This year, I teach two courses, a PPE course called "The Moral Foundations of Market Society," and "The Political Economy of Entrepreneurship."

The central project in both courses is what I call the Ethics Project. Here's the description from the syllabi:


Think of something good to do. Do it.

The goal of this project is for you to do something that adds value to the world. To help you complete the project, the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics will provide each group with $1000. However, the university regulates how the money can be spent, and so using the money will require you to navigate complicated spending rules and to deal with often capricious administrators.

On one of the last two days of class, your group will make a presentation that answers the following questions. You will also write up a report answering these questions, due on the last day of class.

How did you interpret the imperative to do something good? Did you focus on moral or nonmoral goodness? Why? How did you decide about the tradeoff between what’s most desirable in itself and what’s most feasible? What were your opportunity costs? How did you allocate labor in your group? What obstacles did you expect to encounter and how did you pre-emptively plan to overcome them? What obstacles did you in fact encounter, and how did you respond? Did you add value to the world, taking into account the costs of your time, effort, and any money spent? Did you succeed or fail, and by what standards should we judge you? What did you learn? What would you have differently?

For your final project, write up a paper explaining what you did or tried to do, why you thought it was good to do, what happened along the way, whether you succeeded or failed (and by what measure?), and what you learned. You will also present your project to the class at the end of the semester. Presentations needn’t be formal, but should be informative and worth everyone else’s time.

One big tip: Historically, every project turns out to be at least 100% harder than students expect. Every project encounters unforeseen obstacles. Groups that start early usually overcome the obstacles; groups that start late usually fail. You can wait until the night before an essay is due and still pass in a decent essay, but no one can do an Ethics Project a week before it’s due. Start working on it earlier than you think you need to.