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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

FEE Brings Markets and Innovation to “The Golden State”

More than 40 students from around the world descended upon Chapman University in Southern California to attend FEE’s third college Summer Seminar of 2014, “Making Innovation Possible.” Students in attendance came as far as the Republic of Georgia, India, Egypt, Guatemala, and Ecuador to hear proponents of a free society speak on science and innovation.

Melissa Yeoh, an economics professor turned entrepreneur, opened with a compelling argument for why economic thinking is essential to understanding both the world and how society innovates, as well as making decisions in our own lives. Yeoh discussed the many similarities that economics has to the hard sciences, like physics or chemistry, and explained essential economic concepts like subjective value and sunk cost.

Jeffrey Tucker, founder and CEO of, discussed the free flow of ideas as being necessary for entrepreneurship. Tucker touched on the importance of exchanging smaller ideas, with their cultivation being the ultimate factor that leads to innovation. He also spoke on the economic forces required to create a thriving scientific community.

Michael Malice, an accomplished author, examined the science behind endangered species. He explained how species come and go, adapt and reappear after becoming “extinct,” unbeknownst to experts in the field. Using the example of cockroaches in a home, Malice related the issue of endangered species to the Hayekian knowledge problem. Malice explained the difficulty in determining man’s contribution to the extinction of different species due to the vast amount of local knowledge of their migration, population, and adaptation.

Isaac Morehouse, founder and CEO of Praxis, an intensive 10-month professional program, discussed the inefficiency of democracy at solving problems. He attributed the inefficiency partially to elections being a poor way of gauging society’s wants and desires. Morehouse explained how the electorate often favors restrictions that benefit smaller businesses over big corporations like Walmart, but then shop at the very businesses they claim to oppose. He also touched on free-market alternatives to NASA, as well as the morality of capitalism.

FEE livestreamed a debate on the final day, “Does Technology Make Us More Free or Less Free?” Morehouse moderated the dialogue between Tucker and Albert Lu, managing director of WB Advisors, LLC, and cofounder of The Woodlands Bullion Company. “[Technologies] are carving out a new zone of liberty for us all and diminishing the power of the state to control us,” according to Tucker, who took the affirmative.

“On the one hand, it saves us from life-threatening illness, liberates us from laborious drudgery, and connects us in ways we never before imagined,” responded Lu. “On the other, in the hands of a tyrant, technology becomes an instrument of deception, theft, and, in the worst case, mass murder.”

The seminar was a continuation of FEE’s Summer Seminar series for high school and college students. Upcoming college seminars include Problem Solving 101 in Golden, Colorado, and Life Is Improv in Decatur, Georgia.