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Honors College student presents at economics conference


Honors College Student Presents Research at Prestigious Economics Conference

February 18th, 2013 (Jupiter, FL) – For Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College student Stephen Jones, the last three years of his life have been about discovering his passions and pursuing his academic goals. Now a senior at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, Jones has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to present his original research at the Public Choice Conference held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana. For Jones, this presentation is just one more academic milestone he has crossed, and he looks forward to other opportunities to continue his higher education, both in and out of the classroom.

Jones, who is concentrating in Economics and pursuing a double minor in Political Science and Mathematics, insists that the key to his academic success was starting to look for research opportunities early in his academic career. “Even in my freshman year I started writing down all of my thoughts that could potentially become my honors thesis,” he says. At this point, Jones’s list of potential topics is about nine pages long. While only one of those ideas has matured into his current thesis topic, he insists that the process of recording each of his potential topics has been rewarding. Some of his ideas have developed into academic papers, and he has already begun to plan which topics he will approach next. Nevertheless, for now his focus in on his thesis research and the fast-approaching Public Choice Conference in March.

Jones’s thesis, titled “Why Security is but a Symptom: Understanding the Persistence of State Failure,” has taken him several semesters to complete. His research, which builds on the work of Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, examines the issues of state failure through a public choice perspective. Jones argues in his thesis that the failure of a national government is due to a lack of laws, combatting the theory that state failure is the result of a lack of security. Buchanan’s economic theories focused mainly on democratic, relatively-successful nations where the government functioned as it was intended, and the laws were well established. “My questions deal with states where the opposite is true,” explains Jones. “I think a better way to understand how conflicts arise is to focus on what I call the ‘alegality’ of those nations, which is just the exceptionally low level of the rule of law.” Jones points to Buchanan’s concept of the Leviathan Government, which consists of a completely unconstrained form of national leadership, as the source of many of these nations’ problems. However, international relations scholars have cited problems with national security and infrastructure as the source of state failure. “I’m seeing security as a symptom, because for me it’s directly related to law-breaking and a lack of law,” says Jones.

While publishing original research in the form of his honors thesis will be a huge success for Jones, the chance to present at the Public Choice Conference may be the highlight of this year’s academic accomplishments. The Public Choice society will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary at this year’s conference, and will be offering sessions dedicated to the society’s past presidents, one of whom was the late James Buchanan. Jones is overjoyed to be presenting his research in front of other members of his field and among other students of Buchanan, whose work has been such an important part of Jones’s undergraduate experience.

Looking into the future, Jones hopes to continue to present and publish his work in the field of economics. His immediate plans after graduation include, however, returning to the continent of Africa to put his knowledge in economics and international relations into practice. Jones has been to Africa three times, once to complete an internship with the State Department in the Democratic Republic of Congo, once to work as a volunteer in Kenya, and once to learn Swahili in Tanzania with funding from a Boren Critical Language Scholarship. Right now, Jones is in the process of pursuing a position with a mining company in the Democratic Republic of Congo that would allow him to work in community development, helping to manage the company’s grant process and foster positive relations with the surrounding community.  Jones is also considering entrance into graduate school; however, he says that he would love to have some more academic publications in his name before he returns to the classroom.    

Wherever he goes in the future, Jones is determined to pursue his career goals in the same manner that he approached his undergraduate experience: by taking advantage of every opportunity he is afforded. He encourages his fellow students to do the same. For him, finding his niche in the academic world has been a great adventure, the first of many more to come.

Byline: Megan Geiger (HC student)

Last Modified 11/21/13