Thirteenth Annual Fall Ethics Symposium

The Ethics of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Monday and Tuesday, November 5 - 6, 2018

Redwood Room (University Union), Sacramento State (Monday, November 5)

Recital Hall, Cosumnes River College (Tuesday, November 6)

Symposium Flyer

In what ways can innovation and entrepreneurship contribute to the social good? How have innovation and entrepreneurship been vehicles for drastic improvements in living standards and human well-being? What stands in the way of these benefits extending to more and more people?

This event is free and open to the general public. Here is the registration page.

Here are links for Directions and a Campus Map for Cosumnes River College. Here are links for Directions and a Campus Map for Sacramento State.

Symposium Program

Monday, November 5, 2018: Sacramento State, Redwood Room (University Union)

8:30 am - 9 am: Morning Refreshments, Coffee/Tea

9 am - 9:20 am: Greetings and Opening Remarks (Link to YouTube video)

Kyle Swan
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Director, Center for Practical and Professional Ethics
California State University, Sacramento

Tonya Williams
Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences
Instruction and Student Learning
Cosumnes River College

Katherine Cota
Executive Director, Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
California State University, Sacramento

Christina Bellon
Associate Dean for Budget and Assessment
College of Arts & Letters
California State University, Sacramento

Sean Denney
Senior Project Manager
Institute for Humane Studies

9:30 am – 10:50 am Session #1: Exploring the Darknet: What the Internet Black Market Can Tell Us about Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Julia Norgaard, Assistant Professor of Economics, Pepperdine University

Abstract: What is the DarkNet? What can it tell us about entrepreneurship and innovation? This talk explores these and many other questions about how the world's largest black market can inform surface markets in our dynamic economy today. We will discuss the role that reputation plays in these marketplaces as well as the private governance mechanisms that have emerged and what allows them to persist.

11:00 am - 12:20 pm Lunch Break

Registered participants are invited to stay for lunch.

12:30 pm – 1:50 pm Session #2: Why Entrepreneurship Theory Matters: Economically, Politically and Morally (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Alexei Marcoux, Professor of Business Ethics & Society, Heider School of Business, Creighton University

Abstract: There is a great deal of agreement that entrepreneurship is important, but much less agreement about what it is. By appealing to classic accounts advanced by economists Joseph Schumpeter (entrepreneurship as creative destruction), Frank Knight (entrepreneurship as bearing the uncertainties of enterprise), and Israel Kirzner (entrepreneurship as opportunity recognition and exploitation) – and to what philosophers Nicholas Capaldi and Gordon Lloyd in their book Liberty and Equality in Political Economy call the “Technological Project” – I argue that the question “What is entrepreneurship?” is of more than mere terminological interest. Significant questions of normative political economy and public policy turn on what we understand entrepreneurship to be.


2 pm - 2:20 pm: Reception, Light Refreshments

2:30pm - 3:50 pm Session #3: Rent Seeking and Inequality (Link to YouTube video)

Main Speaker: Steven Teles, Professor of Political Science, John Hopkins University

Abstract: Most accounts of the growth of inequality ascribe the phenomenon to either the intensification of markets and/or the absence of sufficient remedial action on the part of government. While both of these factors are important, the argument that I draw from my recent book with Brink Lindsey, The Captured Economy, suggests that a growth in top-end rent seeking is also an important factor. That is, at the very time that market-level factors like globalization and technology are increasing the payoffs at the top, the advantaged have become increasingly effective at locking in and expanding their status through various forms of market distortions. From finance to intellectual property, from occupational licensing to distortions of the housing market, from tax policy to the structure of higher education, the relatively wealthy have captured the structure of policymaking at the same time that rents at the bottom (like unionization) have come under significant strain. The talk will explore these dynamics, and suggest changes in the structure of politics that could remedy them, along with the new kinds of political coalitions that would be required to effectuate them. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018: Consumnes River College, Recital Hall

8:15 am - 8:45 am: Morning Refreshments, Coffee/Tea

8:45 am - 9 am: Greetings and Opening Remarks 

Rick Schubert
Professor of Philosophy
Cosumnes River College and Executive Director
CRC-CPPE Fall Ethics Symposium Series

Tonya Williams
Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences
Instruction and Student Learning
Cosumnes River College

Edward Bush
Cosumnes River College

Sean Denney
Senior Project Manager
Institute for Humane Studies

The entire program from Tuesday (Sessions 4-6) was recorded and broadcast on Access Sacramento. A link to the On Demand broadcast is HERE.

9 am – 10:20 am Session #4: A Government Permission Slip to Work? Occupational Licensing as a Barrier to Work and Entrepreneurship

Main Speaker: Lisa Knepper, Director of Strategic Research, Institute for Justice

Abstract:  More American workers than ever now need a permission slip from the government — an occupational license — to legally do their jobs. Securing such a license often requires costly and time-consuming education or training, passing an exam, fees and more, effectively erecting fences around licensed occupations that keep aspiring workers out. This talk will examine the national landscape of occupational licensing, review research on its costs and potential benefits, and share stories of workers and entrepreneurs struggling against — and overcoming — licensing barriers. It will raise for discussion ethical questions about the adoption and enforcement of licensing laws, the justifications for erecting barriers to work, licensing’s impacts on certain populations, and the legal environment in which licensing laws operate.

10:30 am – 11:50 am Session #5: Complement, Co-Worker, and Complete Replacement: The Three Stages of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace

Main Speaker: Karl Smith, Senior Fellow, Niskanen Center


I discuss three stages that I think Artificial Intelligence will go through, what AI will mean for workers and what kinds of public policy responses we might want to use. The first stage is one familiar to most economists, AI will be just like technologies of the past, just more powerful. It will increase productivity, destroy some jobs, but create others. There are obstacles for us to navigate but they are at least familiar. 

The second stage is where AI becomes able to interact autonomously using natural language. While the goal of current research in this area is to allow AI to interact naturally with humans it also allows for the AIs to interact with each other even if they have not been specifically designed to do so. The effects of AI-to-AI workplace and market interaction creates a type of dynamism that policy is unprepared for. Computer-to-computer financial trading gives us a sense of what can happen but more general AI-to-AI interaction will create much more profound change.

The last stage is a complete replacement of human workers with AI. Despite the dismal response by many economists, there is actually every reason to expect that this is not only possible but, indeed, likely unless something about the nature of technology changes. This will have dramatic effects on society but not the ones commonly envisioned. 

12 pm - 1:20 pm Session #6: Is Entrepreneurship Beneficial for Constitutional Democracy?

Main Speaker: Gregory Price, Charles E. Merrill Professor of Economics, Morehouse College

Abstract: This talk will discuss Prof. Price's research on whether or not self-employment builds trust in institutions essential for a functioning constitutional democracy. Any favorable nexus between self-employment and constitutional democracy has implications for the downward secular trend in self-employment. If the trend toward less self-employment and entrepreneurship continues, the value of a constitutional democracy itself could erode.

1:20 pm - 2:50 pm Lunch Break

Registered participants are invited to stay for lunch.


This event is made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies, Charles Koch Foundation, Sacramento State Center for Practical and Professional Ethics, Cosumnes River College Office of the President, Cosumnes River College Center for Professional Development, Wagenlis Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, and Access Sacramento.