ASU In the News

A fresh look at Adam Smith and T. Robert Malthus

In an article, Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty and professor of political economy in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, discusses the similarities between two great thinkers: Adam Smith and Thomas Robert Malthus.

Both Smith and Malthus are often associated with ideas they did not espouse. Smith is accused of advocating that Gordon Gekko line of thought “greed is good” and the corollary that capitalism’s success is built on its reliance on human selfishness. Malthus, for his part, is associated primarily with the notion that human population growth inevitably pushes at the limits of our food and natural resources, leading to overpopulation and the Malthusian Catastrophe. T. Robert Malthus

While many liberty-loving economists are happy to correct the criticisms of Smith, many are equally happy to criticize Malthus for the Malthusian trap, not realizing that the usual portrayal of Malthus is equally false. Malthus shares far more with Smith than most expect.

Like any two great thinkers, there are inevitably differences of opinion between Smith and Malthus. While Smith sought to articulate an optimal civilizational context, Malthus turned his attention to existing arrangements, seeking to learn how institutions like markets, customs, rules, social mores, marriage and government regulation shaped the civilizational context within which its people carried out the ordinary business of life.

Article Source: Adam Smith Works

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

Philosophy, honors student graduates despite life obstacles

December 6, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

John Dreyfus always wanted to attend college but when it came time to graduate high school, his plans changed. He graduated high school at 17 and wouldn’t turn 18 until a few months into his first semester at college. Without either of his parents signing the paperwork, he was unable to enroll. John Dreyfus with Kyrsten Sinema John Dreyfus with Kyrsten Sinema at her new office on Camelback Road. Photo courtesy of John Dreyfus Download Full Image

Life kept going until one fall day in 1981 when he was riding his motorcycle in Tempe. Dreyfus was looking for a sandwich shop and turned on to University Drive to find himself face to face with Arizona State University. He said he wanted to sign up right at that moment. But he had no idea how to afford the costs of living and attending school and had to put the idea of school on the back burner once again.

Then a few years ago, Dreyfus became disabled and was offered vocational rehabilitation which he was able to turn into an opportunity to finally attend ASU.

Dreyfus is graduating this semester with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a concentration in morality, politics and law. We caught up with him to ask a few questions about his time at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: I took a class called “Introduction to Philosophy” at Phoenix College and Dr. Eddie Genna taught about the ship of Theseus and I was hooked on philosophy. I received a scholarship for 60 credits deferred at any Arizona state university through Phi Theta Kappa and ASU offers a degree in philosophy, morality, politics and law. My four favorite subjects rolled into one. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Asking which professor taught me the most is like asking which child is my favorite. I have learned so much from all of them. The professor I have had the most involvement with is Dr. Cheshire Calhoun. I took two classes with her in my first semester and she was my Barrett honors thesis chair. Dr. Jennet Kirkpatrick was a committee member and I took a class with her. She was also supportive of my efforts and mentored me to a point. Dr. Joan McGregor introduced me to the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, which presents speakers and debates. I attended several of those and thoroughly enjoyed them. Dr. Thad Botham taught me that I could survive an onslaught of information at the beginning of a semester and still succeed in classes. Dr. Steven Reynolds allowed me to adapt his lessons in metaphysics to my life experiences. 

Recently, Susan Corey’s death penalty class has given me added impetus to defend people in civil rights settings, especially people with few assets or mental disabilities.

Through Barrett I was able to take classes at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Several of the instructors there have helped me immensely and one (instructor) is writing a letter of recommendation to ASU Law, which has always been my goal. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The advice I give to all the friends I have made at ASU in their last semesters is: Make the world a better place.   

