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Quinn Connelly

Smith Soc Featured Member

Questions and Answers with Adam Smith Society Members.

Quinn Connelly | Vanderbilt Chapter

QuinnQuinn Connelly is a second-year MBA student at Vanderbilt University. Previously, he worked as a legislative assistant in Congress, where he advised on energy, environmental, and economic policy. Last summer, he worked at Duke Energy, and he is interested in the utility sector. Quinn grew up in Cincinnati before moving to the U.K., where he earned an M.A. in modern history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He attended our trek in Scotland and, most recently, the 2018 National Meeting.

Congratulations on making the WSJ opinion page this week. What was the genesis of that piece?

Like many others, I’ve been moved by Jordan B. Peterson. Peterson is a skilled synthesizer of ideas, known for his ability to draw upon psychology, philosophy, science, religion, and the great works of Western civilization.

The genesis of this piece was the realization that while Peterson is well-known as a psychologist, his ideas often have concrete economic applications. Behavioral economists, such as Richard Thaler, love looking at economics through the lens of psychology. I thought it would be worthwhile to do the opposite, and look at Peterson’s psychology through the lens of economics. In doing so, I came up with the WSJ opinion piece.

You’ve also been featured on RealClearMarkets over the past few months. One of those pieces culled the 12 best reads for life, MBA edition. How did you aggregate the list?

I love reading nonfiction in general, and business books in particular. Throughout my MBA experience, I’ve kept track of books that were particularly useful and insightful. A few were assigned reading, but most were discovered organically. For me, aggregating the list was a way to organize my favorite books along the lines of a typical B-school curriculum. Simply put, these books can be thought of as an “MBA in a box.”

You chose to go abroad to St. Andrews for your undergraduate education. What about your education there most influenced your thinking?

My sense is that higher education in the U.K. is narrower and deeper than it is in the States. For instance, I studied only two subjects—history and economics—almost exclusively. St. Andrews follows the “Oxbridge” system, which requires students to attend regular tutorial sessions. These small-scale tutorials were academically challenging because they forced me to rigorously analyze and defend my thinking. You can’t “fake it” when you’re engaged in an intimate, hours-long discussion with the professor. Overall, I’d say this intense and interactive approach to education most influenced my thinking.

As you may have seen, we’ll be hosting a golf outing and discussion group on Adam Smith’s modern relevance today. Outside of Smith, if you could choose one economist and -shockingly have the public instantly understand and appreciate his or her writing and its relevance today, who would it be and why?

If I could choose only one economist, it would be Thomas Sowell. He is the intellectual heir to Milton Friedman, and his no-nonsense prose is both provocative and powerful. In a recent interview, Steven Pinker named Sowell “the most underrated writer.” I can’t help but agree.


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