All Commentary
Monday, June 16, 2014

FEE Kicks Off Summer with “People Aren’t Pawns” Seminar in Austin

To kick off FEE’s Summer Seminar series, more than 60 students traveled from all over the world to St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, for “People Aren’t Pawns: Understanding the Economics of Human Behavior.” 

The seminar served as an introduction to the Austrian perspective of economic theory, and participating students and speakers discussed applications of human action in society, such as entrepreneurship, philosophy, politics, and the arts.

Freeman columnist and economics professor Sandy Ikeda helped mold a foundation of Austrian economic thinking for the lectures and discussions to come. As the seminar continued, Paul Cwik, professor of economics and finance at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, helped build upon the ideas from the previous lecture with his talk, “Austrian Foundations.” In possibly the most memorable moment in the entire seminar, Cwik compared a college student's drinking of Mountain Dew to pull an all-nighter and the student’s subsequent crash with economic stimulus and market crashes.

Ivan Pongracic of Hillsdale College took a different, yet complementary, perspective with his talk, “The Fatal Conceit of the Socialist Mindset.” Pongracic went on the offensive against socialist economics and the economic horrors that are nearly guaranteed in a planned economy, drawing on examples from his childhood where he waited in line for hours to receive his family’s bread ration.

Introducing the idea of spontaneous order, Malavika Nair of Troy University used bitcoin as her primary example of how disruption in markets can revolutionize the way we perceive innovations. She also discussed “The Entrepreneur in a Free Market,” perhaps the most applicable lecture of the seminar. 

Once all of the lectures concluded, the students broke into groups for the “Find a Better Way” activity. Each group addressed a societal problem that is typically solved by government. The students discussed creative solutions to these problems and then presented them to everyone.

To wrap up the seminar, Cwik and Snehal Shingavi, assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, engaged in the first of FEE’s The Arena K.O. debates: “Is the War on Poverty a Failure?”

Many students were introduced to economic thinking for the first time, and all were able to enjoy engaging with fellow participants from across the globe in order to make friends and discuss the ideas behind a free society.