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Friday, August 5, 2016

Great Discussions in Grand Rapids

FEE’s summer seminar series concluded with a final high school seminar in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

FEE’s summer seminar series concluded with a final high school seminar in Grand Rapids, MI. The nearly 70 student attendees arrived to a clear blue sky and the beautiful green campus of Calvin College on July 26th to hear about the Economics of Entrepreneurship. The seminar included lectures from Dr. Anne Bradley, Dr. Art Carden, and Dr. Colleen Haight, with a special guest lecture from entrepreneur John Chisolm.

Starting with Excitement

Dr. Carden gave the first talk of the seminar, exciting the students with examples of how they could change the world through entrepreneurship. He talked about three different kinds of entrepreneurship: political, business, and religious. His lecture grabbed the students’ attention and made them excited about their potential and the rest of the seminar.

After dinner and break-out discussion groups, the students gathered for an ice cream social outside of the dorms. Students spent even less time making friends than they did getting ice cream.

Motivation for Achievement

The next day began with Dr. Anne Bradley discussing “Why Economic Thinking Matters for Entrepreneurs.” The talk was an insightful foray into the world of economic thinking and introduced the students to ideas that enable them to perceive the world accurately. Dr. Bradley explained that students must not be held back by economic fallacies, but rather use what they learn at the seminars to help them become better entrepreneurs.

Students learned to move beyond economic fallacies.Dr. Colleen Haight helped set the guidelines for entrepreneurs in her talk “Rules of Success.” Dr. Haight showed students the difference between good institutions and bad ones, and formal institutions and informal ones, helping them to understand the different roles corporations, governments, and other organizations play in regard to the entrepreneur. She discussed the importance of a fair and simple rule of law for businesses and individuals and helped explain the implicit knowledge problem to the students.

Next, students got to take part in the Trading Game activity, a fun exercise demonstrating the power of free trade and always a favorite part of the seminar for the students. After the Trading Game and lunch, students gathered back in the seminar space to listen to Dr. Art Carden discuss whether making a profit and being successful are selfish goals. Dr. Carden explained that in order to understand the question we must reevaluate selfishness. Making a profit does benefit oneself, but in order to make a profit, one must benefit others. So while it may be perceived as selfish, creating value through entrepreneurship benefits everyone.

Dr. Anne Bradley followed by discussing “Cooperation, Compassion, and Heart” and how through capitalism and entrepreneurship her child was able to survive being born prematurely. Without capitalism the kind of technology and science we take for granted would never have existed and it is through these advancements that infant mortality has plummeted and average lifespans have increased. Dr. Bradley argued that people try and paint capitalism as greedy and harmful but in reality it has benefited the world immensely. She gave an example about McDonald’s, a company many see as harmful has fed millions around the world cheaply and brought entire regions out of starvation due to their mass-produced food.

The afternoon closed with Dr. Haight lecturing on the “Economics of Politics.” Politics doesn’t exist outside of economics, Dr. Haight argued. The government and its actors are motivated by incentives just like everyone else, and we need to evaluate the incentives that are currently in place. She brought up government subsidies and tariffs, and how they are harmful to freedom, but because they benefit politicians, they continue to grow.

In less than 24 hours, students invented a myriad of unique products.After dinner, students began preparing their ideas and presentations for the Shark Tank activity the following morning. You could see the excitement on their faces as they talked about how their item or service could help make a difference, what things would make it attractive to buyers, and what their target demographic might be. The next day students pitched their ideas, from a nerdy dating website to a suitcase that tracks and follows its owner to a backpack that cools you down as you walk, the students had come up with some great and unique products in less than 24 hours.

Ending with Value

Dr. Colleen Haight opened up the morning lectures with her talk on “Obstacles to Entrepreneurial Success.” Dr. Haight talked about incentives against creating businesses such as regulations and government intervention. These actions hold individuals back from creating value. Dr. Haight talked discussed current professionals lobbying for regulations in order to keep out entrepreneurs from taking their business. These practices are predatory but guised under the ruse of safety.

In the afternoon, Dr. Bradley encouraged students to pursue their ideas through entrepreneurship in her lecture “Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur.” She talked about being alert to the marketplace and constantly working to improve it. Dr. Bradley introduced students to economic freedom and how GDP, infant mortality, average lifespan, and several other quality of life indicators are much higher in economically free countries.

Students left with the chance to talk with a successful entrepreneur about their own goals.Guest speaker John Chisholm spoke to the students, encouraging them to think entrepreneurially. Mr. Chisholm founded a web company in the early 2000s and worked hard through several tough years. Due to his efforts, the company began to thrive and grew into a successful business. Since then, Mr. Chisholm has founded a successful investment firm and continues to help entrepreneurs find success in the tech market.

To close the seminar, Dr. Carden spoke on the “Virtues of Entrepreneurship.” He allowed students to talk about what makes them excited and how they should proceed to succeed in those goals. Students talked about what they learned and what they could apply from the seminar into their own life. His lecture was a great end to the seminar as it inspired and excited students to continue to carry on the ideas that they’d heard in their seminar.

This seminar was a great conclusion to FEE’s summer seminar series. The students were engaged, the speakers were powerful, and everyone left the seminar impassioned about the ideas free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

  • Elizabeth Sorby is a 2015 graduate from Kennesaw State University, where she majored in International Affairs, concentrating in International and Diplomatic Service, and minored in Peace Studies.