Edward J. Lopez is the founding director of WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise, and Executive Director and Past President of the Public Choice Society. In the past, he has overseen WCU’s Free Enterprise Speaker Series and the BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Programs, which offer research and educational grants to WCU students and faculty.
Edward is a public choice economist focusing on institutional entrepreneurship. He uses the tools of economics to research the dynamics of social institutions, which are the interleaving sets of rules that govern particular decision settings. Edward tends to focus on the origins of institutions and the process of institutional change through time. His 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, Edward began focusing on conceptual frameworks that combine non-market entrepreneurs implementing alternative ideas to create change, captured in his 2013 co-authored book with Stanford University Press.
Recent and current paper topics include the cognitive origins of institutions, co-production of knowledge governance, 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.
Industry Expertise (2)
Writing and Editing
Areas of Expertise (8)
Economics of Ideas
Ethics of Capitalism
Principles of Economics
Law & Economics
Kent-Aronoff Service Award (professional)
2017 Association of Private Enterprise Education
Faculty Excellence Award (professional)
2018-19 Honors College Board of Directors, Western Carolina University
Excellence in Research Award (professional)
2014-15 College of Business, Western Carolina University
Distinguished Scholar Award (professional)
2014 Association of Private Enterprise Education
Most Valuable Player Award (professional)
2012 Department of Economics, San Jose State University
George Mason University: Ph.D., Economics 1997
George Mason University: M.A., Economics 1995
Texas A&M University: B.S., Economics 1992
- Political Economy in the Carolinas : Editorial Board
- The Independent Institute : Research Fellow
Media Appearances (5)
Guest opinion: Closing the digital divide in rural Utah
Utah Policy online
One recent study even found that the American economy as a whole is being harmed by the delays that result from our nation’s flawed pole rules. The study, conducted by Edward Lopez, a professor of economics at Western Carolina University, and pole attachment expert Patricia Kravtin, found that pole attachment delays cost Americans between $491 million and $1.86 billion each month.
Watch the Best in the West: North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District forum
Blue Ridge Public Radio online
Questions were asked from panelists Dr. Edward Lopez, professor of economics at Western Carolina University's Center for the Study of Free Enterprise; Richard G. Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Dewana Little, executive director of YMI Cultural Center; and Dr. Susan Mims, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust along with hosts Blue Ridge Public Radio Regional Reporter Lilly Knoepp and Smoky Mountain News Politics Editor Cory Vaillancourt.
BPR and Smoky Mountain News to host NC-11 candidate forum
Blue Ridge Public Radio online
Questions will come from Dr. Edward Lopez, director of Western Carolina University's Center for the Study of Free Enterprise; Richard G. Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Dewana Little, executive director of YMI Cultural Center; and Dr. Susan Mims, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust.
Pole Access Delays Cost Americans Millions a Month, Report Claims
Broadband Breakfast online
The report by Edward Lopez, a professor of economics at Western Carolina University, and pole attachment expert Patricia Kravtin concludes that allowing broadband providers to attach their equipment on utility poles “is the most efficient means to expand high-speed broadband access to currently unserved areas of the country.”
Outdated utility pole rules may threaten NH’s broadband expansion plans
NH Business Review online
New Hampshire currently ranks 33rd in the nation for broadband access, with over 45,000 Granite Staters still unconnected. That’s nearly 5 percent of all residents who still lack the connectivity needed to access digital learning, commerce, telehealth and government service opportunities to thrive in the 21st century. Fortunately, both New Hampshire’s public and private sector leaders have taken critical steps toward bridging the state’s digital divide and expanding broadband access to every corner of the state.
Individual Sovereignty and Coproduction of Knowledge GovernanceGoverning Markets as Knowledge Commons
2020 Common pooling of knowledge goods requires effective governance institutions to avoid over depletion or under provision. Following recent literature, this paper treats the institutions of knowledge goods governance as dually coproduced in provision and shared in consumption. I combine a notion of individual sovereignty from political economy with a scalar analysis of the knowledge content of goods exchanged within a community.
I, Vaccine: Or, How to Appreciate the Beautifully SimpleSSRN
2020 Who can’t feel good about the mind-blowingly short duration it’s taken to develop a safe and effective vaccine? For the same reason, we should also be amazed at the complexity of its distribution. The Wall Street Journal captures the point.
Rediscovering Buchanan’s rediscovery: non-market exchange versus antiseptic allocationPublic Choice
2020 While Buchanan is best known for the economics of politics and constitutions, his seminal contributions to this field are but one branch of his more underlying methodology and approach to doing social science. Buchanan’s fundamental project was to re-orient economics and social science toward an analysis of symbiotic exchange (catallactics) rather than of antiseptic allocation (optimization).
Socialism from the Bottom Up: Where Lawson and Powell Meet Hayek and BuchananSSRN
2020 What explains the recent resurgence of appeal and popularity of socialism in the United States? Why especially do people today like socialism when history and economics are clear that socialism as actually practiced has had disastrous consequences? These questions are taken up in the book Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World by Benjamin Powell and Robert Lawson.
A Cognitive Framework for the Social SciencesNDSU Public Choice and Private Enterprise Research Paper No. 18-5
2018 Using philosopher John Searle’s framework as developed by Guala and Hindriks and by Caton and López, we propose a cognitive framework for economic and social theory. Searle’s status function provides a grounding for a description of agent preferences. Agent preferences reflect valuations implied in the status function and are revealed as agents interact with the environment according to rules of behavior they have adopted.