Reading Groups

Explore interesting texts and ideas with civil discourse.

Student Programs

Mancur Olson Scholars

The Mancur Olson Scholars undergraduate program brings together diverse students to study an important topic of our time. By sharing their own views and hearing the perspectives of their peers, scholars experience the value of free expression and develop scholarly skills. 

Reading groups enhance the university experience by helping students explore important ideas, engage in civil discussion, and develop new skills. 

Scholars are invited to think critically and engage in robust discussion of ideas. Civil disagreement with one another and the text is not only accepted, but actively encouraged. All students who complete the reading group receive a scholarship. In addition, students are given opportunities to network with guest speakers and attend exclusive events. 

The deadline to apply for a spring 2024 reading group is Friday, December 1, 2023

Upcoming Reading Groups

Freedom of Speech vs. Hate Speech
Spring 2024 Reading Group
Mondays 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Location: Richard H. Barry Hall, Downtown Campus

Led by Dr. Kerianne Lawson

In a world where words hold immense power, we will delve into the philosophical, legal, and ethical dimensions of freedom of speech, seeking to understand its role as a cornerstone of democratic societies. We will explore the fundamental principles of freedom of speech in a free and democratic society, and its complex relationship with the consequences of hate speech. We'll also investigate the adverse effects of hate speech, addressing questions of social harm and its limits within our commitment to freedom of speech in the United States.

Apply Here.

Immigration and Freedom
Spring 2024 Reading Group
Wednesdays 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. 

Location: Richard H. Barry Hall, Downtown Campus

Led by Dr. Raymond March

This reading group will explore the issue of immigration within a free society. It includes three books, three youtube debates, and one online presentation by a former Nobel Laurette. These texts dive into the moral, economic, and institutional impact immigration can have on a free and open society. Each text was chosen to analyze the issue from divergent viewpoints and research approaches.

Apply Here.

Technology, Economy, and Freedom
Spring 2024 Reading Group
Tuesdays 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Location: Richard H. Barry Hall, Downtown Campus

Led by Dr. Veeshan Rayamajhee

Human societies have long grappled with the countervailing forces of individual freedom and coercion. Why is liberty so hard to achieve and sustain? Does technology make the preservation of human freedom even more difficult? This reading group will examine the conditions under which liberty can take hold and the forces that challenge the stability of a free society.  We will also delve into the implications of technological progress for prosperity and freedom.

Apply Here.

Stoic Philosophy and Living a Fulfilling Life
Spring 2024 Reading Group
Fridays 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. 

Location: Richard H. Barry Hall, Downtown Campus

Led by Dr. Ahmad Al Asady

This reading group will delve into the Stoic philosophy as presented in "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, exploring its timeless principles and practical advice on living a more mindful and fulfilling life. We will dissect Aurelius' reflections on personal virtue and wisdom, understanding how his insights can be applied to our modern lives to navigate societal challenges, maintain tranquility, and cultivate a profound sense of purpose. Through thoughtful discussion and analysis, participants will gain a deeper appreciation of Stoic philosophy, uncovering strategies to live with intention, resilience, and inner peace.

Apply Here.

Mancur Olson Graduate Fellows

The Mancur Olson Graduate Fellowship aims to engage students in critical thinking, inquiry, and discussion surrounding issues of economic opportunity and flourishing. 

Fellowships are open to Ph.D. students from any discipline at NDSU. Selected students receive a stipend and must meet program requirements, including participating in a graduate student reading group. 

Learn more about the program.

Introduction to Public Choice

This discussion group surveys the big topics of public choice theory, including collective action, constitutions, voting, rent-seeking, bureaucratic decision-making, and political exchange. Participants will grapple with the great problem that societies need governments to address social problems; but governments predictably fail to solve these problems while creating new ones. This group is about understanding why, how, and what can be done about it. 

Reading texts from:

  • The Calculus of Consent by James Buchanan
  • The Myth of the Rational Voter by Bryan Caplan
  • The Logic of Collective Action by Mancur Olson
  • The Rise and Decline of Nations by Mancur Olson
  • The Social Dilemma by Gordon Tullock
  • Bureaucracy by Gordon Tullock
  • Selected articles and media



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