All roads lead to Rome—Rome, Georgia, that is. This past week, students and faculty from across the United States assembled at Berry College to attend FEE’s seventh Summer Seminar of 2014, Econ in Unexpected Places.
Angela Dills, associate professor of economics at Providence College, kicked off the seminar by introducing the basics of economic decision-making and the incentive structures that govern resource allocation. Professor Dills' lecture was followed by a reading discussion on Leonard Read’s I, Pencil, which examines the decentralized nature of knowledge, property rights, scarce resources, and the cooperation that free markets foster.
Expounding on these ideas, Professor Brian Brenberg of The King’s College demonstrated how the economic principles of a free market, such as strict property rights, can lead to greater literacy among the world’s population. Using The Lego Movie to examine the concept of spontaneous order, Professor Brenberg established that innovation stems from individuals and prospers best when unrestrained by the state.
Following Professor Brenberg’s lecture, students watched The Call of the Entrepreneur, a movie that emphasizes the role of entrepreneurship in the market process. But why is the free market the most efficient and just system?
Michael Clark, a professor of economics at Hillsdale College, answered this question by detailing why the institutions of free societies result in immensely prosperous societies relative to the poverty seen throughout much of the world’s history. Professor Clark contended that the prosperity of free societies stems from their appreciation and understanding of the Hayekian knowledge problem.
The Arena K.O. Debate: Would Market Regulation Be Best for Society? featured Peter Lindsay and Paul Cwik. Lindsay, skeptical of the equity of unregulated markets, suggested that “markets are the requirement of a free and prosperous society, but only if they serve, rather than subvert, the ends of such societies.” Lindsay concluded that regulation must accompany markets.
Conversely, Cwik argued that unregulated markets maximize prosperity and that coercive governments limit the ability of each person to develop and flourish. “Not all rules are bad, but they are like fire. When used sparingly and properly they are a great tool; otherwise they will burn down and destroy everything.”
To end the seminar, Cwik, a professor of economics at Mount Olive College, presented the morality of free markets, arguing that during feudalism, wealth was accumulated through coercion. However, this is no longer the case. Under free markets, one must serve others before one can accumulate wealth. In closing, Cwik encouraged the students to become lights for liberty in an increasingly darkening world.
Econ in Unexpected Places both introduced students to the foundations of a free society and encouraged them to continue to apply economic analysis to their everyday lives, whether in the classroom or somewhere unexpected.