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BB&T Speaker Series in Political Economy, Free Markets, and Free Societies

The Hobby School of Public Affairs invites you to attend the BB&T Speaker Series in Political Economy, Free Markets, and Free Societies. The BB&T Speaker Series convenes nationally renowned scholars and leading professionals to discuss timely policy and ethical issues. Lectures are free to the public. Lectures are co-sponsored by the Honors College's Phronesis program. Details about each individual lecture are below.

Upcoming Speakers



Past Speakers


Sarah Conly

"When is personal liberty valuable?"

February 27 | 6pm - 7pm
Student Center Skyline Room 223

What happens when our autonomous decisions undercut our success? Conly argues it may help for government to step in to save us from ourselves?

Please RSVP to Daniel Engster at by Monday, February 25



Peter Jaworski 

"How much for that Kidney in the Window?"

February 13 | 6pm - 7pm
Student Center Skyline Room 223

Should you be able to sell your kidney on the free market? There are plenty of arguments against allowing a market in kidneys, but how well do they hold up to critical scrutiny? Professor Jaworski argues not very well. You should be able to sell your kidney, eyeball, arm, and many other things, he argues, without legal punishment. If you may do it for free, you may do it for money. He claims there should be no limits to what can be bought and sold, but only restrictions on how we buy and sell.

About the speaker: Peter Martin Jaworski is an Assistant Teaching Professor in business ethics at Georgetown University. His academic work has been published in Ethics, Philosophical Studies, The Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, The Journal of Business Ethics, The Journal of Value Inquiry, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, amongst others. Along with Jason Brennan, Jaworski is the author of "Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests" published in 2016.

He is a co-founder, and Vice-Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Liberal Studies (Ottawa), an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute (Washington, DC), an Academic Advisory Board member with the Greater Mekong Research Center (Phnom Penh), and an Advisory Board member with the Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation in Poland. Jaworski was a Visiting Research Professor at Brown University, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the College of Wooster, and an Instructor at Bowling Green State University

Please RSVP to Daniel Engster at by Monday, February 11.


Sue Collins

"War and the Good Life: The Spartan Regime"
Susan Collins
University of Notre Dame

January 19, 2018- 4-6PM
Honors College Commons, 2nd Floor of MD Anderson Library

 Co-sponsored by the Honors College


November 14, 2017 at 12:00pm, Student Center South- Heights Room (224) 

Political and Economic Change in the People's Republic of China
William Keech

It is hard to imagine a regime changing as much as did the People’s Republic of China in the last half century.  Economic changes have been most striking.  Since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China has changed from a poor country with an authoritarian, if not totalitarian regime to a middle income country that has the second largest economy in the world.  There have been less impressive political changes as well, but in spite of these changes, classifications of political regimes designate China as continuously authoritarian since the People’s Liberation Army defeated the Guomindang in 1949.  This paper reviews and analyzes these changes and raises issues in defining regimes. 

Read a copy of the presentation.

John Allison

February 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm, Student Center South- Midtown Room (262)

The Philosophic Fight for the Future of America 
John Allison

There is a philosophical battle being conducted at universities and in the media which will determine the future of our country and Western Civilization. On one side are the defenders of the classical liberalism, best expressed in the Declaration of Independence: the inalienable rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. On the other side are authoritarians of all political persuasions who believe that elites in Washington, DC know best and should have the power needed to enforce their wills on others. This lecture will explore the fundamental ideas underlying each of these positions and their implications for human flourishing.

rule of law

April 7, 2015 at 9:30 am, Student Center Theater Room

"The Rule of Law": Current Status
James E. Fleming, Nadine Strossen, Steven Simpson, Tara Smith

Rule of law:  the just application of law that emphasizes no one is above the law.

Rule of law: an ideal we strive for as a society or government.

The meaning of the term is as varied as the many political debates that have invoked it. The University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs' “BB&T Speaker Series” hosts a panel of experts in the fields of law, civil liberties and philosophy to discuss “The Rule of Law: Current Status.”  The event begins at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 7 in the UH Student Center Theater.  It is free and open to the public.

“This distinguished panel of scholars, from various backgrounds and viewpoints, will share their thoughts on a fundamental principle separating democracies from dictatorships,” said Jim Granato, professor of political science and director of the Hobby School. “The policy implications are profound, since ‘rule of law’ considerations in the United States cover the entire spectrum – from national security to domestic policies.”

Restorative Justice


Economic Crisis: Causes, Consequences and Remedies

Bill White

September 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm, University Center Theater Room 103/203

America's Fiscal Constitution: Its Truimph and Collapse
Bill White

What would Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Truman, and Eisenhower have done about today’s federal debt crisis?

America’s Fiscal Constitution tells the remarkable story of fiscal heroes  who imposed clear limits on the use of federal debt, limits that for two centuries were part of an unwritten  constitution. Those national leaders  borrowed only for four extraordinary purposes and  relied on  well-defined budget practices to balance federal spending and revenues.  

That traditional fiscal constitution collapsed in 2001.  Afterwards—for the first time in history—federal elected officials cut taxes during war, funded permanent new programs entirely with debt, grew dependent  on foreign creditors, and claimed that the economy could not thrive  without routine federal borrowing.

For most of the nation’s history, conservatives fought to restrain the growth of government by insisting that new programs be paid for with taxation, while progressives sought to preserve opportunities for people on the way up by balancing budgets. Virtually all mainstream politicians recognized that excessive debt could jeopardize private investment and national independence.

With original scholarship and the benefit of experience in finance and public service, Bill White dispels common budget myths and distills practical lessons from the nation’s five previous spikes in debt. America’s Fiscal Constitution offers an objective and hopeful guide for people trying to make sense of the nation’s current,  most severe debt crisis and its impact on their lives and our future.

What's Fair? A Lecture Series on Justice and Desert in America

sister helen

October 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm, Honors Commons

The Death Penalty and Prison Reform in Texas
Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions.  She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry.  She considers herself a southern storyteller.

Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph.  She spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students.  Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and began working at Hope House from 1981 – 1984.

During this time, she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at Angola.  She agreed and became his spiritual adviser.  After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience.  The result was Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.  It became a movie, an opera and a play for high schools and colleges.

Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners.  She has accompanied six men to their deaths.  In doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty.  This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which was released by Random House in December of 2004.

Sr. Helen is presently at work on another book - RIVER OF FIRE: MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY.

Speakers Archive

Fall 2013-Spring 2014

Fall 2012-Spring 2013