All Commentary
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

FEE Brings Econ to Activism in Arizona

Student activists learn the economic way of thinking

FEE and Americans for Prosperity Foundation partnered for a weekend event in the breathtaking Scottsdale Resort, bringing around 75 high school and college student activists from the larger Phoenix area.

The event kicked off with Scott Beaulier, Executive Director of Arizona State University’s new Center for Economic Liberty within the W.P. Carey School of Business. Dr. Beaulier, dived into economic thinking with deliberate examples to demonstrate incentives. He asked the students to imagine driving a car with no brakes, where one can still perhaps safely drive about 10-20 mph, compared to driving a car with a dagger coming out of the steering wheel. Another point Dr. Beaulier made was that being self-interested means having self-love, which includes loving others such as family.

While Dr. Beaulier introduced economic thinking as a whole, Mario Villareal-Diaz of the Institute for Humane Studies explored the ten principles of classical liberalism. “Liberty as the primary political value” was the first and most essential principle. Others included individualism, the rule of law, and peace.

While showing the photo above of the Koreas at night, he focused on the freedom of exchange (another principle of classical liberalism) that can create such a stark contract and division between a people of same ethnic origin, same language, religion, and natural resources.

FEE’s president, Lawrence Reed built on the principles of a free society that Mario established with a personal twist, encouraging students to develop the high moral character necessary to maintain such a society. Reed told the inspiring story of Thomas Clarkson who traveled thousands of miles and spent over forty-six years of his life working to stop the British slave trade and free those currently in slavery. He also spoke of blind Fanny Crosby, the first woman to address Congress and author of over 9,000 hymns, whose advice was “May we be the best we can be with what we have.”

After the insight from a few individuals with remarkable journeys, T.K. Coleman of Praxis gave the final talk of the day, inspiring students to build their own journey. Coleman mentioned how politicians say, “This is your one chance to change the world” when encouraging people to vote for them. He countered this statement with, “Every day you get to vote for yourself.” Coleman also reassured students about the reality of failure, saying it is scarier in theory than in practice.

In addition to listening to speakers, students played the trading game (learning firsthand about opportunity cost and the benefits of voluntary exchange in a free market) and peppered the speakers with questions in a final advice panel. With their newly gained knowledge of economics, the students were well prepared for the following day’s activism training provided by AFP Arizona.

  • Zena Aziz is the Spring Programs Associate at FEE and a graduate of Ohio State University.