UAB Magazine Online Features
Examining an Economic Expert
By Glenny Brock
Friedrich Hayek's warnings against the dangers of government intervention have won the late economist a new following. But Hayek's views are more complex than many of his fans realize, says UAB philosopher and economist Erik Angner.
Austrian economists are hot these days. In 2010, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek, which was originally published in 1944, rocketed to the top of Amazon’s list of bestselling nonfiction books—propelled in part by praise from commentator Glenn Beck. Hayek’s warning against the dangers of government intervention has earned him renewed attention in recent years, but his ideology was far more nuanced than many of his fans may realize, says Erik Angner, Ph.D., UAB assistant professor of philosophy and economics, director of the UAB Center for Ethics and Values in the Sciences, and author of the book Hayek and Natural Law (2007: Routledge). Here, Angner offers a closer look at a man who is often described as one of the key economists of the 20th century.
Opposition to Intervention
Unlike many contemporary authors who write about Friedrich Hayek, UAB's Erik Angner (above), says he approaches his subject as a scholar rather than a proponent or critic.
Angner explains that contemporary conservatives like Hayek for his opposition to government intervention in the marketplace. They emphasize three main tenets of his philosophy:
1. Government intervention leads to increased debt and inflation, particularly when the government spends money it doesn’t have.
2. Economic control is, in effect, political control. For instance, monetary policy defined by a central banking authority represents government encroachment on overall freedom.
3. Individual freedom is a precondition for prosperity. “Hayek believed that the price system fulfilled a critical function in society, and the price system only works if people can choose freely what to buy and at what price” Angner explains. Consequently, Hayek opposed government monopolies and price ceilings or floors that limit consumer choice. Moreover, Hayek believed that interference with the price system could be the first step toward government intervention in other aspects of people’s lives.
New Devices Zap Excess Pounds, but Are They Safe?
By Tara Hulen
Fat-zapping lasers and other new technologies offer appealing nonsurgical options for weight loss, but the techniques may not be for everyone.
For every woman who has squeezed into torturously tiny shapewear and every man who wants to flatten a fleshy spare tire, fantasy has now become reality. Two new devices recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can cause fat cells to die and disappear, along with an inch or so of bulges. But they aren’t for everyone, a UAB expert says.
Zeltiq freezes fat cells and causes them to shrivel and die over several months; Zerona uses low-level laser therapy to purge fat from surface-level cells over a period of weeks. The treatments don’t produce the same results as liposuction, but they offer a noninvasive option to smooth small trouble spots without any incisions, anesthesia, or downtime, and typically they are less expensive than surgery.
Mixing Military Life and Medical School
By Doug Gillett
Jason Patten (left) and Scott and Rozalyn Love are three of approximately 20 students from the UAB School of Medicine who are serving in the military in some capacity.
These days Jason Patten is most likely found in one of two places: in a classroom at the UAB School of Medicine, or in the cockpit of an F-16 high above Alabama.
After six years of training and flying with the Air National Guard post in Montgomery, Patten began applying to medical schools in 2006. Now he’s a third-year student living two of his childhood dreams at once—being a doctor and a fighter pilot. “It’s a lot of work balancing everything, but it’s worth it,” he says. “I have no complaints.”
The balancing act means that Patten sometimes must attend classes, then drive to Montgomery the same night to practice his dogfighting skills with fellow pilots. And regular deployments to the Middle East have challenged him to keep up with classes from 5,000 miles away.
UAB Focuses on Food Security
By Glenny Brock
David Buys and Heather Lee are part of a campuswide effort to educate students and the Birmingham community on ways to improve "food security," or access to healthy foods.
Viewed from above, Birmingham’s urban landscape reveals plenty of office buildings, parking decks, retail centers, roads, and houses. What you won’t see, in certain parts of town, are grocery stores. Instead, you’ll spot convenience stores, often sandwiched in between two or three competing fast-food franchises. These are “food deserts,” the increasingly common term for urban districts whose residents lack access to fresh, healthy food.
Birmingham has dozens of food deserts, but solutions are beginning to take root. In addition to more than two dozen community gardens across the metro area (many of which are located at schools and churches in low-income neighborhoods), a network of farmers markets, food-recovery programs, community-development organizations, and local business groups are working on issues of food security, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” According to a 2008 report from the agriculture department, 13.3 percent of households in Alabama don’t meet that definition.
Until now, UAB’s role in the local “food justice” movement has been almost entirely research-based. But according to David Buys, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate assistant in the UAB medical sociology program, that dynamic is changing with the launch of the UAB Hunger and Food Security Initiative (HAFSI). “It’s about bringing together community work and course work, activism and research,” Buys says.