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Policy Forum VII: The Philosophy and Practice of Economic Policy in Oklahoma

What is at stake?

Economic development is part of our lives, even if we may not use the term to describe what we see.  But all too often we all see it as the concern of experts, of policymakers or elected officials.  Our lives are busy, and so much of what is discussed seems hard to put into everyday terms that make sense.  To address this matter the seventh installment of the CU Public Policy Forum will first discuss the major economic trends in Southwest Oklahoma, after which Mayor Mike Brown of Weatherford will share his views with us.  He will give concrete examples of how small towns and cities in Southwest Oklahoma are grappling with the issues surrounding economic development, drawing on his experiences as mayor.    Following a break for refreshments, we will examine the general principles and values that underpin our current economic system. Then it's your turn as we conclude the conversation with an open-ended question and answer session in which presenters and the audience will exchange views.  And we are especially excited about the potential for this year's discussion as it will include members of the Weatherford and Lawton/Fort Sill metropolitan areas.

Public Policy Forum VII Poster Image

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Throughout the presentation and panel portions of the event, the following questions guided the event:

  • What are the philosophical underpinnings of the current economic system?
  • What are some of the current economic trends in Southwest Oklahoma?
  • How can philosophy inform economic policymaking in city hall?

What is The Data?

This lively forum featured some really first-rate speakers coming at the issue of economic development from a range of perspectives.  Tony Wohlers opened the proceedings with a thorough overview of the approaches to thinking about economic development and the economic, political, and cultural landscape of economic development across Oklahoma.  He was followed by Stephen Ellis of the OU Department of Philosophy who provided some interesting perspective on how municipalities should weigh, on the one hand, the potential economic gains of development, with the social and cultural needs that communities need to address on the other.  He argued for a balance between these two perspectives to be determined by each community.  Finally Mayor Mike Brown provided a fascinating and stimulating profile of how he and his staff have approached economic development in Weatherford.  It emerged that in Weatherford community leaders see economic development as a cooperative enterprise that engages as many community stakeholders and institutional assets as possible.  The policy-making differences between cities and towns with a strong mayor vs. those with a city manager also emerged from his remarks.  Below please find the substance of the two academic presentations from this edition of the forum:

The Policy-Making Landscape in Oklahoma: Tony Wohlers, "Revisiting Economic Policy and Economic Performance in Oklahoma"

The Intersection Between "Economic" and "Social" Goals in Local Development Policy: Stephen Ellis "Philosophy and Economic Practice"

How am I involved in Economic Development?

Whether we know it or not, economic development is all around us.  When a sales tax initiative passes to fund a stadium for a local sports team, that's economic development.  If a volunteer group of which we are a part cleans up a park and more people use it, that's economic development.  If you speak to your community leaders about how things might be improved, that too is economic development.  So the question is not whether you are involved, but how you will choose to be involved.

Do I have a role in the debate?

Without question each of us has a part to play.  We might do this by becoming a more integral part of our neighborhood in some way.  We might do this by becoming more focused on ballot measures and other matters that come before us as voters.  Or we could perhaps take a more active part in one of our community's institutions such as a local school.  The key is that each of us make the connection between these everyday acts that all of us can perform and the positive impact on the community and its economy, and we hope that the resources here will assist in that.

What and where is the forum?

Public Policy Forum VII will take place on March 8, 2013 in the Center for Emerging Technologies and Entrepreneurial Studies (CETES) Conference Center on the main campus of Cameron University in Lawton. The event is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. and will conclude with a panel discussion at 12:00 p.m.  Refreshments will be served.

Who are the presenters and panelists?



Position Paper Title

Michael Brown

City of Weatherford

Mayor of Weatherford “The Practice of Economic Policymaking”

Steve Ellis, Ph.D.

University of Oklahoma

Professor of Philosophy “Morality and Economics”

Tony Wohlers, Ph.D.

Cameron University

Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Academic Enrichment “Revisiting Economic Policy and Growth in Southwest Oklahoma”

Questions and Registration

For questions and registration, please contact:

Dr. Tony Wohlers, Forum Organizer

Tel: (580) 581-2496
Fax: (580) 581-2941 


Dr. Douglas Catterall, Speaker Coordinator

Tel: (580) 581-2949
Fax: (580) 581-2941

Online Registration

Given the space available, we encourage you to register for the event in advance by clicking here


This program is funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the We People Initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed during Public Policy Forum VII do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH. We also thank the Cameron University Lectures and Concerts Program for partial funding of the event. We thank them all for their support and encouragement of the project.


Oklahoma Humanities Council                                      Cameron University

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