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Please Help Support – and Strengthen – GMU Economics

To all patrons of Cafe Hayek:

Each year at this time and in this way I impose on your generosity by asking you to consider including George Mason University Economics in your end-of-year giving plans.  A financial contribution to GMU Econ (through the Mercatus Center at GMU) helps not only to maintain, but to strengthen, the great bastion of sound economic thinking, teaching, research, scholarship, and public outreach that is uniquely GMU Econ in partnership with the Mercatus Center at GMU.

We rely heavily upon your generosity.

Nearly all the funding for our graduate students, as well as for faculty (and grad-student) research needs, comes from annual private donations rather than from the state.  Also funded privately are our many seminars (which permit scholars from other institutions to visit GMU throughout the academic year to mix with our faculty and students) and student colloquia (in which students from both GMU and other institutions meet regularly over extended weekends at the Mercatus Center with GMU faculty in order to discuss Austrian economics, public-choice economics, and the Bloomington School of economics founded by the late Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom.

Other privately funded ventures at GMU Econ, often in partnership with the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies, include our work on MRUniversity, on Learn Liberty videos, on outreach efforts to policymakers in government, and on our program in Politics, Philosophy, & Economics.  Just FYI, the work that I and my GMU Econ colleagues do on these projects is mostly uncompensated; we do it as part of our way of contributing to the causes of sound economic education and a free society.  (I hardly need add that none of our blogs – not Cafe Hayek, not Marginal Revolution, not Coordination Problem, not any of them – receives a cent of government aid.)

Just one example of the kind of work we do at GMU Econ is Ms. Liya Palagashvili.  When in high school in Pennsylvania Liya had a teacher who was much-influenced by the writings of my colleague Walter Williams.  Because of this connection, Liya attended GMU as an undergraduate and majored in economics.  While an undergrad, Liya abandoned her plans to become a lawyer and decided instead to earn her PhD in economics.  She did so at GMU, graduating this past May.  Liya is now an assistant professor of economics at SUNY-Purchase.

While still a student at GMU, Liya published several articles in academic journals, as well as many pieces in popular outlets – including two articles in the Wall Street Journal.  Here’s the first of her WSJ articles.  The second – which is here – is even more impressive: Liya’s co-author on this second WSJ article, Rachel Mace, was a George Mason undergrad who took an introductory economics course from Liya at GMU.  This WSJ article grew out of a paper that Ms. Mace wrote for the class that Liya taught.  So not only is Liya a great researcher and writer, she is also an inspiring teacher.  While at GMU Liya got no government funds.  All funds to support her graduate education, research, and outreach came from private donations.


GMU Econ is decidedly outside of the mainstream of modern economics, despite the fact that two of our faculty members won the Nobel Prize over the past 29 years – the late Jim Buchanan in 1986 and Vernon Smith, now emeritus at George Mason (and currently teaching at Chapman University), in 2002.  The reason we are outside of the mainstream is that we refuse to treat economics as a branch of applied mathematics or social engineering.  We also reject the increasingly common claim (among economists) that the only economic knowledge, or even the best economic knowledge, is that which is gotten through empirical studies.  While our students are trained in appropriate mathematical and econometric methods, we at GMU Econ understand that economics is much more than those techniques.

The typical GMU economist – Arnold Kling calls us “Masonomists” – is a student of society.  He or she knows not only cutting-edge economic research, but also the full tradition of economics dating back to before the time of Adam Smith.  (We even have an entire field of specialization in the economics of Adam Smith, in which students and faculty members – including me – study carefully and discuss critically large swathes of Smith’s writings.)  The GMU economist – unlike the typical modern economist – is thoroughly steeped in history, jurisprudence, political science, and philosophy.  This broader understanding of society promotes skepticism of the social-engineering schemes that are forever pouring out of towers of ivory and from buildings of marble.  Simultaneously, it promotes also a great appreciation of – indeed, a sense of wonder at – the stupendous coordinating and creative powers of free markets and free people.

Economics at George Mason University is intellectually alive and exciting.  The world’s finest students, such as Liya Palagashvili, who want to study economics in the rich tradition that is still honored at GMU Econ apply every year to our program; they apply either for entry into our PhD program or our Masters program.  We accommodate many of them, but (resources being scarce!) we can’t accommodate all.

A contribution from you will increase our capacity to teach and mentor more students.  It will also help us to better serve the cause of sound economic education in other ways, such as by enabling us to extend summer funding to more undergrad students who wish to work with our faculty between academic years, and by enabling us to more fruitfully experiment with alternative media as we search for ways to communicate both with other scholars and with the general public about economics.

This last point is especially important.  No other economics program is as active in the public discussion and debate as is GMU Econ; certainly no other program is as staunch a champion of free and depoliticized markets as is GMU Econ.  Our faculty includes some of the world’s top economics bloggers, such as Peter Boettke, Bryan Caplan, Tyler Cowen, Robin Hanson, and Alex Tabarrok.  These and other Masonomists – including, of course, the great Walter Williams – also frequently write in the pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and other popular outlets.  And we are also often interviewed on radio and television and in podcasts.  It’s our passion not only to better understand the logic and the workings of the economy, but to explain to non-economists the countless unseen or underappreciated ways that free markets coordinate human activities peacefully and productively.

If you like what you read here at Cafe Hayek, please consider helping the larger effort of which this blog is a part – that larger effort is better economic education.  You can do so by making a tax-deductible contribution to GMU Econ through the Mercatus Center.  (Those of you who contribute by mailing in a check might mention Cafe Hayek in a cover note.)

Russ and I thank you all for honoring us by reading our blog.  We wish you the happiest of holidays and a 2016 that is filled to the brim with peace, prosperity, and a rejuvenated invisible hand.