Author, political philosopher explores democracy’s...

Author, political philosopher explores democracy’s flaws with MTSU guest lecture [+VIDEO]

The Political Economy Research Institute invites MTSU students and the campus community to attend an on-campus public event at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, featuring author and Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan speaking on issues with democracy.

The presentation, Debating Democracy: Do We Need More or Less?”, will be held Thursday in the Student Union Ballroom C, 1768 MTSU Blvd. (Watch the full lecture below.)

Brennan’s talk draws upon his academic research and recent book co-authored with Hélène Landemore published by Oxford University Press. 

Dr. Jason Brennan, Georgetown University professor
Dr. Jason Brennan

Brennan’s research explores the systematic flaws of democracy, where he finds that our democratic system does not and cannot work the way most of us commonly assume. As Brennan posits in his book, democracy compels people to demonstrate their allegiances, often through undesirable behavior and actions.

When it comes to voting, Brennan says voters in democracies are often misinformed and vote for their parties for tribalistic reasons rather than to advance their interests. 

“Democracy does not convert popular opinion into power. Instead, for most voters, politics is less about policy than it is about signaling their loyalty to their peer groups. It may be the best system we have so far, but making democracy work means acknowledging its systematic flaws, keeping democracy in its place and being willing to look for methods of overcoming its problems,” says Brennan.

Those interested in attending the MTSU lecture on Oct. 20 are asked to register online to participate. An audience Q&A session will immediately follow the lecture.

Off-campus visitors can obtain a one-day permit at, or they may park in the university’s Rutherford Boulevard Lot and ride the Raider Xpress shuttle to the Student Union Building.

Political Economy Research Institute logo

The lecture, made possible by the MTSU Distinguished Lecture Series, will be livestreamed in partnership with the Jones College of Business Lifelong Learning Series. The event is also made possible with support from Dr. Ming Wang’s Cosmopolitan Initiative Lecture Series, established with the PERI to help create an open dialogue at MTSU to explore ways to promote a prosperous society.

Area high schoolers also part of discussion

As an opportunity for educational outreach, the Tennessee Council on Economic and Free Enterprise Education, or TNCEFEE, at MTSU is hosting students from several area high schools at Brennan’s presentation to learn about democracy and voting systems.

Those high school students also will be attending a morning workshop led by MTSU Dale Carnegie Course instructor Paula Calahan on civil discourse before Brennan’s talk.

Dr. Maria Edlin King, Director, Center for Economic Education (Tennessee Council on Economic and Free Enterprise Education)
Dr. Maria Edlin King

“This workshop is an excellent opportunity to teach students to disagree agreeably, with a conversation about the traits of being civil with peers who have and express opinions contrary to what the student believes. I’m thrilled to be able to combine this workshop with Professor Brennan’s talk,” said TNCEFEE Director Maria King.

PERI Director and MTSU economics professor Daniel Smith said he’s excited to welcome students to hear Brennan’s engaging and accessible talk on democracy. 

“Events like these introduce younger minds to ideas and theories that are not commonly taught in high school or undergraduate-level courses. We hope these conversations inspire students to learn more and understand topics that impact our quality of life,” said Smith.

Dr. Daniel Smith, director of the Political Economy Research Institute; associate professor in Economics and Finance
Dr. Daniel Smith

The PERI is also co-hosting an evening event on Oct. 20 with Brennan presenting his thought-provoking talk, “Why It’s OK to Want to Be Rich,” which explores the contested intersection of wealth and altruism.

That event begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Richland Country Club in Nashville and is being presented by the American Institute for Economic Research’s Bastiat Society.

Brennan is the Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He specializes in politics, philosophy and economics and is the author of 15 books and over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Stay up to date with the latest MTSU student programs and community events hosted by the Political Economy Research Institute on social media on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter. Contact PERI Program Director Brian Delaney at for more information.