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Event Summary

In response to the notion that economics and culture occupy two distinct spheres of study, panelists at an event on Friday at AEI argued that these subjects instead operate in a symbiotic relationship.

Larry Kaufmann of the Liberty21 Institute pointed out how cultures are made up a pattern of meanings that act as a lens through which individuals process information and determine what is desirable for their lives. Paul Cantor of the University of Virginia used the story of William Shakespeare’s success to illustrate how commercial environments influence the creation of the artistic material that drives cultural thinking.

Virgil Storr of the Mercatus Center argued that institutions provide a limited picture of economies and do not fully explain the complex factors that cause some nations to be rich and others to be poor. Instead of looking at institutions or cultures exclusively, he explained, economists should look at institutions through the unique cultural lenses in which they exist.

Charles Murray of AEI used multiple anecdotes to show how economics is at the foundation of culture and how culture in turn affects economic performance. He specifically noted how changing social norms in the 20th century affected participation of males in the labor force.
–Janine Nichols

Event Description

It is often argued that culture resides outside the field of economics and that it is not compatible with rigorous analysis. There are, however, growing efforts to integrate culture into economic analysis and to understand how culture shapes economic perceptions and behavior.

This event will explore this relationship from several complementary perspectives. Panelists will address the economic implications of cultural fragmentation, the perception of capitalism in Western culture, and how economists can incorporate cultural considerations into their analyses.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


11:45 AM
Registration and Lunch

12:00 PM
Paul Cantor, University of Virginia
Larry Kaufmann, Liberty21 Institute
Charles Murray, AEI
Virgil Storr, Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Jonah Goldberg, AEI

2:00 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Janine Nichols at [email protected], 202.862.7172.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Paul Cantor is Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Virginia, and has taught at Harvard University in both the English and government departments. He served on the National Council on the Humanities, the governing board of the National Endowment for the Humanities, from 1992 to 1999. He has published extensively on Shakespeare and is a pioneer in the study of popular culture in relation to philosophy, politics, and economics. His book “Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the best nonfiction books in 2001. His newest book on the subject is “The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV” (The University Press of Kentucky, 2012). Cantor has a long affiliation with Austrian economics, dating back to 1961–62 when he attended Ludwig von Mises’s graduate seminar at New York University. He is an associated scholar of the Mises Institute and won their Ludwig von Mises Prize for Scholarship in Austrian School Economics in 1992.

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at AEI and a bestselling author and columnist. His nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. In 2011, he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Before joining National Review, he was a founding producer for “Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg” on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is also the author of two New York Times bestsellers: “The Tyranny of Clichés” (Sentinel HC, 2012) and “Liberal Fascism” (Doubleday, 2008). At AEI, Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for and the AEIdeas blog.

Larry Kaufmann is the executive director of the Liberty21 Institute, a newly established think tank devoted to promoting a culture of liberty. Liberty21’s mission is to renew and reinvigorate the values of a free society through research, outreach, and publications examining the relationship between culture, economics, and government policy. He is also a senior adviser to Navigant Consulting and Pacific Economics Group, where he developed an international consulting practice advising clients on performance-based regulatory reforms of regulated industries. He has written hundreds of professional studies and reports and has submitted expert witness testimony on a variety of economic topics.

Charles Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at AEI. He first came to national attention in 1984 with the publication of “Losing Ground” (Basic Books), which has been credited as the intellectual foundation for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. His 1994 New York Times bestseller, “The Bell Curve” (Free Press), coauthored with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, sparked heated controversy for its analysis of the role of intelligence quotient in shaping America’s class structure. Murray’s other books include “What It Means to Be a Libertarian” (Broadway Books, 1997), “Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950” (HarperCollins, 2003), “In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State” (AEI Press, 2006), and “Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality” (Three Rivers Press, 2008). His most recent book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” (Crown Forum, 2012), describes an unprecedented divergence in American classes over the last half century.

Virgil Storr is a senior research fellow and director of graduate student programs at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Before joining the Mercatus Center, he was the Don C. Lavoie Research Fellow in the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in George Mason University’s economics department. Storr is the author of “Enterprising Slaves & Master Pirates” (Peter Lang Publishing, 2004), a work on the contrasts within the economic culture of the Bahamas. In it, he argues that two ideal typical entrepreneurs dominate the economic life in the Bahamas: the enterprising slave (encouraging Bahamian businessmen to work hard, to be creative, and to be productive) and the master pirate (demonstrating how success is more easily attained through cunning and deception). His writings in political economy have been published or are forthcoming in Cambridge Journal of Economics, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Review of Austrian Economics, and several other scholarly publications.

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