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Editorial board Foreword

Volume I Issue I

Introducing the inaugural issue of JPPE

The ambition to start an international, interdisciplinary, academic journal of philosophy, politics, and economics was one that emerged as much as a consequence of a desire to take a new approach to undergraduate scholarship as it was motivated by an affinity for an old idea: ‘philosophy, politics, and economics’ (PPE).


PPE is famously a product of the University of Oxford, which, in the 1920s, began to amalgamate the three disciplines into a single degree that could provide a strong, yet broad foundation for future policymakers. And in this regard, the program succeeded. Many major British politicians and public figures—from the Labour Party’s Ed Miliband to Former Prime Minister David Cameron to Christopher Hitchens—studied PPE at Oxford.


It is important when considering the emergence of PPE, however, to recall the relative radicalism of the concept at the historical time period in which it emerged. Just as the Russian Revolution came to a close and the First World War left Europe devastated, the United Kingdom began to experience high unemployment. It was in this context of political strife, growing inequality, and seemingly insurmountable threats to global peace and human livelihoods that PPE emerged as a concept that could help spur the thoughtful ethical, political, and economic decisions that might affect positive change.


And yet, despite the success of Oxford’s PPE program and the stunning propensity of the program’s top graduates to take seat in British Parliament today, it has not crossed the Atlantic to achieve the same popularity. Much of this is a consequence of a particularly English affinity for generalists; however, whatever the reason, this Journal holds that the failure for PPE to take off in the United States has been a shame. Though PPE has been criticized at times as an academic experience that produces broad knowledge as opposed to deep knowledge, the interdisciplinary program is, at its core, the single most effective tool to analyze modern circumstance as a social scientist.


Brown University, to its credit, has seen nascent developments in PPE programming. Every year, students look to pursue Independent Concentrations that mimic Oxford’s program, and the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Society, which, like this Journal, is sponsored by the Political Theory Project, highlights this growing trend.


We created the Brown University Journal of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics to encourage the growth in PPE-related academic work on Brown’s campus and, most importantly, to provide young people with a space to debate and put forth academic arguments that can kindle the discussions that ultimately transform communities and entire democracies.


In achieving in this end, our Journal dedicates itself to five guiding principles.  


First, we value interdisciplinary understanding. By shifting toward a more broad approach to social sciences, the debates, which are too often compartmentalized, are made more accessible and inclusive. In each issue of JPPE, we aim to highlight the best economic arguments alongside the best philosophical and political arguments. This could for instance illustrate, at once, the ways in which a discussion of the minimum wage can be understood as a question of economic efficiency and as a question of political feasibility, as well as a moral proposition that asks important questions about the permissibility of income inequality. What results from this is not a dearth of deep knowledge, but rather a broad understanding in which the sum is greater than each of its individual parts. The bold idea of this Journal stems from a belief that the lenses of philosophy, politics, and economics are not only useful to considering contemporary circumstance. They are all essential.


Second, we value diversity. In order to create a space that effectively reflects the character of contemporary debate among young people, as well as the issues most motivating the next generation of leaders and thinkers, it is essential that diversity of views and backgrounds are highlighted. As a non-partisan publication, we strive to highlight a range of political arguments so long as they are rigorous, thoughtful, and conceived in good faith. And though our Journal selects submissions name-blind, we are committed to promoting an inclusive environment for all our employees, welcoming staff members regardless of ethnic origins, gender, religious beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, or age. This doesn’t just make us a more responsible organization, it makes us a better journal.


Third, we value academic rigor. As an academic publication, we are committed to publishing the highest levels of student scholarship, and we require that submissions be well written, well argued, well researched, and innovative. In creating this Journal, however, our publication’s founders recognized the limits of undergraduate experience and knowledge as a means to assess the quality of scholarship. For this reason, our Journal is peer-reviewed, receiving guidance and feedback on what essays to publish from a team of over 25 eminent scholars.


Fourth, we value free thinking and original arguments. Though many essays we receive are pieces that have been written for a classroom environment and thus may be confined to answer a particular array of questions in a smaller paradigm than academics might, we have been consistently impressed by the unique ideas students have put forth. It is the aim of our Journal to highlight these pieces of original analysis, which are too often tucked away into the cupboards of forgotten undergraduate work.


Fifth, we value and desire to play an integral part in stimulating global leadership among young people. Though we are an academic publication, we aspire to influence discussions among undergraduates that can help spur re-evaluation, action, and change. In placing an emphasis on global leadership, we recognize that the real value of our Journal comes less through the answers our authors provide than through the discussions they encourage and the audacity of the ideas they propagate.

The inaugural issue of our Journal you are now reading perfectly reflects our five guiding principles. In “A More Perfect Union”, for instance, the author encourages readers to more closely analyze the relationship between liberalism and national unity, pondering how a liberal democracy should best understand its relationship to patriotism. And in the “Latent Effects of Cannabis Legalization”, we publish original research on the criminalization of marijuana and its disproportionate effects on black communities.

This edition also features pieces from two significant American leaders: Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Both mayors are important figures on the frontlines of local policy that seeks to make economic growth in the 21st century more inclusive and competitive, reducing the barriers to entry and ordinances that too often discourage participation in the American economy and in our democracy. We asked both mayors to highlight their achievements on this front not only as a means to highlight examples of effective local policy implementation, but also in order to more profoundly integrate the literature of future leaders with the work already being done by current leaders.

We believe that all of these elements have helped us put forth a powerful combination of essays, and we hope JPPE will be a place where young people can go to consider new ideas and offer innovative solutions to addressing today’s ethical, economic, and political challenges. Our team is united by a shared love of argument, problem solving, and a deeply felt desire to help contribute to conversations that can so greatly impact livelihoods.  


And in a time where the world is rapidly changing, as forces like technological disruption, globalization, climate change, and political polarization threaten to vastly alter our human experience this century, young leaders will undoubtedly be called upon to develop new ideas to solve the challenges we face. JPPE aims to both facilitate and be a part of this great conversation.

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