This annual essay contest awards a $500 – $750 scholarship to the university of North Dakota student who submits the best essay on a question related to the theme Capitalism and the Public Good.

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

This year’s (2020) question:

“Should American multinational companies like Apple, Blizzard, Google, and the NBA promote democratic values around the world even if it means losing profits, or should they abide by local government wishes, including censoring people and information?”

(1500-2000 words)

Those of you who follow the news will have learned about sports figures and gamers being punished for supporting Hong Kong protestors, and about Google being criticized for restricting their search results to please the Chinese government. You will also, no doubt, have heard about the backlash. Critics have called these companies un-American agents of oppression, and they have a point. These are American companies after all, and if supporting democratic freedom is a moral obligation, corporations are duty-bound to promote it.

On the other hand, the controversy is not as simple as it may seem. Even if democracy is the best form of government, corporations are not politicians, nor are they activists. All businesses are expected to abide by local regulations, and public companies’ boards of directors are required by law to maximize profits for their stockholders. It is not in their mandate to take political stands. In short, these companies are being asked to choose between their own bottom lines and the moral high ground, between their own self-interest and the common good. Which path should they follow?

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. All conclusions have equal opportunity to win. IPPL is non-partisan and non-ideological.

Entrants must be enrolled as a UND student in 2020-2021. Essays must be original, never published, and between 1500 and 2000 words. Prize money will be dispersed through UND in the form of a scholarship.

Submission deadline: March 1, 2020.
All entries should be submitted via UND’s scholarship central:
click here to sign in using your UND user name and password. 

Download a high-quality poster of this year’s competition here.

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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