University of San Diego

The Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL) Undergraduate Summer School features a curriculum focusing on the practical problems of organizing and running human society. The summer school is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation #62965. Registration, meals and student housing is free.

  • Students address questions about the nature of citizenship and the role individuals play in making critical decisions facing society.
  • Emphasis is placed on an overview of how markets work and under what conditions they create wealth and prosperity, including consideration of when markets fail to function well.
  • The program also explores the role of political institutions in structuring market exchange and allocating resources.

The summer school strengthens and refines students’ critical thinking skills, cultivating intellectual humility that enables them to learn from others, including those they disagree with. Topics that will be addressed include:

  • The nature and justification of property rights.
  • The use of market prices in coordinating economic activity.
  • How trust and reciprocity facilitate personal exchange.
  • The moral dimensions of cost-benefit analysis, exploitation, and repugnant transactions.

University of San Diego

The second annual summer school will be held in San Diego June 4-7, 2024. Registration, meals and student housing is free.

Plenary speaker: Deirdre McCloskey

The 2024 summer school courses will be taught by Suzanne Dovi (UA); Anthony Gillies (UA); Saura Masconale (UA); John Thrasher (Chapman); Mary Rigdon (UA); Candace Smith; Simone Sepe (UA); Vlad Tarko (UA); Bas Van der Vossen (Chapman); Steven Wall (UA); Bart Wilson (Chapman); and Matt Zwolinski (USD).

Applications due April 19, 2024.

“This program was such a formative experience … because I was exposed to so many different perspectives along the way,” shared Virginia Tech University PPE major Phoebe Scarborough, who participated last June. “This opportunity strengthened my abilities in my major and allowed me to gain foundational knowledge on a number of new PPE topics that I had yet to be exposed to.”

The 2023 PPEL Summer School was hosted at the University of San Diego June 5th through 8th. 30 undergraduates from 20 different universities attended. 

The sessions included:

Plenary Session

David Schmidtz – Philosophy Lost
Vernon Smith – Adam Smith’s Theory of Society

John Thrasher – Norms and Conventions
Candace Smith – Etiquette
Suzi Dovi – Rethinking the Justice Argument
Justin Bruner – Evolution, Cooperation and In-group Bias
Mary Rigdon – Personal Exchange
Saura Masconale – Corporate Activism and Democracy
Kingsley Brandle – Q&A about graduate school applications and experience
Vlad Tarko – Capitalism and its Crisis of Legitimacy
Matt Zwolinski – Panel Discussion: Universal Basic Income
Simone Sepe – Generalized Freedom of Contract
Student Presentations on their Big Question Projects


John Templeton Foundation logo

This summer school is made possible through the support of grant #62965 from the John Templeton Foundation.

Associated Schools

A collaboration with the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and the Department of Political Economy and Moral Science (PEMS) at the University of Arizona, the University of San Diego’s Center for Ethics, Economics, & Public Policy, and Chapman University’s Smith Institute for Political Economy & Philosophy.