Q: What is your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: In the spring of 2019, I had classes on Monday and Wednesday that put me at Cady Mall for several hours in the afternoon. I would read or study and eat lunch. I enjoyed watching events that took place there and the people who would make speeches and the audience members who would argue back. It was enjoyable.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am applying to ASU Law with hopes of joining the Maricopa County public defender’s office and work in the Rule 11 setting, or possibly the death penalty team in the advocate office. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million I would try to build a housing project to give homeless people a place to live. I would also attract psychologists, attorneys, counselors and medical professionals to donate time and services to help people succeed in living in structured situations.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU In the News

Pennsylvania's occupational licensing reforms would lower barriers for ex-offenders; more reforms needed

As several states address criminal justice reform and recidivism, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a policy change to the commonwealth’s occupational licensing laws, which currently forbid ex-offenders from attaining certain licenses.

An estimated one in three American adults have a criminal record. In Pennsylvania, approximately 4 to 5% of adult residents had a felony conviction as of 2010. Access to steady employment is necessary in reducing recidivism, but Pennsylvania, like many states, has made it exceedingly difficult for ex-felons to reenter the workforce.

Blanket bans on the issuance of licenses due to criminal convictions unnecessarily single out ex-offenders and make it more difficult for these persons to find work, leading to increased rates of recidivism. In fact, there is a direct correlation between occupational licensing burdens and recidivism. A 2016 Policy Report from the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University found that “between 1997 and 2007 the states with the highest occupational licensing burdens saw an average increase in the three-year, new-crime recidivism rate of over 9%.” States with the lowest regulatory burdens “saw an average decline … of nearly 2.5%.”

Gainful employment is key in reducing recidivism. The Manhattan Institute notes ex-offenders who quickly found employment upon their release were 20 percent less likely to return to prison. Indeed, a “five-year follow-up study of released offenders” in Indiana found “post-release employment was an effective buffer for reducing recidivism among ex-offenders.” 

Article Source: The Heartland Institute

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

Reflections on the 156th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

ASU professor thinks back to the famous speech and why it's important to teach today

November 19, 2019

Nov. 19 marks the 156th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a speech that lasted only a few minutes yet has remained one of the most enduring statements of American principles and aspiration.

Delivered at the commemoration of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania, Lincoln concluded his remarks by urging his fellow citizens to “highly resolve ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln at his second inauguration. Download Full Image

Zachary German, an assistant professor in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, teaches CEL 394, a course on the 16th president titled “Lincoln: Rhetoric, Thought, Statesmanship”. German also teaches in the school’s summer program, the Civic Leadership Institute, which welcomes more than 60 students from across Arizona to learn about the Constitution and Abraham Lincoln. ASU Now spoke with him about the lasting legacy of Lincoln's famous address and how it resonates today.

Question: Why is the message of the Gettysburg Address still relevant 156 years later?

Answer: As we continue to endure intense polarization and partisanship in our contemporary political life, the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is a timely reminder of the common project to which we should seek to contribute together, and of the challenges that the project has always involved.  

The Gettysburg Address summons us to a deeper, more profound sense of our political identity, as a “nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The task of living up to that identity is something that connects us to “our fathers,” to “the brave men” who shed their blood on the battlefield of Gettysburg and elsewhere, to our fellow citizens, and to generations to come whose future will be shaped, in meaningful ways, by our devotion to that task. 

Q: What lessons can modern Americans take from the speech?

A: According to Lincoln, the Civil War was a test of whether “that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” After all, a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality had been torn apart by the conflict over slavery. Government by the people had disintegrated into a war among the people; ballots had been replaced with bullets. When Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the nation was over two years into the bloodiest conflict of its history, and it still had nearly two more years before the war would cease. The nation almost didn’t survive the test that Lincoln described at Gettysburg. 

While Lincoln led the nation to the conclusion of the war, the test, in a broader sense, has never really ended. We’re always taking it — always in the midst of determining the extent to which a nation “so conceived and so dedicated” can persist. The dual challenge facing every generation is to preserve our union and to pursue its noble commitments at the same time. To equip us for that challenge, our current leaders, our future leaders, and all citizens would do well to read, talk, and think more about Lincoln.

