Paper Topics

Hey college students, let’s talk paper topics.

Here’s one idea: Compare and contrast the diagnoses of the Great Depression offered by Neoclassical economists, Keynesians, monetarists, and the Austrian economists, reading as much of John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises as you can. Then speculate on how they would analyze the contemporary crisis and seek to resolve it. Identify their contemporary followers and use them as a guide to this question. This would get you into the deep waters of contemporary economic theory, and it is of vital contemporary importance to figure out which school offers the best interpretation. Infinite variations could be played on this basic paper idea, mixing and matching as you like. What would Schumpeter think? What would Minsky say?

Next topic: Financial regulation. How did it evolve over last two decades, and with what consequences? Assess nature of contemporary market dysfunctions that it is the responsibility of regulatory bodies to mitigate. Assign responsibility for decisions taken, whether for good or ill. Propose sensible reform. There you have your four-part paper. Financial regulation is a big topic--look at this snarl. You could narrow it by centering your investigation on one regulatory body (e.g. Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission, CFTC). The thing is: you want to keep your focus on that which keeps the entire system viable, so don’t get too narrow minded on me.

There are a few other paper ideas set forth in this presentation, one on housing, another on how public opinion in other countries is interpreting what is going on.

Finally, think about this: Evaluate the response of the Bush administration to the financial crisis. Compare its response to insolvent banks with previous bailouts in the United States and abroad. Identify a template of responses that nations have made to banking crises and assess, respectively, their equity and efficiency. In other words, what is most fair? What solves the problem with the least expenditure of public resources? Then use your conclusions to assess the wisdom of the approach from Bush, Paulson, Bernanke and Cox. If appropriate, suggest an alternative approach tailored to the immediate crisis. On the scale of financial fraud and gross iniquity, of moral turpitude and political corruption, of fatal incomprehension and stark ineptitude, where does it rank? At the bottom? Or at the top?

OK, so it’s a loaded question. Please draw your own conclusions without fear or favor.