Peter Calcagno is an Associate Professor of Economics at the College of Charleston. He earned his B.S. in Economics and History from Hillsdale College and Ph.D. in Economics from Auburn University. Professor Calcagno has previously worked at Wingate University, Jacksonville State University, and Georgia State University. He is particularly interested in Public Choice Economics, and Political Economy. In 2008 he received the School of Business and Economics Distinguished Teaching Award. He is currently the founding director of the undergraduate program the Initiative for Public Choice & Market Process, which seeks to advance the understanding of the economic, political and moral foundations of a free society.
What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
I like to read, cook, and I am a big college football fan.
What drew you to the Austrian school and to the Ludwig von Mises Institute?
I did my undergraduate work at Hillsdale College and there Austrian economics is the norm. I was extremely fortunate that Richard Ebeling was at Hillsdale while I was there and I had several classes with him including a course in Austrian economics, which the economics majors asked him to teach. I became aware of the Ludwig von Mises Institute while in college and went to my first Mises University in 1991. Richard served as a mentor and encouraged me to pursue a career in academics and guided me to Auburn University where I ended up a fellow with the Institute.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Historically, Mises and Hayek’s work have been great inspiration for me as I continue to find new insights in reading their work. More contemporarily, I am inspired by some the younger Austrian scholars Peter Klein and Peter Boettke. They both demonstrate the future of Austrian economics and work to keep it at the forefront of the discussion.
Can you explain what PAC’s are and are they prevalent within the current administration?
PAC’s (political action committees) are the legal lobbying groups for firms and other special interests groups. As long as special interests dominate the political process PACs are relevant. The recent issue of earmarking is related as these groups seek special favor, and the more we move toward a rent-seeking society allowing unproductive or political entrepreneurship we see these groups grow and hold favor.
Do you have any works on the way?
I have an article on the causes of divided government at the state level. We find that increases in government spending results in voters to seek divided government, which is an encouraging finding.
What kind of impact do you hope to make with your work?
I hope to encourage new scholars and promote free markets by exposing them to Austrian economics and public choice theories. I hope to demonstrate that the political process is not the sollution to economic problems or improve economic well-being. The public choice theory demonstrates the problems with the political process and the Austrian theory demonstrates why free markets and private entrepreneurship are the ways to address these issues. I want to examine interesting questions that will make students and others want to learn more about economics and understand why free markets and liberty are the way to a prospersous society.
Are there any words of wisdom you wish to pass onto the next generation of Austrian scholars?
While we need to understand the historical and methodology aspects of the Austrian school we need to build on this work. Young scholars need to apply the Austrian theories to examine new areas of research or expand existing areas. Can we continue to develop Austrian business cycle theory, can we demonstrate that government regulation removes or reduces economic calculation. I think Austrian scholars need to use a variety of means to apply the theories including empirical work and experiments and work to have their research published in mainstream journals.
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