About the Course
In this five-lecture course, Dr. Robert Murphy—who is the Senior Economist for the free-market Institute for Energy Research—sketches the field of energy economics from an Austrian perspective. Readings will cover classic articles from Murray Rothbard and Walter Block, as well as the world’s leading Austrian energy economist, Robert Bradley. Topics will include finite resource depletion, how a free market would deal with “negative externalities” such as pollution, and an extensive treatment of the economics of carbon taxes (Murphy’s specialty). The final lecture will focus on the policy debate, where Murphy will discuss his adventures in energy economics in academia, the Think Tank wars, and Capitol Hill.
Robert Murphy writes:
“The first week will address the question, “Will we run out of energy?” We will cover the standard mainstream treatment (based on the classic article by Harold Hotelling) and then see the weakness in this perspective, because it fails to account for the role of entrepreneurship. To see the “optimistic” Austrian take, we will cover selections from Julian Simon and Robert Bradley who chose Murray Rothbard to oversee his dissertation on the U.S. experience with oil and gas regulation.
In week two we will cover the libertarian property rights framework of environmental issues as laid out in the classic article by Murray Rothbard. We will also mention some of Walter Block’s contributions in this area. Contrary to popular belief, “free market environmentalism” is not a contradiction in terms. In fact, the worst ecological basket cases in history occurred under strong centralized States.
In the third and fourth weeks we will focus on my specialty (which I have developed over the past six years in my role as Senior Economist at the Institute for Energy Research), which is the economics of climate change. We’ll first get a broad overview of the physical science, but then focus on the economic issues involved, such as the role of the discount rate, the nature of the (alleged) damage estimates, and a comparison of a carbon tax versus a “cap and trade” approach. As always in my Academy classes, we will cover the conventional textbook approach, before listing criticisms of the typical case for a penalty on carbon to correct the “negative externality” of greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, in the fifth week we will put the theory aside and discuss the real-world policy debates on energy issues. I have testified before Congress and toured several states during a “bus tour for affordable energy,” so I have been in the trenches. After slogging through some of the technical details in previous weeks, this lecture will consist of fun anecdotes, including my (subtle) attempt to push Dennis Kucinich to end the Fed.
Energy permeates every aspect of the modern economy, and it is thus no coincidence that the government seeks to regulate it in various ways. The latest assault comes in the guise of restricting greenhouse gas emissions so as to slow climate change. In this course, the student will learn the true history of governments versus property rights when it comes to environmental stewardship, and will also receive an excellent introduction to the economics of climate change. Enroll today, and I hope to see you in July!”
Independent study courses are courses that were presented live in the past. These courses are now offered at a discount to anyone who wants to study independently. All courses include lecture recordings, slides, a complete hyper-linked syllabus, automatically-graded quizzes, and a discussion forum. Professors are not available for academic support for these independent study courses.