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Professor P. J. Hill Essay Award

A friend of Wheaton College has established an endowment for an annual essay contest in honor of Dr. P.J. Hill, who retired from the Wheaton College Business and Economics Department in 2011. The contest is open to all Wheaton College undergraduate students.

1st Prize: $750; 2nd Prize : $200; 3rd Prize: $50

The Impact of Modern Capitalism on Social Relationships

Does modern capitalism strengthen or weaken civil society? There is much disagreement among scholars about the impact on relationships between individuals of limited government, private property, and the extensive use of markets. Charles Murray, the noted social scientist, has argued:

Limited government permits people to live as isolated individuals, but the way limited government works in practice militates against that brand of individualism. In practice, limited government facilitates—virtually forces—a society to generate complex, rich and rewarding relationships that are based on cooperation and mutual help.

In contrast, other philosophers and social scientists believe that market societies under limited government foster what Canadian philosopher C.B. Macpherson calls “possessive individualism.” Using private property rights and market prices as the primary coordination system causes people to think mainly of themselves, not others. Market exchange drives out other social relationships and civil society is impoverished by the dominance of prices and individual rights. People in such a society do not develop a sense of moral obligation to others.

Defend one of the positions above, either arguing that market societies under limited government strengthen human relationships or such societies weaken those relationships.


Essays must not exceed 2000 words.  Please include a word count.

Essays should be submitted in electronic form to business.economics@wheaton.edu by February 21, 2022.  Please include a cover page with your name and contact information which will be removed so the judges can read the essay without identifying the author.   Please do not include any other identifying information.

The essays will be judged by three professors based on the substance of the essay and the quality of the writing.  The decision of the judging panel is final.

For more information on how your financial aid package may be affected by the addition of a college prize, please contact Student Financial Services. Please note that awards will be paid through SFS into student accounts.