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Dwight R. Lee

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Dwight R. Lee is the O’Neil Professor of Global Markets and Freedom in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

Dwight R. Lee's Articles

Specialization and Wealth

In this podcast, Dwight Lee explains how specializatoin, voluntary exchange, and cooperation lead to an increase in productivity and wealth accumulation. (9:15 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Social Cooperation and the Marketplace

The social cooperation that results from the information and incentives communicated through the market is not perfect. But no other economic system comes remotely close to the market in allowing people to achieve their objectives in productive cooperation with each other. (8:44 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Sacrificing Lives for Profits

When people willingly accept risks to acquire things they value, they are putting a price on their lives—telling us with their actions that the marginal value of their lives is less than the often quite low value they realize from overeating, not exercising, driving too fast, and so on. (8:40 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Running Out of Agricultural Land

Fear that we are running out of important resources like agricultural land is perpetual, but in most cases, this fear is baseless. In this podcast, Dwight Lee explains the role of property rights in preventing the depletion of resources. (8:48 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Private Property and Oppurtunity Costs

Markets promote the general interest by revealing costs while governments commonly favor special interest by concealing those costs. In this podcast, Dwight Lee discusses opportunity costs by introducing the critical role of private property. Private property lies at the foundation of market economies because without private property, and the exchange it fosters, people would be unable to consider the full costs of their decisions. (8:22 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

The Power of Incentives

The surest way to get people to behave in desirable ways is to reward them for doing so—in other words provide them with incentives. Even when you acknowledge that incentives are necessary, it is not obvious how to establish the ones that motivate desirable action. (8:19 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Politics and Foreign Trade

With rare, and typically short-lived exceptions, governments reduce economic productivity and their citizens’ prosperity by either taxing or imposing quotas on imports. This is because when a trade restriction is being considered, politicians will hear plenty from those favoring the restriction and little from those harmed by it. The result is a bias toward providing concentrated benefits and ignoring much larger but dispersed costs. (7.51 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Opportunity Costs and Hidden Inventions

By suppressing profits, socialism reduces the opportunity cost of keeping new products out of the hands of the public, whether by design or by default. As long as we allow the pursuit of profits in the marketplace, the cost of hiding new socially valuable inventions will be so high that we don’t have to worry that they will be hidden.  (9:10 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Opportunities and Costs

In this podcast, Dwight Lee explains that, because of scarcity, every time we do one thing we necessarily have to forgo doing something else desirable. So there is an opportunity cost to everything we do, and that cost is expressed in terms of the most valuable alternative that is sacrificed. (8:45 minutes)


- September 26, 2013

More on Marginalism

We have all heard the advice, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” There is wisdom in this advice if we are careful about what is meant by “doing a job right.” People sometimes suggest that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing perfectly. But this advice, by ignoring the importance of marginal considerations, is a prescription for waste and inefficiency, as anyone who attempted to put it into practice would soon discover. (8:40 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Markets and Marginalism

Because of the information and incentives transmitted through market prices, people and businesses, responding to their private concerns, are led to cooperate in ways that are constantly moving margins toward equality throughout the economy. A discussion of this process provides additional insight into the advantages we all realize from the communication and cooperation motivated by market prices. (7:58 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Markets and Freedom

In this podcast, Dwight Lee argues that the productive cooperation of the marketplace depends on freedom, and freedom depends on the productive cooperation of the marketplace. With wealth and freedom, there is no tradeoff; they reinforce each other in market economies, with it generally impossible to have one without the other. (8:14 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

It's the Margin that Counts

Marginalism, the effect of incremental, or small, changes, shows how economic reasoning allows us to accomplish more by accepting limits on what can be accomplished, rather than making heroic attempts to solve problems completely. In this podcast, Dwight Lee gives two examples to illistrate this point. (8:12 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Energy Production versus Conservation

It is widely accepted that the decision on the right mix of production and conservation is best made by Congress. Dwight Lee points out, however, that market prices allow consumers to inform producers how much they value different energy uses, and allow producers to inform consumers how much it costs to provide different types of energy. The result is a combination of conservation and production that best harmonizes the interests of us all. (8:45 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

The Economic Advantages of a Commitment to Liberty

Much of the cost of government is in lost liberty—decisions on how we live our lives are increasingly made by government authorities. Dwight Lee explains that the costs of gradually losing our liberties go largely unseen, while the benefits (typically temporary and small) are easily seen. (9:09 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Demand and Supply

In this podcast, Dwight Lee discusses the fundamental principles of demand and supply. He explains how the market process constantly directs people to accomodate one another in ways that move them toward the intersection of consumer demand and producer supply. (8:34 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Comparative Advantage

One of the most powerful and straightforward economic concepts is “comparative advantage.” As important and simple as this concept is, however, it seldom seems to inform public discussions of international trade. (8:47 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Creating Jobs vs. Creating Wealth

Government policies are commonly evaluated in terms of how many jobs they create. Dwight Lee argues that creating more wealth is what we really want to accomplish, and jobs are merely a means to that end. (8:58 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

Censoring Pleas for Help

Governments have a long history of imposing price controls on a wide range of goods and services. Dwight Lee argues that this is a particulary harmful form of government censorship; one that stiffles communication, prevents market exchange, and restricts social cooperation. (9:07 minutes)

- September 26, 2013

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Michael Sandel's arguments that markets crowd out "nonmarket values worth caring about" is appealing and easy to understand, but often fails to account fully for the roles prices play or the constraints on our abilities to form deep, intimate bonds with millions of people at once.

- March 21, 2013

Reducing Income Inequality at the Expense of the Poor

Income inequality is often a side effect of some very good things we'd be better off not doing away with. 

- February 05, 2013

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