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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Are Markets Just?

Students from around the world discuss the social implications of free markets

Students gathered at St. Edward’s University for the second of FEE’s 10 summer seminars in order to analyze the economics, morality, and politics of markets. Fifty-seven students and four thought-provoking speakers sought to answer the question, “Are markets just?” touching initially on general economic markets and then applying such knowledge to specific circumstances for an invigorating discussion over the course of three days.

Sandy Ikeda kicked off the seminar by explaining how economists think, setting the stage for the upcoming lectures. Joshua Dunn followed, giving a philosophical argument on the states of nature, focusing on Locke and Rousseu’s positions on property and equality. These talks laid the groundwork for both Jason Brennan’s talk, which explored some difficult economic cases such as sweat shops, and Cathy Reisenwitz’s address of social mores, especially racism.

The lectures on Tuesday followed in the same vein of excellence set forth on Monday. The speakers addressed consequentialism vs. natural rights (Dunn) and how the same players react according to different institutions (Ikeda), and a lively trading game explored the benefits of trade. The afternoon discussions consisted of the effects of government power (Ikeda), redistribution ethics and Rawls (Dunn), and finally, the positive power of entrepreneurs, using Uber as a powerful example (Reisenwitz).

Evenings and meals sparked invigorating conversations as the lectures led to insights and friendships among individuals of all backgrounds. Students traveling from across the globe provided a unique perspective to the justness of markets that enlightened all in attendance.

Throughout the seminar, both students and faculty emphasized the importance of challenging one’s beliefs. On Wednesday, Snehal Shingavi of the University of Texas at Austin and Max Borders of The Freeman afforded the participants the opportunity to do just that. In the Arena K.O. Series, Borders defended free markets while Shingavi critiqued the consequences of free markets with respect to the question, “Is Inequality a Problem That Needs Fixing?” (watch the Livestream here). Following the debate and closing out the seminar, Brennen discussed the morality of capitalism and socialism, concluding that capitalism holds the higher and more practical, moral ground.  All involved left the seminar with a greater sense of the characteristics of markets in general as well as the superior morality of free markets.