With regards to the ‘broadening and deepening’ of the study of the political economy of inequality, I would place emphasis chiefly on its broadening. I would do so inasmuch as I would explore alternative explanations into the fundamental causes of human inequity, inclusive of but not limited to growing socioeconomic inequality. First and foremost, such a curriculum would explore the heritability of genetic and epigenetic traits which exert a non-negligible, if not substantial and sweeping, influence on people’s and peoples’ readiness, willingness, and ability to render services and goods that are valued by society and which therefore confer financial reward. Second, such a curriculum would explore whether greater socioeconomic equity might be achieved not through explicit re-distribution, but by imposing greater restrictions on what types of market activities ought be permitted, thereby enhancing and expanding the logic of ‘sin taxes’ to prohibition economic activities which exert a suppressive influence on the overall welfare and economic fitness of citizens. (IE: If one is too busy slaving away to make money to buy stuff, one will very likely be too busy to think about what purchases will actually enhance his or her life.) Ultimately, such lines of inquiry might serve to enliven the entire discussion of inequality by recognizing economic agents as more than idealized blank slates, both with regards to human biodiversity and with regards to human agency. In a similar vein, it would explore the extent and manner by which cultural values might be seen as holding prior importance to any notion of fair access to institutions of higher education.
With regards to the heritabilty of traits related to intelligence, temperament, gratification postponement, and willingness to reach for high-hanging economic fruit, it might prove enlightening to study the impact of 20th and 21st century trends in assortive mating not merely as a multiplier of household income/wealth inequality, but also as exacerbating an unequal distribution of genetic traits over each successive generation. This might not only prove contributing cause of the ‘great divergence’, but might bear even more heavily on the discussion of intergenerational mobility. To this end, the curriculum would leave to the wayside the facile and discredited Gouldian notion of punctuated equilibrium, and examine the extent to which human evolution has been “ongoing and copious”, to use the language of Cochran and Harpending in their book The 10,000 Year Explosion. This module of the proposed curriculum might be encapsulated in some semblance of Professor Stephen Stich’s course 01:730:253 Human Nature and Human Diversity, and would include readings from Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate as well as a steady stream of peer-reviewed journal articles, especially those coming from the hard sciences. Because Stich is a ‘company man’ at politically correct Rutgers, it might be a good idea to hire Professor Bret Weinstein, formerly of Evergreen State College, to teach the course.
With regards to the Rawlsian notion of ‘fair equality of opportunity for people with equal ability’, it takes on a morbid, dystopic sheen when the notion of ‘ability’ erodes not merely into an unfalsifiable platitude of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull variety, but ultimately into egregious excesses of social engineering in the mindless pursuit of a smaller Gini coefficient. Thus, a class such as 01:730:442 Moral Responsibility might prove a worthy sandbox within which to reflect more deeply on what it is exactly that we’re trying to achieve, why we’re trying to achieve it, and what human cost is to be deemed permissible. On this note, we might also do well to include the 01:790:324 The Causes of War in the curriculum, perhaps including a reading of Scheidel’s The Great Leveler. This might shed light on the possibility that we are not mere passive witnesses to runaway inequality, but that, by attempting to combat inequality, we might ourselves be adding torque to a doom loop taking our society in a very ominous direction. This could explain in part why Republican plutocrats are so averse to downward re-distributions of capital – they might not merely be greedy, but are perhaps also profoundly skeptical of the underlying motives and methods of Progressive programs of re-distribution, seeing it as akin to trying to bail water out of a sinking ship rather than plugging its holes.
With regards to a study of human values, the proposed curriculum could explore how changes in values over the past century, particularly in America and under the yoke of popular mass entertainment and consumerism, have impaired the abilities of Americans to gain the skills they need to compete in the increasingly automated global economy. After all, it is conceivable that many millions of Americans are not only deeply distracted by popular mass entertainment – which is fine-tuned to exploit our basest instincts and desires and, indeed, our attention spans – but in fact suffer from deep and deleterious affects on their capacities as rational agents, particularly with regards to time preferences related, ultimately, to financial independence and solvency. This module would serve as a counterpoint to the notion that ‘left behind’ Americans simply need universal pre-K and more years of grad school in order to achieve financial security, and that educational opportunities that are already in existence may well be adequate but grossly under-utilized. This inquiry could be served by the Psychology class 01:830:364 Motivation and Emotion, or perhaps 01:830:321 Social Psychology or 01:830:333 Adolescent Development. This inquiry into mass popular entertainment might also bear on Americans’ ability to digest what is going on in the United States’ political economy, thereby shedding light on how Republican grifters are able to get away with the fiscal policies that they do. Thus, 01:790:344 Public Opinion is obviously relevant.
There could also be a course which explores the feasibility of planned economies of the kind which could prevent destructive lines of economic activity such as the aforementioned mass popular culture. 01:220:362 Comparative Economic Systems might be warranted for inclusion.
With regards to the timeless wisdom of making sure we’re even asking the right questions in the first place rather than reserving our caution for answering those questions, it might also be worth it to have Psych Professor Lee Jussim teach a course about bias in academia. Though politics is what makes the world go ‘round, and will always pervade all spheres of social life, including academia, it is important to take pause from time to time and think really, really deeply about the ‘matters of fact’ that we take for granted – all the auxiliary assumption we have about reality, what rough edges we gloss over and what moral imperatives we take for granted as praiseworthy and noble – and second guess them all. I think that we as humans are fated to bargain ad nauseum over alterations and corrections to the flow of resources, but there is always room for revisions to the revisions.