ASU In the News

Why libertarians should read Frank Knight

In an article, Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty and Professor of Political Economy in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership discusses the importance of reading Frank Knight's work.

At Chicago, of course, Knight is best known as one of the early founders of Chicago economics, a school that was especially important in the middle of the 20th century when Milton Friedman was joined by George Stigler, T. W. Schultz, Ronald Coase, Harold Demsetz, Al Harberger, Gary Becker, and other market-oriented economists.

But despite being Knight’s protégés, Chicago economists often ran afoul of their mentor’s view of the world. From the 1940s on, Knight’s attention turned from economic theory and market organization to thinking about markets in their broader institutional context. There were no sacred cows for Knight.

Throughout his life, Knight argued first and foremost that an understanding of basic market principles was essential to all social and political discourse.

He also made two other arguments over and over again. First, uncertainty is a feature of the world we live in, not a bug. But the fact that uncertainty plagues human existence does not mean that progress is impossible. It just means that there is no “one” answer. In the absence of certainty from either science or morality, Knight argued, secondly, that discussion was essential. A favorite line of his in the latter part of his career was picked up and carried forward by Buchanan: “Democracy is government by discussion.”

Article Source:

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

ASU part of cohort receiving award to fund civic education study

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is among the partners in a $650,000 NEH and Department of Education grant

November 1, 2019

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University has partnered with civic education provider iCivics and two prominent universities as part of a major grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education. 

The NEH, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, has awarded a $650,000 cooperative agreement to a collaborative of experts who will work together to design a roadmap to prepare K–12 students for America’s constitutional democracy. Paul Carrese, Director, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. Download Full Image

"Educating for American Democracy: A Roadmap for Excellence in History and Civics Education for All Learners" will bring together more than 100 leading academics and practitioners in education, civics, history and political science to set out a foundation for understanding and teaching American history and civics. The project will issue a roadmap that will outline high-priority civics content areas and make clear and actionable recommendations for integrating the teaching of civics and history at every grade level, along with best practices and implementation strategies that teachers, schools, districts and states can use to shape their instructional programs. 

The roadmap will develop the foundation from which to prepare all students to understand the value of America’s constitutional democracy as well as its past failures and present challenges. The goal is to design a program that will secure a strong commitment to and sense of ownership of that democracy in K–12 students.

Educating for American Democracy will rely on the expertise of the teams at ASU, Harvard University and Tufts University and will utilize iCivics’ community of more than 100,000 teachers as well as partner communities for field testing to ensure that the roadmap is a practical and useful document in the classroom. It will draw upon the collective network of CivXNow, a coalition of 113 organizations and foundations dedicated to improving civic education in order to disseminate the curriculum.

“Our republic faces deep partisan and philosophical polarization, while understanding of and trust in America’s democratic institutions are low — especially among younger citizens," said Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. "Our interdisciplinary and balanced team of scholars and civic educators believes that greater priority for civics education, tailored to 21st-century students, can improve our civic debates and politics. We’re excited to help lead this national effort to prepare informed and engaged citizens by providing quality American history and civics education for all learners.”

The Educating for American Democracy project will hold two convenings in the spring of 2020; one at Arizona State University and one at Louisiana State University. It will then issue a report, prior to a National Forum to be co-hosted by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and the National Archives and Records Administration Foundation in September 2020 in Washington, D.C.

“As the United States looks toward our 250th anniversary as a nation in 2026, it is critical that our K–12 educational system teaches the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the democratic principles on which the country was founded,” NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede said. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to be working with Educating for American Democracy to identify ways to improve the teaching and learning of American history and government so that all students gain an appreciation of the workings of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” 

The Educating for American Democracy project responds to an NEH-Education Department call for proposals for a 15-month project that would highlight innovative approaches, learning strategies and professional development practices in K–12 civics education, with an emphasis on activities and programs that benefit low-income and underserved populations.

