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Some ideas from a long weekend trip

In my previous post, I mentioned that I attended a college alumni weekend recently. The weekend did not lack events relevant to readers of this economics and economic policy blog. The event—at Swarthmore, a small liberal arts college located near Philadelphia, featured among other things a ceremony in honor of several retiring professors.

No economists retired this year but psychologist Barry Schwartz, a noted critic of naive models of rational behavior in neoclassical economics as well as a giant in his own field, was among those honored. Schwartz began his career as a behavioral psychologist specialized in learning but later came to be regarded as a philosopher among psychologists. He was also to give a faculty lecture at a session of  “Swattalks” Friday evening at the reunion but was unable to be there for the event. For people—including fellow alums and colleagues—who are curious about this noted experimentalist and public philosopher who was based at an institution with a relatively conventional economics department, here are some links that may be of interest.

A page featuring links to Schwartz’s work, including many free downloads

Just for starters, the page above includes this link to the syllabus for PSYC 89: Psychology, Economic Rationality, and Decision Making

and this full-length article: “Why Societies Should Pursue Happiness.”, which I have chosen somewhat at random.

I took one course with Schwartz during my career at Swarthmore. The contents of the syllabus were based on research that led to the writing of this volume, which Schwartz described as his first real book in a raucous farewell talk delivered in March (contains link to video) for colleagues and students at an event in his honor:

Schwartz cover

The video of the March talk features a discussion of college admissions policies in relation to concepts of happiness and justice that begins around 24 minutes into the tape. Schwartz has argued famously that admission decisions by the most selective undergraduate  institutions should be made via a lottery among candidates who meet a threshold set of qualifications.

There to give her Swattalk was the young political scientist Ayse Kaya, a recent Swarthmore hire who contrasted two types of multilateralism in international economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. The newer type, reactive multilateralism, has brought unfortunate consequences, according to arguments developed in a compelling presentation of recent work by Kaya highlighted that made use of succinct Powerpoint slides.  Here is Professor Kaya’s academic website, which features some of her work. I had never met Kaya, but I see that her work includes some papers about the recent financial crisis in the US and elsewhere and the policy response to it.

More on the events of 2016 so far and the developments the year has brought for me are to follow in future posts to this blog.


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