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Peer Review

Frequently Asked Questions About Capitalism



Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Apr 20, 2001 by Business Editorial Board
Overview: The web site presents arguments to support a philosophy of that promotes capitalism as a just economic and social system. The underlying theory is then contrasted with several real world examples in which this view of capitalism is violated. The ?theory? and ?practice? of capitalism thus presented is one interpretations of the Austrian school of economic thought. That this is but one school of thought is NOT made clear by the web site.
Type of Material: Reference material
Technical Requirements: None.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The goal is to present a philosophical foundation for capitalism and to apply those principles to a series of real world (counter-) examples where they appear to be violated.
Target Student Population: Advanced business, economics and philosophy students who have access to materials that will allow them to compare and contrast schools of economic thought.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: This is a solid combination of a philosophical discussion of the founding principles of capitalism with brief analysis of practical situations where the philosophy could be applied. Good material for a History of Economic Thought or Business Ethics course or perhaps to stimulate debate in an introductory business or economic principles course.
Concerns: Adopts an authoritative, almost political, tone in some ?answers? to these Frequently Asked Questions. The ?Practice? section draws conclusions without identifying the underlying assumptions that are being made. In particular, many of these issues have been addressed more fully in the economics literature and a more balanced writing style, perhaps recognizing the limitations that are commonly encountered in implementing these ?solutions,? would be useful for critical analysis by students. Of course, the instructor could provide other material to counter the arguments made by this site. Some of the examples appear dated.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: This site serves two purposes:
1. To introduce students to a philosophy of capitalism that promotes the morality and justness of rationality (man acting in his own self-interest). This is a lesson we impart to our own classes.
2. To promote the political implications of the application of this philosophy to cases of political economy (minimum wage laws, welfare laws, pollution laws, racism) without firmly establishing the underlying assumptions and foundations
Concerns: While both of the above purposes can be of value to educators, we shall be conservative in the evaluation of the content as an effective teaching tool. The web site seems to promote the arguments of a single (and more radical) school of economic thought, the Austrian school as it is sometimes called. While this can serve as a tool for stimulating debate, students should not have this material presented as ?the? foundation of capitalism, but instead, should have access to alternative (and perhaps more representative of the mainstream consensus) discussions of capitalism as well. This site is not designed to promote discussion of non-Austrian school points of view. Therefore, the instructor should use this site with caution.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: 1. The simplicity of the web site design makes for superb usability.
2. Some of the web pages that are linked from this site appear to be of superior quality.
3. The reference section lists further readings on this subject.
Concerns: 1. This is a text-only website. There are no interactive elements ? visitors passively read the material.
2. Although some links were still active, some links were broken.