By establishing this award, Dr. Glassheim hopes to encourage critical analysis of capitalism’s claims, especially: whether there is such a thing as a self-regulating “market” based on self-interest; whether corporate capitalism functions by different rules than small scale capitalism; and whether unregulated capitalism is good for the economy, the environment, and the common good.

The contest is non-partisan and prioritizes no specific ideological position. IPPL welcomes all submissions as long as the essay is representative of thoughtful reflection and critical evaluation of the contest themes.

This contest is only open to students who will be enrolled at The University of North Dakota during the academic year following the submission deadline. The prize is awarded as a scholarship. 

Questions about the contest should be sent to


Is having a stronger social net (universal healthcare, universal basic income, etc.) against American values? (1500-2000 words)

It is no secret that when Americans fall, they fall hard. Medical bills bankrupt families, simple mistakes destroy futures, and poverty persists in families for generations. One way to solve this problem is to make the United States more like other countries: give everyone comprehensive health insurance, for example, or make welfare programs more robust, or provide university students with free education. Advocates say these are the only means to diminish the income inequality that comes from American-style capitalism, but critics call these solutions “socialism,” and claim they limit individual freedom. Which is it? Do democracies like ours have a responsibility to provide for its worst off and if doing so is socialism, might that mean that socialism is actually a good thing?

How to write it:

The point of this essay is to examine the controversy and connect to it key philosophical ideas. You may take any position you want, including finding some middle ground, but you must explain the opposing positions in the debate. Compare arguments and evidence for each side—persuasively argue against yourself while you defend your ultimate conclusion.

The essay must conclude with a clear and definitive position. It should strive to be fair, not polemical, and can connect examples from popular culture, literature, science, or any other arena that helps clarify the controversy. It may also use evidence from political science, anthropology, psychology, history, economics, sociology, or any other discipline that asks about the human social experience. However, it is first and foremost a philosophy essay and the argument must be philosophical in character. Examples from other disciplines should complement, not eclipse the philosophical argumentation.

The essay should be written for a general audience, not for a class or a teacher. Do not think of it as a research paper, but more like a magazine article or long-form blog post. It should be clear, thoughtful, and accessible to an average college student, not super-technical or confusingly abstract. The essay should not have extensive quotes or excessive footnotes, although it should have some quotes, at least. Classroom assignments will not be accepted without significant revision. Prospective authors are encouraged to look at previous years’ essays to see some winning examples.

Finally, essays will not be evaluated on what position they argue for, but on how well they argue that position. All conclusions have equal opportunity to win. IPPL is non-partisan and non-ideological.

Where to start:

We encourage you to find secondary sources from newspapers, magazines, and reputable websites, to bolster your position. But again, all roads must lead to philosophy. Since this is a philosophical essay, it should examine the key ideas and terms found in and around the question. Explicit connections to specific philosophers and schools of thought are welcome, although these ideas and references must be presented without using jargon or overly academic prose.

Some examples of relevant philosophical questions are: Is income inequality unjust? What is socialism? How much assistance can a government provide and still be called capitalist? How much risk is reasonable in a just society? To what extent does the free-market advantage certain races or sexes? Does democracy require a specific economic system? What responsibilities do we owe others? Can America learn from the examples of other countries? Is American unique and exceptional? Is taxation immoral? How do we balance individual freedom and community? Do we have the responsibility to help others? Is health care a right or a privilege? Is universal basic income solely a utopian idea? What are the moral limits of the free market? Is the inequality exacerbated by inheritance unjust?  


Entrants must be enrolled as a UND student in 2022-2023 (either part-time or full-time). Only one’s own work can be submitted, and group essays are not eligible. Essays must be original, never published, and be between 1500 and 2000 words. Prize money will be dispersed through UND in the form of a scholarship.

Submission deadline: March 1, 2022.
All entries should be submitted via UND’s scholarship central:
click here to sign in using your UND user name and password. 

Previous Winners

click on the title to read past winning papers:

“Does what we buy represent who we are?”

2018 winner
Matthew Scott Johnson.

Citizen Glassheim


Eliot Glassheim’s father was a businessman, a Rockefeller Republican. His mother, a special education teacher, was a Democrat. From them, he learned he learned the art and potential of compromise, the importance of respect and decency in public life, and the rightness of listening to people who might think differently.

For more than four decades, that has been the Eliot Glassheim way in Grand Forks. He brought those two parts of himself here from his New York origins, not as hobbling contradictions but as a template for honest engagement in public life. As a poet, philosopher, Educator, bookseller and activist—as a long-serving City Council member and state legislator—he has earned the title he prizes above all others, that of citizen.

He enjoys vigorous argument, but there is no spite, no dishonesty in it. He craves engagement despite an enduring shyness, and he listens actively, never passively. He can be eloquent and self-deprecating, New York urbane and North Dakota nice, and he is among the best at making a serious point with humor. He has taken to radio, TV and newspaper editorial pages, as well as to the City Council chambers and the floor of the North Dakota House of Representatives, to defend the idea of self-government at a time when many see government as the source of their problems, not the answer.

He literally wrote the book on the essential role of kindness in public life: Sweet Land of Decency: America’s question for a more perfect union.

We are a better community for it, and we say: Well done, citizen Glassheim.

— Written by Chuck Haga, from Eliot Glassheim: A Day of Recognition, May 2, 2015.

Some books that influence Eliot’s thinking:

Paul Goodman, Communitas.

Earnest Hemmingway, Old Man in the Sea.

Arthur Miller, The Crucible

He was particularly influenced by the 1957 film version of the Crucible, co-written by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Arthur Miller, Death of A Salesman.

Charles E Silberman, Crisis in the Classroom.

Thomas Wolf, Look Homeward Angel

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States.


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