FEE concluded its high school Summer Seminar series this week in breezy Grand Rapids, Michigan. Seventy students from as far as Nigeria gathered at Calvin College to learn about real world economic decision-making and the life changes that happen after graduation.
Sean Mulholland opened with an engaging overview of sound economic thinking and the benefits of both voluntary association and exchange. Students were invited on stage to participate in an auction to demonstrate the trend toward an equilibrium price in the market.
Lynne Kiesling opened the next day with a nice transition into property rights and the problems that result when they’re unclear. Using a continuum between clear and unclear property rights, Kiesling explained the differences in hard-to-define and easy-to-define property rights, such as air and land, respectively. In her second lecture, she involved students in an experiment to make the point that a minimum wage does more harm than good in helping the poor.
Bruce Rottman jumped into the relevance of rule of law and its importance to a free society in “Rule of Rottman or Rule of Law?” He also delved into Social Security and compared the system to a Ponzi scheme. Using an interactive game, he made the point that in its current form, it’s an unsustainable program that demands serious changes.
Isaac Morehouse, founder and CEO of Praxis, spoke on the value of a college education. He argued that besides professions that legally require degrees, a college education is neither a prerequisite nor valuable in obtaining a higher paying job anymore. Instead, he argued that students should set themselves apart by obtaining real world skills. Morehouse also talked about the failure of democracies to effectively gauge the opinions of their citizens, especially in the differences between stated opinions at the ballot box and trade-offs between goods and services.
Following an exciting faculty panel, the seminar jumped straight into a debate between Mulholland and Rottman titled, "Should We End the Fed?"
“There are alternatives to a life with a central bank: A world with freely competing banks, privately insuring deposits, with no government lender of last resort, and no government-induced booms and busts,” said Rottman, who took the affirmative.
In taking the negative, Mulholland questioned the effectiveness of closing the Federal Reserve’s doors and argued that doing so might incentivize Congress to wreak havoc on the economy with its rediscovered power to regulate commerce and coin money. “If we were to end the Fed, Congress would play a much more active role [in managing our fiscal and monetary policy],” he stated.
In a humorous and passionate closing lecture, Mulholland made a compelling argument for the morality of capitalism. His argument was that morality emerges when people are self-interested and interact through voluntary exchanges and self-interest actually helps us to help others.
Students not only learned about free markets and real-world economic decision making but also built connections with other students during free time by playing soccer and ultimate Frisbee, or climbing on the college’s rock wall. With such a stimulating and educational seminar, these new alumni are prepared with an effective “Intro to the Real World.”