ACRE Reading Groups

Spring 2020

ACRE reading groups are weekly sessions co-lead by UCA professors. Dinner is provided. A $500 scholarship will be awarded upon completion of the reading group. For questions about reading groups or the application process, contact Zachary Burt at

“The Political Economy of Paternalism” Economics Reading Group

Monday nights, 5 – 7 p.m.

Policies such as prohibiting the sale of various drugs believed to be harmful, contributing to a pension system (like Social Security), or wearing seat-belts and helmets, are often justified on the grounds that the affected person will be better off, or less harmed, as a result of the policy. However, when people prefer not to be treated this way, it’s often called “paternalism.” But should government officials interfere in people’s lives, against their will, if doing so can potentially make them better off or protect them from harm?

The spring 2020 economics reading group all explore these and other questions like:

  • Are most people mostly rational most of the time (as many economists believe)?
  • How should people be treated if they are not fully rational?
  • What is the difference between hard and soft paternalism?
  • Should government officials “nudge” people into making better decisions by changing the presentation of choices (sometimes called “libertarian paternalism”)?

The group will meet beginning Monday, February 3rd and will run through Monday, April 20th. Students in this reading group will also attend a weekend summit in Dallas, TX, February 21-22, 2019, on Southern Methodist University’s campus where they will meet with other students from Baylor, Texas Tech, and SMU, who have been reading the same works. The summit is mandatory. Travel, lodging, and food will be provided.

“The Advent of Capitalism” History Reading Group

Tuesday nights, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Students in this reading group will spend eight weeks exploring the intellectual, political, and ideological currents that led to the rise of capitalism.When participating in a Reacting to the Past game on the origins of capitalism, students will take the roles of leaders of major economic and social classes in Manchester England in 1817 as they struggle to adjust to the advent of factories and industrialization.

  • Will the machine makers find willing buyers?
  • Will the emerging capitalist class establish more efficient means of production?
  • Will the weavers find meaningful work among the new machines or will they join a Luddite Rebellion?
  • How will the aristocracy respond to the emergence of a wealthy capitalist class?

The group will begin meetings on Tuesday, January 21st. During the reading group students will be asked to weigh the costs and benefits of technological change, the importance of traditional institutions, and the benefits of market economies. In wrestling with these issues, students will read and discuss a variety of primary texts, including Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Robert Owen’s A New View of Society, Thomas Malthus’s “An Essay on Population,” and others. The “Reacting to the Past” weekend will be held March 13-15th and is mandatory for completion of the group.


Want to check out our past reading group topics? Click here! Or watch the below video to get an idea of what an ACRE reading group could be like for you.