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is an academic unit inside The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. In its third academic year, the school combines a liberal arts education with outside-the-classroom learning experiences to prepare its students for leadership roles in the 21st century. The school has also developed a robust public programming schedule in its Civic Discourse Project, which addresses the pressing issues of our times, and is aired on PBS Arizona. 

Manager, Marketing and Communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


image title

Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk

Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk.
October 31, 2019

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership holds civic discourse discussion

When people move to the United States, their journey to assimilation is a complex process that involves change for everyone in the community, according to two authors who have studied this contemporary issue.

Reihan Salam, author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders,” and Tomás Jiménez, author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life,” spoke at Arizona State University on Wednesday night. Their talk, titled “Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration,” was sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at ASU.

The two men discussed how assimilation is not an either/or event.

“Assimilation is a moving target,” said Salam, who is executive editor of the National Review.

“If you’re trying to define it very narrowly, it’s becoming more like the ‘average person,’ but immigration changes the nature of the country over time. You’re not hitting a fixed target.”

Reihan Salam,who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

There’s also a difference between immigrants who circle back and forth from America to their home country and those who never return.

“Vietnamese immigrants, in the wake of the Vietnamese war, were among the most assimilated mostly because there was an expectation that Vietnam was not a homeland that one could return to regularly,” he said.

Jiménez said that assimilation involves “mutual change.”

“There’s a back and forth volley of adjustment and readjustment happening in a cultural context, with respect to notions of success and failure in school, and with respect to the notion of who belongs and on what basis,” said Jiménez, who is professor of sociology and comparative studies in race and ethnicity at Stanford University.

“If I had to distill it down, it’s the decline of an ethnic boundary, when people see each other as more similar than different.”

Population demographics in America have changed over time, and that’s shaped attitudes toward immigration, Salam said.

He noted that the share of the foreign-born population has increased sharply, to about 13%, in the context of a steep decrease in the number of native-born children. Decades ago, people believed that investing in their community would mostly benefit their own descendants, but that’s no longer the case.

“It has to do with replenishment. It’s a game of numbers,” he said.

“I believe it’s one reason why you see such intense polarization around these issues.”

Public perception also doesn’t always match what’s really happening, Jiménez said.

“One of the most underappreciated events in the demography of immigration is the end of a mass wave of Mexican immigration that had gone uninterrupted for 100 years, and it came at the end of the Great Recession,” he said.

“Since then, Mexican immigration has been a net negative. That’s had a profound impact on the population but not an impact on the way the population is perceived.

“Ten years ago, 1 in 4 people of Mexican descent were undocumented. Now it’s 15%.”

Both men agreed that the current immigration system, with waits of a decade or longer, is inefficient and inhumane, but they differ on how open the process should be.

“Today’s immigrants come overwhelmingly from Asia and Latin America and those immigrants, across the generations, are integrating as fast if not faster than the immigrants of the great European immigration from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Jiménez said.

Tomás Jiménez, who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mass legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would speed that integration, he said.

“The condition of illegality is not only a drag on their integration, it’s a drag on the integration of subsequent generations,” he said. “We know from social science research that the penalty reverberates three generations into the future.”

He said that the DACA program, which is not legalization, still benefitted the young people it affected.

“The best data we have showed that their mental health improved, the mental health of their children improved, they were more likely to get married and spend money,” he said.

“The most recent polling shows that 80% of the American public favors a legalization program.”

Salam said that immigration used to be thought of in the context of the need for a lot of low-skilled labor, but with that need decreasing and the need for highly skilled labor increasing, the conversation has changed.

“I believe our system is incoherent and does not align with the values and sensibilities of a majority of America,” he said. “In our system, now you have a wait list of over 4 million people in the queue for family preference visas. If you have a job offer in the U.S. and speak English fluently, guess what? You cannot move up the queue.”

He said that the U.S. should establish a pathway of skills for immigrants, including avenues for refugees and asylum-seekers.

