The Great Debates series will host its spring events at Rose State College's newly refurbished Learning Resource Center in Midwest City, Oklahoma. (William W. Savage III)

Does income inequality translate into economic inequality? What caused the massive increase in the wealth of the average person since 1800, and what do we need to do to keep it growing? Are there trends in society that are giving individuals greater control over their lives?

The community is invited to dive into these questions in the Great Debates: Power, Politics, & People series of panel discussions at Rose State College this spring semester. The panels will cover each of these topics in depth and will include viewpoints from across the ideological and political spectrum.

Sponsored by the Social Sciences Division at Rose State and funded by the Institute for Humane Studies, the Great Debates series explores important issues facing the school’s students, our communities and the nation at large. Experts from across Oklahoma and from diverse perspectives will offer their distinct insights. Students, faculty and community members have the opportunity to hear from and engage with academics, civic leaders, journalists and political practitioners from across Oklahoma on these important topics.

Income inequality to be first issue discussed Feb. 6

On Feb. 6, the first panel will explore the issue of income inequality. How is it measured? What causes it? Is this measure equivalent to “economic inequality”? If not, what is the difference? What, if any, should be the appropriate public policy responses to income inequality? These are questions confronting policy makers at all levels of government as well as academics and civic leaders.

Not everyone agrees that income inequality is the definitive measure of broad-based economic growth within society. Moreover, some argue that the steps often recommended to address income inequality will actually hurt the poor rather than help them. If you want to know more about this topic and engage with individuals who actively research and make recommendations regarding it, mark down Feb. 6 on your calendar for what should be a great conversation.

See below for the Nov. 14, 2017, discussion on the Electoral College:

Future panel to discuss rise in living standards March 6

The discussion shifts on March 6 to an issue that has economists, political scientists and sociologists curious to investigate and explain — namely, the tremendous rise in living standards of the average person over the past 200 years.

Economic historians have noted this increase in a variety of places, but there is a great debate over the source of this growth in wealth. Additionally, there have been some that have indicated that the living standards for the very poorest Americans are not much different than for those in third-world countries. Have living standards improved? By how much? And what caused this apparently dramatic increase? What should policy makers do to continue this growth trajectory? These important questions will be addressed on March 6.

On April 3, the role of the state in a liberal society

Finally, on April 3, we will examine some trends in society that give individuals greater control over their lives. These include the emergence of self-driving cars, the growing trend of self-identification in gender/race, increasing educational options for students and parents and the rise of the “gig” economy.

As individuals become accustomed to gaining more decision-making power over their own lives, more control over their futures and greater power to define who they are and will be, what is the implication for the role of government? Will this lead to a reduction in the involvement of the government in the daily lives of citizens? Or will it lead to increased demands for government services and protections for individuals? These interesting trends in society will be explored along with their implications for the role of the state.

What audience members can expect

In each of these discussions, Prof. James Davenport, the coordinator of the Great Debates: Power, Politics, & People series, will lay out an argument regarding the topic. The invited panelists will respond to his claims from their own perspectives. Each panel will also include an opportunity for audience members to ask questions of either Davenport or the panelists.

Each of these discussions are free and open to the community. They are held in the second-floor special events area of the Rose State College Learning Resource Center. Each panel will begin at 2 p.m. and last about 90 minutes.