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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Students Explore the Question “Who Will Build the Roads?” and More

At Who Will Build the Roads? And Other Questions About Free Societies, college students from 19 states and 10 countries—some from as far away as Turkey and the Philippines—met to discuss some of the toughest questions asked of supporters of free markets and free societies.

This seminar was designed to open students’ minds to the imagination and creativity that is only possible in a free society. Through lectures, discussions, and activities, we encouraged students to confront serious issues in society and to seek a better way to resolve those issues. We encouraged them to look for peaceful, voluntary solutions to problems that focus on the individuals in society, rather than one-size-fits-all, command-and-control solutions that ignore the individual and fail to solve problems.

Jeff Proctor started the weekend with a discussion of what it means to be a good economist. He later led a lively interactive discussion about whether the economy is too complex for the free market. He also compared ways consumers are protected in a controlled versus a free economy (hint: a free economy protects consumers better).

Students also learned from Dr. Paul Cwik about free market environmentalism, the importance of choice and competition in education, and how voluntary actions of the market and mutual aid societies can help protect the poor. Dr. Ben Powell took on the controversial issues of open-border immigration and drug legalization, and he defended sweatshops as tools of economic development.

Dr. Sandy Ikeda examined the titular topic of “Who will build the roads?,” broadly discussing public goods in a free society. He bookended the seminar with two inspiring lectures, the first of which laid out what a free society is and its importance, and the concluding lecture which showed a path to achieve that free society.

The topics of this seminar were diverse and complex. We were only able to scratch the surface on the individual issues; however, the culmination of these lectures gave the students a framework to understand and change the world. Individuals act in a free society to create spontaneous orders that result in things as simple as pencils or as complex as social institutions and communities. Understanding these actions provides a lens with which to shape the world into the kind it could and ought to be.