“When it comes to skills I believe in a blended approach rather than the binary approach we have now, where you’re either an affluent, sophisticated, highly skilled person or an underdog,” Salam said.

“Another way to think of it is a system that serves as a roadmap: ‘Here are the things that it takes for you to thrive and survive in this country.’ We want a policy that protects a certain kind of continuity and in light of a changing safety net.”

Top image: Reihan Salam (left) and Tomás Jiménez immigration at the SCETL Civic Discourse Project talk, "Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration," on Wednesday at the Memorial Union. The talk was part of the school’s Civic Discourse Project, now in its third year, with the theme “Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America.” Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


image title

'One Small Step' toward a more civil future

October 24, 2019

National nonprofit StoryCorps brings conversation series to ASU's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Shakespeare was hardly the first to acknowledge mankind’s shared humanity, but the words he used to do so are inarguably enduring.

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” asked the Jewish character Shylock, imploring his audience in the Bard’s “The Merchant of Venice” to recognize the value in his life as equal to that of the life of a Christian.

It’s a simple yet profound question: Though we all have our differences, do they outweigh our similarities?

Over the course of a week in August, a handful of students at Arizona State University had the chance to reflect on that question when they engaged in one-on-one conversations with someone whose beliefs differed from their own.

Now available to listen to online, their conversations are part of the One Small Step initiative led by national nonprofit StoryCorps, which records, preserves and shares the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership hosted One Small Step at the university to assist with its effort to include student voices in its growing repository.

Aside from institutions of higher education, One Small Step has also partnered with community-based organizations and faith communities to record such conversations.

Video by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

“One of our focuses has been working with colleges because students are eager for spaces to … discuss opposing viewpoints in a respectful and structured way,” said Roselyn Almonte, manager for community partnerships for One Small Step.

“We've also been finding that students are often in the process of forming their political opinions in college and often (are) more receptive to listening to opposing viewpoints and learning about different experiences, which creates a richer StoryCorps One Small Step conversation experience.”

Students discussed everything from their family backgrounds to their political influences to their religious beliefs. The resounding theme of their reactions to the experience was that we all have more in common than we don’t.

Religious studies sophomore Jaxon Washburn said he and his conversation partner, Desmond Kumi, a junior in business law, ironically found their similarities lie in their differences.

“He was raised in more of a liberal household but now finds himself more moderate-right-leaning,” Washburn said. “I was raised in a more conservative household, but I find myself now leaning more moderate-left.

“I felt like even though this person was a complete stranger, we were able to have a really good, positive conversation and we were able to unpack our different backgrounds and where we were coming from. I really enjoyed hearing his story.”

Sustainability and geography junior Sakshi Hegde and mathematics sophomore Janani Lakshmanan disagreed about the cost of higher education but bonded over their backgrounds — both are from immigrant families who they say guided their values and beliefs.

“It was interesting because our influences were very similar, but they also made us very different people,” Lakshmanan said.

Hegde said she wanted to participate in the One Small Step conversations because it’s important now more than ever to try to reach across political divides.

“Especially in this day and age, where there's a lot of political polarization, when you hear another person's party or beliefs, you immediately form an assumption about them based on that and then refuse to have a conversation with them,” she said. “I feel like this brings people of different political backgrounds together and allows them to have open, cordial conversations.”

“Not every person you meet is going to agree with you, and you’re not going to agree with every person you meet,” Lakshmanan added. “So if you close yourself off from the world like that, how productive are you going to be as a citizen?”

The pair said they plan to keep in touch going forward.

One of the core tenets behind the founding of ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership in 2017 was the obligation of institutes of higher education to promote civil discourse and free speech.

Aside from a curriculum that includes two bachelor's degrees and one minor, the school’s programming includes public talks that feature nationally renowned speakers from a variety of political backgrounds.

