Book Colloquium

Spring 2021

Each semester the Center for Public Choice and Market Process (CPM) sponsors the Economics Book Colloquium, in which students and faculty meet to discuss interesting contemporary writing in economics. In Spring 2021, the EBC will be reading "More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources―and What Happens Next" by Andrew McAfee. Registration is required.


Throughout history, the only way for humanity to grow was by degrading the Earth: chopping down forests, polluting the air and water, and endlessly using up resources. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the focus has been on radically changing course: reducing our consumption, tightening our belts, and learning to share and reuse. Is that argument correct?

Absolutely not. In More from Less, McAfee argues that to solve our ecological problems we should do the opposite of what a decade of conventional wisdom suggests. Rather than reduce and conserve, we should rely on the cost-consciousness built into capitalism and the streamlining miracles of technology to create a more efficient world.

America—a large, high-tech country that accounts for about 25% of the global economy—is now generally using less of most resources year after year, even as its economy and population continue to grow. What’s more, the US is polluting the air and water less, emitting fewer greenhouse gases, and replenishing endangered animal populations. And, as McAfee shows, America is not alone. Other countries are also transforming themselves in fundamental ways.

What has made this turnabout possible? One thing, primarily: the collaboration between technology and capitalism, although good governance and public awareness have also been critical. McAfee does warn of issues that haven’t been solved, like global warming, overfishing, and communities left behind as capitalism and tech progress race forward. But overall, More from Less is a revelatory and “deeply engaging” (Booklist) account of how we’ve stumbled into an unexpectedly better balance with nature—one that holds out the promise of more abundant and greener centuries ahead.

About the Author:

Andrew McAfee (@amcafee), a principal research scientist at MIT, studies how digital technologies are changing the world. His new book "More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources - and What Happens Next" will be published by Scribner in October of 2019. His prior book, written with Erik Brynjolfsson, is "Machine | Platform | Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future." Their 2014 book "The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies" was a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Financial Times / McKinsey business book of the year award.

McAfee has written for publications including Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The Wall St. Journal, the Financial Times, and The New York Times. He's talked about his work on The Charlie Rose Show and 60 Minutes, at TED, Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and in front of many other audiences.

McAfee and Brynjolfsson are the only people named to both the Thinkers 50 list of the world's top management thinkers and the Politico 50 group of people transforming American politics.

McAfee was educated at Harvard and MIT, where he is the co-founder of the Institute's Initiative on the Digital Economy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, watches too much Red Sox baseball, doesn't ride his motorcycle enough, and starts his weekends with the NYT Saturday crossword.

Discussion Leeder:

The Discussion Leader will be Dr. Peter Calcagno, Director of the Center for Public Choice & Market Process and Professor of Economics here at the College of Charleston. 


Colloquium information: 

  • The EBC is open to any interested College of Charleston students; it is not limited to economics majors.
  • The EBC meets every two weeks, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, on Wednesday from 3:00-4:15 via Zoom.
  • Participation in the colloquium is voluntary, and no course credit is given for participation. We request that you only sign up to participate if you expect to be able to attend all of the sessions in the schedule below.
  • All students should be prepared to discuss all of the scheduled chapters for each meeting. The format will be an open discussion but focused on the topics raised in the assigned readings. Importantly, this colloquium is not intended to be a lecture. Ideally, the professors will do little talking.
  • Participants receive their copy of the book free from the CPM.
  • This semester the Colloquium will be limited to 15 student participants. 


All meetings are Wednesday from 3:00-4:15 via Zoom.


February 3

  • Introduction: README
  • Chapter 1: All the Malthusian Millenia
  • Chapter 2: Power over the Earth: The Industrial Era
  • Chapter 3: Industrial Errors

February 17

  • Chapter 4: Earth Day and Its Debates
  • Chapter 5: The Dematerialization Surprise
  • Chapter 6: CRIB Notes

March 3

  • Chapter 7: What Causes Dematerialization? Markets and Marvels
  • Chapter 8: Adam Smith Said That: A Few Words about Capitalism

March 24

  • Chapter 9: What Else Is Needed? People and Policies
  • Chapter 10: The Global Gallop of the Four Horsemen
  • Chapter 11: Getting So Much Better 

March 31

  • Chapter 12: Powers of Concentration
  • Chapter 13: Stressed Be the Tie That Binds: Disconnection
  • Chapter 14: Looking Ahead: The World Cleanses Itself This Way

April 14

  • Chapter 15: Interventions: How to Be Good
  • Conclusion: Our Next Planet
 More from Less


Fill out the form below.