunity, and I will promote it in the highest regard."

"This program has allowed me to understand other's perspectives and has opened my eyes to the world of economics/policy."

Pictured: Elliot Thompson, Emmaline Schmidt, Garrett Bryan, Micah Aanerud, Macy Rennpferd, Lauryn Boisjolie-Gair, Calvin Stepan, Dr. Veeshan Rayamajhee


Entrepreneurship: From Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times

Read: The Invention of Enterprise edited by David S. Landes, Joel Mokyr & William J. Baumol (The Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

Explore: The history of entrepreneurship from diverse regions, cultures, and times.

Student quotes: "I love being part of this group. It's a highlight of my week."

"It has gotten me back into reading. I used to read all the time, and I was missing it."

"I really enjoyed the discussions. Everyone brought a unique perspective on the contents of the book, and that helped foster vibrant discussion at every meeting."

Pictured: Alex Abrahamson, Austin Cherkas, Leilei Bao, Logan Guenterberg, Rachel Burkman, Zachary Cullen, Amber Messer, Dr. James Caton, Isaac Dubovoy


Spring 2021 Scholars

A Conflict of Visions: Engaging Political Disagreement

Read: The Three Languages of Politics by Arnold Kling; A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell; selected readings and videos from John Stuart Mill, Jonathan Haidt, Arthur Brooks, Jason Brennan, F.A. Hayek, Richard Wolff, Ayn Rand, James Buchanan and more

Explore: Why we disagree and how to disagree better with opposing political views.

Student quotes: "It was an overall enriching experience that I would recommend to anyone."

 "These readings groups have been one of the most formative experiences in my time at NDSU."

"This program instilled in me how to disagree respectfully with people who have different ideas."

Pictured: Zachery Tiedeman, Jed Grow, John Ursino, Dr. Raymond March, Rachel Burkman, Matthew Friedmann, Mackenzie Teigen, Joshua Carlson, Ahmed Makaraan, Sydney Boschert, Sierra Preabt


Dystopian and Utopian Novels

Read: The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift; Utopia by Thomas More; Island by Aldous Huxley; 1984 by George Orwell; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Explore: Dystopian and utopian societies to better understand what leads humanity to suffer and flourish.

Student quotes: "I am really glad I did it. I gained a lot of new perspectives!."

"The skills I learned from this will be applied into my future career."

"This group helped me grow as a reader, a student, and as a person."

Pictured: Garrett Bryan, Nicholas Beers, Austin Cherkas, Alexis Schmitz, Garret Hoff, Hannah Oberg, Katie Osborne, Dr. Ryan Yonk, Phoebe Diem, Micah Aanerud


Fall 2020 Scholars

The Great Debate: Marxism vs. the Market

Read: The Best of Karl Marx by Phil Magness; Marxism: For and Against by Robert L. Heilbroner; Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy by Stephen A. Resnick and Richard D. Wolff; Collectivist Economic Planning edited by F.A. Hayek; Rivalry and Central Planning by Don Lavoie; On the Economic Theory of Socialism by Oskar Lange and Fred M. Taylor

Explore: The competing economic systems of socialism and free market capitalism.

Student quotes: "I had fun this semester!"

 "I will be able to take the soft skills I have learned into the rest of college and beyond."

"This program has given me a place where I can freely learn and share ideas without fear of being judged."

Top row: Caden Wurzabacher, Isaac Dubovoy, Miranda Breth, Chrystian Ulrich
Middle row: Koy Olson, Audrey Wentz, Dr. James Caton, Elizabeth Nelson
Bottom row: Christian Reedy, Noah Carlson, Ahmed Makaraan


Society vs. The Enviornment?

Read: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action by Elinor Ostrom; The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier by Terry Anderson

Explore: How societies can maintain the delicate balance between using the environment for immediate benefits and preserving it for future use.

Student quotes: "I really enjoyed the conversations, people, and reading material."

"This program has helped change the way that I think about problems."

"In the time of Covid, it was amazing to be able to see and interact with others and continue to learn outside of class."

Top row: Dr. Veeshan Rayamajhee, Joshua Carlson, Zachery Tiedeman, Zach Cullen
Middle row: Micah Aanerud, Fabian Mullerdahlberg, Cory Brodeur, Austin Cherkas
Bottom row: MacKenzie Teigen, Elizabeth Trainor, Luke Aamold


Spring 2020 Scholars

Freedom and Foreign Policy

Read: Tyranny Comes Home by Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall; Peace, War, and Liberty: Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy by Christopher A. Preble; other selected articles and podcasts

Explore: How policy abroad influences freedom and civil liberties at home.

Student quotes: "The reading group was fun and enlightening."

"Great program overall!"

"There are a couple of friends I never would have met without this program, so that's something that is really cool."

Top row: Jasmin Kaempfer, Joshua Carlson, Kaleb Burnham, Dr. Ryan Yonk
Middle row: Corbin Clark, Jordan Thielman, Kole Nichols, Colby Warzecha
Bottom row: Dr. Raymond March, Elizabeth Trainor
Not pictured: Naomi Marks, Chrystian Ulrich


How Literature Reflects and Affects Society

Read: How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey (1975); Henry V by Shakespeare; The Book of Job from The Old Testament; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein; The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton; The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Explore: Modern and classic novels to examine the relationship between literature and the human condition.

