Edward J. Lopez
Professor of Economics
BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism
Executive Director and Past President, Public Choice Society
School of Economics, Management,
& Project Management
College of Business
Western Carolina University
315E Forsyth Hall
Cullowhee, NC 28723

Welcome to my faculty page at Western Carolina University, where I am Professor of Economics and BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism. I teach courses in principles of economics, intermediate microeconomics, and the ethics of capitalism. I am also Executive Director and Past President of the Public Choice Society, and I oversee theĀ BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Programs, which offer research and educational programming for WCU students and faculty. Previously I was founding director (2015-2022) of WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise and oversaw the Free Enterprise Speaker Series.

Research Overview: I am a public choice economist focusing on political and legal institutions. I use the tools of economics to research the dynamics of social institutions, as interleaving sets of rules that govern people’s interactions. My work tends to situate institutional arrangements as the dependent variable, focusing on the origins of institutions and the process of institutional change through time. My early papers used natural experiments and econometric methods to model the political choice of institutions like term limits, eminent domain, teacher pay, committee assignments, and more. In later work, I began focusing on conceptual frameworks that incorporate non-market entrepreneurs implementing alternative ideas to create change, captured in my 2013 co-authored book with Stanford University Press and several recent papers (e.g., here and here).

Current Research: My recent and current paper topics include the cognitive origins of institutions, co-production of knowledge governance, formalizing informal institutions, U.S. fiscal history, bottom-up socialism, coordination between think tanks & academia, eminent domain in Michigan cf. North Carolina, and the economic thought of Nobel Laureate James Buchanan. I am currently writing my third book on the historical-institutional origins of today’s deficits and debt. On the horizon, I have planned a popular book that mixes the work of William Baumol, Armen Alchian, and Henry Manne to reframe design copyists as adaptive-imitative entrepreneurs. For abstracts and downloads of my current papers, visit my SSRN author page. For citations of past work, see my Google Scholar profile. You can also visit my Amazon author page to learn more about my books.

For more, please see my extended bio sketch and visit the links on the side menu. Thank you!