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Monday, June 2, 2014

College Students Explore “Being Good Enough for Liberty” with FEE and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism

FEE and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC) partnered for a Memorial Day weekend seminar at Clemson University, bringing in more than 50 students from across the United States and around the world. The seminar, titled “Liberty, Free Markets, and Moral Character,” concluded FEE’s Spring Seminar series.

Speakers hailed from a variety of disciplines and professions: Craig Biddle, the editor of The Objective Standard; C. Bradley Thompson, professor of political science and executive director of CISC; and FEE’s very own Max Borders, editor of The Freeman; to name a few.

Together, their expertise wove a strong argument for free markets and for why principled morality is critical to their success as a system. Dr. Aeon Skoble, philosophy department chair at Bridgewater State University, opened with “Value: Subjective or Objective?” and followed up with “Contrasting Other Ethical Bases for Liberty.” Professor Tom W. Bell, an accomplished consultant and current faculty member at the Chapman University School of Law, provoked more critical examination of state power by introducing the concept of “polycentric law,” a term he himself coined. Bringing an Objectivist perspective into the mix, Dr. Andrew Bernstein, who is the 20132014 Hayek Visiting Scholar at CISC, posed questions like “Is Money the Root of All Evil?” and discussed the importance of the “Trader Principle.”

Topics were interdisciplinary, and viewpoints within those topics were equally diverse. Early in the seminar, Dr. Anne Bradley presented “A Christian Perspective of Natural Rights,” inspiring discussion about the role of religion in deriving human rights. An expert in theology and its relationship with economics, Dr. Bradley provided a compelling argument that the Bible supports free markets as a way to encourage human thriving. Her second presentation, “Path to Flourishing,” lent an optimistic end to the seminars as she reminded students, “Capitalism saves lives.” 

Capitalism also improves our lives, as Borders proposed in his lecture on entrepreneurship. He described those who add value to society by entrepreneurship and risk-taking as the “makers” and those who found success in leveraging political power as the “takers.” He walked his audience through a thorough and fascinating discussion of the relationship between the makers and the takers, and proved that “makers” still exist despite the increasing influence of the “takers.”

Tying many of these ideas (and more) together, Borders and Biddle faced off in “The Arena” on the last day for a debate about whether moral diversity is an asset or liability for the liberty movement.

Throughout the weekend, students chatted between lectures with faculty members and staff from The Undercurrent (an Objectivist publication). Clemson’s picturesque campus and socials at the nearby Esso Club were the perfect setting for students and lecturers to further discuss lecture topics, foray into overarching issues, and foster friendships while integrating new ideas into their understanding of the freedom philosophy.