"In Search of Economic Balance"

Gustavus assembles VIP academic panel (and MN Biz Publisher) for 2016 Nobel Conference

By Brian Martucci
Thursday, September 29, 2016

This week, Gustavus Adolphus College brought in heavy academic firepower for its 52nd annual Nobel Conference.  This year’s theme: “In Search of Economic Balance.”

The two-day affair promised an incisive look at the upsides and downsides of globalization. According to the college’s online teaser, its presentations and panel discussions tackled thorny questions like:

  • Why does inequality matter?  
  • Can we bring the prosperity enjoyed by the world’s advanced economies to the rest of the world?
  • How do we grow economies in a sustainable way that benefits most, if not all of the population?

Tuesday’s schedule featured presentations from Dr. Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business; Dr. Orley Ashenfelter, Joseph Douglas Green 1895 Professor of economics and director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University; and Dr. Joerg Riger, Cal Turner Chancellor’s Chair of Wesleyan Studies and Distinguished Professor of theology at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

Dr. Ariely’s talk covered “the (honest) truth about dishonesty,” a key consideration for behavioral economists in a world where talk is ever cheaper. Dr. Ashenfelter led attendees on a journey through the treacherous jungles of global wealth inequality, exploring how economic imbalances impact real people, their families, and the societies to which they contribute. Dr. Rieger explored the morality and religiosity of modern finance, such as it is.

Tuesday culminated with a musical performance at the Bjorling Recital Hall and a simultaneous panel discussion moderated by Matt Kusilek, Minnesota Business’s publisher.

The panel discussion, titled “Tales from the Tightrope: Economic Balance in Everyday Life,” brought together five notables from Minnesota’s business and civic communities: Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association; Jodi Harpstead, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota; Anne Krisnik, Executive Director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition of Minnesota; Robert J. LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff; and Ytive Prafke, Special Programs Coordinator and Media Specialist for the St. Peter School District. The panel’s discussion left behind the theoretical and dove with abandon into the mundane yet consequential economic considerations and decisions that shape consumers’ lives.

On Wednesday, Dr. Paul Collier of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford led “Africa’s Prospects in a Difficult Decade,” an unflinching look at the challenges and opportunities facing the world’s least developed continent in the years ahead.

Dr. Collier yielded to Dr. John List of the University of Chicago, whose “Using Field Experiments to Make the World a Better Place” explored the practical side of economic fieldwork.

The day’s third presentation was “How the World Grew Rich: The Liberal Idea, Not Accumulation or Exploitation,” a sunny (take that, dismal science) look at the transformative power of classical liberalism from Dr. Dierdre McCluskey of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

And, following a delectable banquet, the conference wrapped up with Marketplace Money editor Chris Farrell’s “On Economic Inclusion,” a sobering yet optimistic reminder that we really are all in this together.

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, check out the college’s website for information and multimedia. And, if you see our illustrious publisher around, be sure to congratulate him on a moderating job well done!