“[We] started the Civic Discourse Project three years ago to provide a space for robust civil discourse on important issues with speakers across diverse viewpoints, providing examples of civil disagreement to university students and the broader community,” said Paul Carrese, the school’s director.

“Additionally, we hope to use our speaker series and related events as a catalyst for future One Small Step initiatives the school plans to lead on campus.”

Staff at the school underwent training to become facilitators for the program and plan to host future recordings.

Washburn said that not only would he do it again, but that the experience has inspired him to apply what he learned in his everyday life.

“Conversations like this don’t just have to be things we plan out ahead of time through an organization,” he said. “When we’re walking through campus or waiting in line, we don’t have to just listen to our headphones or stare at our phones. Those are opportunities for people to actually talk to each other.

“Essentially what this demonstrated to me is that you can take two absolute strangers, and if you just get them talking, they can have a great conversation that is valuable to both of them. There’s a lot of strangers who don’t have to stay strangers.”

Top photo: ASU political science major Nathanael Hauschild (front center) and history major Clinton Barney record a conversation for StoryCorps' One Small Step initiative on Arizona State University's Tempe campus. Photo by Samantha Lloyd/ASU

image title

ASU undergrads help produce first-of-its-kind report on business rules

ASU undergrads help produce groundbreaking report on business regulations.
October 9, 2019

Research ranks Phoenix, 114 other cities on regulations, ease of doing business

A team of undergraduate researchers at Arizona State University spent a year mining and analyzing data to produce a first-of-its-kind report that ranks 115 cities in three countries on how easy it is to start a business.

“Doing Business North America,” a wide-ranging comparison of six types of business regulations in Canada, Mexico and the United States, was released today by the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, a joint endeavor of the W. P. Carey School of Business and the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

The project, based on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, involved a dozen undergraduates in different disciplines led by Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow and project director at the center.

The students pored over data sets and websites, collecting information such as the laws covering maternity leave, how many steps it takes to get the power turned on and how high the tax rate is. For example, it can take more than two months to complete the procedures required to open a business in Little Rock, Arkansas, compared with four days in San Pedro, Mexico.

“'Doing Business North America' is predicated on the idea that a well-functioning economy requires good rules,” said Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. “The ease of doing business in a location is higher when the rules are clear and the steps involved are few. A study like this is useful for policy research in both the academic and the policymaker communities.”

Among the 115 cities evaluated, Oklahoma City ranked first in overall ease of doing business. Phoenix came in at No. 20, scoring 80.52 out of 100.

Slivinski said that a lot of research compares business regulations between states and countries, including the World Bank report, but there are no city-to-city comparisons.

“So we instantly realized there was an opportunity here to go deeper,” he said. “That’s where a lot economic activity happens. It’s where people live.”

Besides the overall score, the team measured six other categories: starting a business, employing workers, getting electricity, registering property, paying taxes and resolving insolvency. All of the data will be available for download by the public.

“We wanted to make sure we had a data set that was robust to help researchers and policy makers understand the differences between places and the benefits that come with certain ways of doing things and disadvantages of doing it other ways,” Slivinski said.

“This is something that could only have been done at a place like ASU, where we have good students to choose from, we have this interdisciplinary approach where we can draw from different schools, and we think in a broader policy context.

“This goes beyond business. It goes to quality of life in an area.”

The research started in April 2018, when the team looked at the World Bank report and decided how to expand on it.

"They only did five cities in North America and the two they chose in the U.S. were New York and LA, which are not representative cities," he said.

The World Bank report includes many countries, some with developing economies. So some of the variables it measures, like barriers to women owning property and the likelihood of power outages, could be discarded.

Politics can play a role too.

“The World Bank can get pressure from member countries if a country doesn’t like its ranking,” Slivinski said. “This was a refreshingly academic endeavor. We wanted to plunge into the collection and find out what we could.”

Celeste Karlsrud, a senior in the School of Sustainability, was on the team of 12 student workers and enjoyed collecting the data.

