The Saurman Provocative Lecture Series

San Jose State University Department of Economics presents the Provocative Lecture Series, a forum to raise intellectual arguments on a variety of thought-provoking topics, offered in memory of David S. Saurman, Ph.D., former Professor in the Department of Economics.

This lecture series fosters the tradition in higher education of challenging ideas and developing critical thinking in an environment of respect and intellectual discourse on controversial topics. Presenters in the Provocative Lecture Series are noted for their outstanding scholarship and public speaking ability; students, faculty, the general public, as well as the media are invited.

Our goal is to help students and life-long learners develop the critical thinking skills necessary to reach their own informed positions on controversial issues. We invite you to attend, relax, ponder, and enjoy the thought process at upcoming lectures. You can also enjoy viewing recordings of past lectures at the video archive.

If you would like to support The Saurman Provocative Lecture Series, please see donation details

Please sign up for a zoom link via GoogleForm

(Students and Faculty, please use your SJSU email address).

Upcoming Lectures

Spring 2021

Thursday April 22, 2021 5:30-7:00pm (pst)
Bart Wilson
Professor, Donald P. Kennedy Chair in Economics and Law 
Director, Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy
"The Property Species: Mine, Yours, and the Human Mind", flyer (pdf)

Bart J. Wilson will explore how humans acquire, perceive, and know the custom of property, and why this might be relevant to understanding how property works in the twenty-first century. Arguing that neither the sciences nor the humanities synthesizes a full account of property, Professor Wilson offers a cross-disciplinary compromise that is sure to be controversial: Property is a universal and uniquely human custom. Integrating cognitive linguistics with philosophy of property and a fresh look at property disputes in the common law, Professor Wilson makes the case that symbolic-thinking humans locate the meaning of property within a thing. That is, all human beings and only human beings have property in 
things, and at its core, property rests on custom, not rights. Such an alternative to
conventional thinking contends that the origins of property lie not in food, mates,
territory, or land, but in the very human act of creating, with symbolic thought, something new that did not previously exist.

Bio: Bart J. Wilson is the Donald P. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Economics and Law at Chapman University. He is a founding member of the Economic Science Institute and founding member and Director of the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy. His research uses experimental economics to explore the foundations of exchange and specialization and the origins of property. Another of his research programs compares decision making in humans, apes, and monkeys. Bart has published papers in the American Economic Review, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, and Nature Human Behaviour. His research has been supported with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Federal Trade Commission. In 2019 he co-authored with Vernon Smith a Cambridge University Press book entitled, "Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century."

Wednesday February 24, 2021 5:30-7:00pm (pst)
Gary Hoover, Ph.D.
Tulane University, Professor of Economics and Executive Director of the Murphy Institute
"Why the Study of Economics Neglects Race, and What Can be Done About It?" flyer (pdf)

Past Lectures


March 18, 2020-to be rescheduled
Roberta Q. Herzberg, Ph.D.
Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics The Mercatus Center at George Mason University
“The Challenging Political Economy of Medicare-For-All”
flyer (pdf)

April 14, 2020-to be rescheduled
John A. List, Pd.D.
Professor, University of Chicago
“What can we learn from Uber? Three Large Scale Field Experiments on Tipping, Apologies, and the Gender Pay Gap”
flyer (pdf)


November 19, 2019, Tues. 
Marc Joffe, MPA
Sr. Policy Analyst, Reason Foundation
“Bringing Fiscal Sanity to California Infrastructure Policy” flyer (pdf)

October 30, 2019, Wed. 
Alex Tabarrok, Ph.D.

Professor, George Mason University
“Patents, Intellectual Property, and the Rise of the Rent-Seeking Society” flyer (pdf)

September 18, 2019, Wed. 
David Skarbek, Ph.D.
“The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System”, flyer (pdf)

April 23rd, 2019 
Robert L. Bradley, Jr.
“Mixed-Economy Entrepreneurship: What is a Capitalist to Do?”, flyer (pdf)

March 18th, 2019  
Linda Royster Beito, Ph.D., Professor, Stillman College. Ph.D. University of Alabama
“T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer", flyer (pdf)

February 19th, 2019  
Channy Chhi Laux
"The Cambodian Genocide and Communism", flyer (pdf)


November 8, 2018 
Howard Root, 
Founder and CEO of Vascular Solutions, Inc.
"Who Watches the Prosecutors?", flyer (pdf) 

October 10, 2018  
Adam Andrzejewski, 
CEO and Founder of Open the Books
“Knowledge is Power”, flyer (pdf) 

September 27, 2018  
Safwan Shah, Ph.D, 
CEO and Founder PayActive
“Helping Low-Income Workers Get Ahead: A Market Solution”, flyer (pdf) 

April 11, 2018 John Cochrane
“The Old Lady, the Fly and the Horse: an Outline for Economic Reform”, flyer (pdf)

March 20, 2018 Clark Neily
"Incarceration Nation - How America Became the World's Leading Jailer", flyer (pdf)

February 28, 2018 Jacob T. Levy
"Black Liberty Matters", flyer (pdf)

View past lectures via the video archive