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Thursday, June 4, 2015

FEE and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism Kick Off Seminar Season

A great success to open summer seminar season


Fifty-eight students from six different countries gathered at Clemson University over Memorial Day weekend to kick off FEE’s summer seminar season. The seminar, entitled “Communicating Capitalism,” was held in conjunction with the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC).

Lecture topics ranged from an overview of classical liberalism to techniques on how to promote and advance liberty in today’s society, with the underlying theme of learning how to defend capitalism on moral grounds.

Students had the opportunity to learn from a myriad of highly esteemed speakers, all of whom conveyed why capitalism is necessary for societies to flourish and backed up their rationale with economic as well as moral arguments.

Dr. Mark LeBar, a philosophy professor at Florida State University, kicked off the seminar with a discussion about classical liberalism and later lectured on various ethical bases for liberty focusing on three main theories: consequentialism, perfectionism, and rights-based.

Moving deeper into philosophic ideas, Dr. C. Bradley Thompson spoke on understanding self-interest. Thompson, the executive director of CISC and a political science professor at Clemson University, emphasized that self-interest is not about exploiting people or hedonism but rather the pursuit of one’s values with long range thought and a concept that should be treated as a moral ideal.

Thompson later spoke on the abolitionist movement. He provided an in-depth discussion on the strategy, rhetoric, logic, tactics, and result of this movement, which was completely rooted in individual liberty.

Inextricably linked to individual liberty, Dr. Craig Biddle lectured on human rights and the role of government from an objectivist perspective. Biddle is the editor of The Objective Standard, and he explained how rights are philosophically complex ideas, describing them as “moral prerogatives to act on your judgment.”

He also posited that the only role of government should be to protect people’s rights, and governmental force should only be used in retaliation against those who initiate a force that infringes on people’s rights.

Dr. Andrew Bernstein also discussed the government’s role in a capitalist society with his lectures on the history and public policy implications of capitalism. An author of several books, Bernstein’s public policy implications centered on education where he provided free market alternatives to the current public school system. Eloquently advocating liberty, Bernstein explained capitalism’s theme is that “a culture of reason and politics of individual rights leads to great advances in every field.”

While Dr. Bernstein portrayed exactly why capitalism is so effective, FEE’s beloved president Lawrence Reed drove home the point wholeheartedly. Reed provided inspiring lectures explaining moral defenses for capitalism and techniques for personally advancing liberty.

Emphasizing individual merit and character, Reed explained how capitalism is the only system that requires us to live to a high standard of character. Citing personal experience, he encouraged everyone to get motivated, never stop learning, and to be optimistic.

While not in lectures, students mingled during nightly socials and personal free time around the beautiful Clemson campus. A diverse body of students made for intriguing conversations about personal backgrounds, political views, and how particular lectures affected individual thinking. Faculty also actively engaged students outside of lectures, allowing for further questions and general conversation.

“Communicating Capitalism” came to a close with a lively debate entitled, The Path to Liberty: Philosophic or Pragmatic? between Craig Biddle and Andrew Jason Cohen, author of Toleration, a Polity Key Concepts Series textbook. After the debate, students attended a final lunch where general discussion and questions to both Biddle and Cohen pertaining to the debate continued.

Throughout the weekend, students from around the world were exposed to great reasons and arguments as to why capitalism is the optimal economic system under which free societies prosper.

Equipped with new knowledge and the support of friends, these FEE alumni can now return to their respective cities, states, and countries with the ability to effectively communicate the importance of a free society.


  • Nick Hanchey is a Summer Programs Associate at FEE. He is a senior at Georgia College & State University double majoring in Economics and Management.