“It was interesting to look at things like maternity leave and how many sick days were allowed. I liked getting down to the nitty-gritty public policy of it,” she said.

“We would dive into research papers and go through websites, and then we had to compare different kinds of resources. That’s when we would get together to go over what was relevant, or made sense or answered our questions.”

Paul Bernert, a research technician in the center, said the project had to start from scratch.

“There was no framework for how to collect data or what was in the realm of possibility,” he said. “Not only did we collect the data, but we had to come up with the system for how we actually ranked the cities. We had inspiration from the World Bank, so it’s an adaptation of what they did.”

The project is funded for several years by a donor, so the team will soon begin work on next year’s report, which Slivinski hopes will include more categories.

Nicholas McCrossan, a senior majoring in supply chain management and finance, helped to collect data and then create the ranking system.

“We had to look at things like, if you can find information online and file online or if you have to show up in person,” he said. “Then I helped to design the categories, making sure we could find all the information we needed.”

The category “employing workers” includes requirements such as minimum wage, paid annual leave and severance pay. Higher-scoring cities had lower or no requirements for those benefits. Slivinski said that “regulations on employing workers” also could be viewed as “worker protections.”

“I predict some of the cities that score low on this would say, ‘We disagree with your assumptions,’” he said.

“The best part about this is that because the data is being publicly released, they can take it and flip all the defaults and say, ‘We don’t think we should be marked down on that. We should be marked up.’

“That’s absolutely within the realm of what’s possible and what we hope people do with this.”

Top image: Phoenix was among the 115 cities ranked. The category rankings for Phoenix: starting a business, 40th; employing workers, 46th; registering property, seventh; getting electricity, seventh; paying taxes, 32nd. For “resolving insolvency,” all American cities tied for first, followed by Canadian cities and then Mexican cities. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


New lecture series aims to capture importance of civic participation

Speakers include prominent New York Times columnist, Arizona political experts and prominent scholars

September 24, 2019

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will launch the third season of its “Civic Discourse Project” on Sept. 25, an annual lecture series designed to bring differing viewpoints to Arizona State University to discuss the most pertinent issues of our time. 

The school began the annual lecture series in 2017 to address the challenges confronting American society, by first addressing the theme of free speech and intellectual diversity on college campuses and American society, followed by a series devoted to discussing polarization and civil disagreement Crowd, Robby George and Cornel West The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will kick off the third season of its “Civic Discourse Project” on Sept. 25, an annual lecture series designed to bring differing viewpoints to Arizona State University to discuss the most pertinent issues of our time. Download Full Image

The first two series brought to campus prominent minds, including Jonah Goldberg, Danielle Allen, Robby George and Cornel West, former U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Tom Daschle (D-SD), and more. Each lecture is also aired on PBS Arizona and is co-sponsored with the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well. 

The school’s third season seeks to discuss the possibility of moving beyond polarization and political conflict to civic renewal. The foundation of civic renewal is the willingness of people to participate in the civic institutions at the foundation of American society. This year, the topic will focus on a conversation about what it means to be an active citizen of the United States of America in 2019.

“The primary goal for both the Civic Discourse Project and the most recent season, Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America, is to engage our community in thinking about these crucial ideas,” said Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “By hosting these conversations, we are giving ASU students and faculty, as well as the broader community, the opportunity to have a robust but civil debate.”


This year’s fall lineup includes prominent names such as:

  • Robert Putnam, Harvard University sociologist and author of “Bowling Alone”
  • David Leonhardt, columnist for The New York Times
  • Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for The National Review
  • Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute 
  • Tomás Jiménez of Stanford University
  • Daniel Scarpinato, chief of staff for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
  • Sarah Elliott, former communications director for David Garcia for Governor
  • Maria Polletta, state government and politics reporter for The Arizona Republic 

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will also host its annual Spring Conference on Feb. 28-29. All of the school's events are free and open to the public. To register, visit the school's website

Manager, Marketing and Communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership