Devon Zuegel of the Stanford Review reports that this class was a hit with students of the right and the left.

Seems a shame it was dropped.

“Moral Foundations of Capitalism” class cancelled

As the United States dipped into recession after the stock market crash in the late 2000s, capitalism was under intense scrutiny. As concern and criticism of the economic structure rose, part-time History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) professor John McCaskey mulled over the idea of teaching a course on capitalism.

“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get students to explore how Americans have historically defended the morality of capitalism,” said McCaskey in an interview with The Stanford Review.

In 2009, after presenting the idea to his colleagues, McCaskey began teaching the course, sponsored by the Ethics in Society (EiS) program. In the seminar, named “Moral Foundations of Capitalism,” students explored and evaluated historical arguments for the free-market model, particularly those which emerged in the 20th century. The seminar primarily covered the arguments of economists such as Milton Friedman, of Protestant and Catholic religious defenders, and of Objectivists.

The course was extremely well-received. The enrollment ceiling was accidentally doubled, allowing the class size to swell past its intended 15-student capacity, and there was a scramble to shrink the seminar back down.

“There was a huge demand for the class … with students sitting on the floor outside, trying to get in,” said a junior, (who wishes to remain anonymous), who took the class in Winter 2012.

While there was steady interest for the course throughout the three years the class was offered, the type of students that it attracted varied. According to McCaskey, the class was largely made up of competing conservative students in the first year, largely because two students—one Catholic and one Ayn Rand Objectivist—extensively promoted the course before registration.