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Janus Forum Debates

PTI sponsors a series of student-run debates through its Janus Forum Student Society. Janus, the god who looked two ways, is the symbol for this debate society. The Janus Forum invites to campus prominent intellectuals with distinctly different points of view to debate a topic. Other debates will be led by AU faculty or AU students. Every student club on campus that deals with moral and political questions may have a member on the Janus Forum Student Society Board.

2016 Debates

"Can Capitalism Be Fixed?"
Megan Mcardle v. Bhaskar Sunkara

Tuesday, March 1st
8:00-10:00 pm, SIS Founders Room

Megan McArdle is the author of The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success (Viking, 2014) and is a Washington, D.C. based columnist for Bloomberg News. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, Newsweek, and other outlets.

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder and editor of Jacobin magazine and has been called by the New York Times one of the "breakout stars" of the young new left. His new book is a co-edited volume, The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century (Metropolitan Books, 2016).

"Causes of Poverty"
William Darity v. Isabel Sawhill

Monday, February 1st
8:00-9:30 pm, SIS Founders Room

The Political Theory Institute at American University hosts a Janus Forum conversation between two noted experts on poverty and inequality. William Darity is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African-American Studies and the Director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University and has written widely on structural causes of inequality. Isabel Sawhill is a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and has written on family structure and poverty, including most recently Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage (2014).

2015 Debates

"The Future of Inequality"
Larry Bartels v. Tyler Cowen

Wednesday, March 25th
8:00-10:00 pm, Butler Boardroom

Larry Bartels, Vanderbilt

Larry Baretls, Vanderbilt

Larry Bartels holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. His scholarly work focuses broadly on American democracy, including public opinion, electoral politics, public policy, and political representation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the National Academy of Sciences. His 2008 book, Unequal Democracy, appeared on a New York Times list of "economics books of the year" and won the Gladys M. Kammerer Award for the year's best book on U.S. national policy. He is also the author of P residential Primaries and the Dynamics of Public Choice which won the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the year's best book on government, politics, or international affairs as well as co-editor of Mass Politics in Tough Times (2014, with Nancy Bermeo) and Campaign Reform (2000, with Lynn Vavreck). His upcoming book (with Christopher Achen) is entitled Democracy for Realists. Bartels has served as vice president of the American Political Science Association, president of its Political Methodology section, and chair of the Board of Overseers of the American National Election Studies. He is a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation and an occasional contributor to the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog.

Tyler Cowen, George Mason

Tyler Cowen, George Mason

Tyler Cowen is Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and also Director of the Mercatus Center. He received his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 1987. His book The Great Stagnation: How American Ate the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better (2011) was a New York Times best-seller. He was recently named in an Economist poll as one of the most influential economists of the last decade and last year Bloomberg BusinessWeek dubbed him "America's Hottest Economist." Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of its "Top 100 Global Thinkers" of 2011. His latest book Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation (2013) focused on the implications of growing inequality. He also co-writes a highly-regarded economics blog at, and he has recently initiated an online economics education project,

Janus Forum Speaker Bios

Gender Roles: Nature or Nurture?
Camile Paglia v. Jane Flax

Economic Inequality: Causes and Consequences
Charles Murray v. Timothy Noah

The NSA and Privacy General
Michael Hayden v. Barton Gellman

The Role of Art in Liberal Democracies
Roger Kimball v. Farhang Erfani

Is Gay Marriage Good for America?
Jonathan Rauch vs. Justin Raimondo

How Should You Vote?
William Kristol vs. William Galston

Are The Benefits of American Global Leadership Worth The Costs?
Christopher Preble vs. Jamie Fly