Student quotes: "It's been very rewarding, and I would highly recommend it to anyone else."

"Being able to discuss these open-ended questions, and have big discussions with other people who are passionate about completely different things than I am, was an amazing experience for me."

Top row: MacKenzie Teigen, Chloe Spoden, Siddhant Khemani, Mijwok Ajang, Cory Brodeur
Bottom row: Christian Reedy, Audrey Wentz, Austin Cherkas, Dr. Ryan Yonk
Not pictured: Emma Arstein


Fall 2019 Scholars

Driving and Sustaining Change in Life and Business

ReadThe Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Explore: How entrepreneurship relates to social life and value creation.

Student quotes: "I learned how to consume information and then organize it and articulate it to a group of people."

"I grew a lot as a person and being able to share my opinion."

"I love meeting people that I wouldn't have otherwise had the chance to meet."

Back row: Dr. James Caton, Riley Giauque, Derek Phelps, Michael Straus, Emmy Smith, Eve Hanson, Nadia Mitchell
Front row: Siddhant Khemani, Lindsey Prestholdt, Matthew Friedmann


Entrepreneurship and Human Action

ReadHomer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics by Joshua Hall; Human Action: A Treatise on Economics by Ludwig von Mises; Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Explore: Entrepreneurship through the lens of economics - from 20th century philosophy to the popular sitcom The Simpsons.

Student quotes: "I really enjoy the discourse - this is a cool opportunity!"

"I learned how to have better discussion and develop critical thinking."

"My viewpoint was definitely challenged by others in the group and so it broadened my horizons."

Back row: Noah Carlson, Jordan Thielman, Cory Brodeur, Colby Warzecha
Front row: Dr. James Caton, Corbin Clark, James Slagle, Shay Radhakrishnan, Chrystian Ulrich, Elysia Taniguchi, Khadeeja Mahmood


Spring 2019 Scholars

Regulating Food and Vice

ReadThe Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate by Jayson Lusk; Regulating Vice: Misguided Prohibitions and Realistic Controls by Jim Leitzel

Explore: How food and vices are regulated and the effectiveness of these regulations at achieving their goals.

Student quotes: "I am learning a lot that I wouldn't have learned in class."

"This has been such an enriching experience for my education."

"It's definitely a fun opportunity to talk about issues - and hey, it's scholarship money too!"

Back row: Dr. Jayson Lusk (author), Dr. Raymond March, Reed Petersen, Calvin Benson, Colby Warzecha, Jordan Thielman
Front row: Turner Gunderson, Matthew Friedman, Kole Nichols, Praj Warang, Jasmin Kaempfer, Dr. Jeremy Jackson
Not pictured: Gwen Scheresky



ReadHumanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century by Bart Wilson and Vernon Smith

Explore: How Adam Smith's model of sociality can re-humanize twenty-first century economics.

Upper division reading group: This reading group was open to students with previous reading group experience or advanced knowledge of economics. In addition to reading group meetings, participants planned to join students from more than four campuses for a weekend colloquium hosted by Creighton University in Omaha, NE. Due to weather conditions, the students were unable to attend.

Pictured: Kole Nichols, Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Menah Khodair, Calvin Benson


Fall 2018 Scholars

Evolution in Entrepreneurship

Read: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford; Understanding the Process of Economic Change by Douglass C. North

Explore: A new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives.

Student quotes: "I think the most important thing I've learned so far is that entrepreneurship is forever changing."

"This is a great way of exploring a topic."

"I feel like I'm learning so much from them. It's really cool!"

Back row: Jordan Thielman, April Berntson, Allison Lelivelt
Middle row: Alexa Pemble, Kole Nichols, Mijwok Ajang, Menah Khodair, Allison Giesler, Jasmin Kaempfer
Front row: Dr. James Caton, Michael Straus
Not pictured: Calvin Benson, Gwen Scheresky


Spring 2018 Scholars

The Failure of Foreign Aid

Read: The White Man's Burden by William Easterly

Explore: Why the West's efforts to aid the rest of the world have done so much ill and so little good

Student quotes: "My favorite part has been the people: you learn from them, make friends, and hear different perspectives."

"It's a great way to become a more well-rounded individual."

"It helped me share my opinion... We're leading the conversations so it's really student-focused."

Back row: Michael Straus, Jasmin Kaempfer, Nils Hagen, John Horton, Gwen Scheresky, Calvin Benson
Front row: Casondra Rutschke, Mark Simonson, Guo Chen, Dr. James Caton
Not pictured: Nicholas Becker


Fall 2017 Scholars

Entrepreneurship and Social Order

Read: Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm by Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein; Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 

Explore: Topics related to economics, philosophy, sociology and entrepreneurship

Student quotes: "It's a good opportunity for students to push themselves out of their comfort zone and just learn something new and do something different."

"It's interesting to see the diversity within the group."

"I highly recommend the reading group to all students."

Back row: William Schaefer, Jared Rudolph, Daniel Justesen, Guo Chen, Dr. James Caton
Front row: Austin Jordahl, Mark Simonson, John Horton, Jose Manuel Espinosa Gonzalez



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