All Commentary
Monday, February 2, 2015

Strategic Notes from FEE, February 2015

February 2015

Teachers of free market economics, particularly those like FEE who are influenced by the Austrian school, have a major advantage over those who cling to the Keynesian mainstream. Unlike the hocus-pocus that is peddled in the typical college classroom and on The New York Times editorial page, our theories relate to the world as normal people experience it, and our methods are actually useful to people trying to make their way in that world.

As a result, it’s relatively easy to make free market economics interesting to a broad spectrum of young people. As I discussed in a previous strategic note, you show them how the economic way of thinking illuminates their area of interest, and they are eager to see how it applies to the rest of the world. 

Voilà! Economics transforms from abstract academic snore-bait into a way of thinking that’s useful in daily life.

With this in mind, our 2015 seminar line-up, like last year’s, speaks to themes in which Millennials tend to be emotionally invested, such as Economics of Business SuccessEconomics of Technological Innovation, and Economics of Personal Health and Nutrition

To the same end, we select faculty for each seminar that includes not only a mix of professors from economics and related disciplines, but also entrepreneurs and professionals in the area of interest, who can speak to the ways that economic analysis explains their environment and facilitates their success.  These practitioners help our students to “get” what’s so interesting about economics.

Some friends of FEE have asked me, “Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned ‘Intro to Austrian Economics’ that you used to give every summer?”  I have to give away the secret.  Every one of these “themed” seminars is an introduction to the principles of Austrian economics.  Whether the discussion focuses on business enterprises, technology, health, or any other particular topic, each is a context within which students learn to apply basic principles of economic thinking.  For example:

  • Only individuals act, and they do so on the basis of their own subjective valuations.
  • Individuals respond to incentives and opportunity costs.
  • Voluntary trades create value on both sides.
  • The market is not a mechanism that determines prices; it is a process by which relative valuations are discovered as people’s purposes are harmonized, reflecting knowledge not possessed by any single individual or central authority.
  • Profits are the result of value creation.

If that’s not an introduction to Austrian economics, I don’t know what is.

Once students complete an introductory seminar, we invite them to deepen their understanding of Austrian economics and the freedom philosophy more generally through our many partner organizations. Additionally, we offer them and other budding free market leaders the opportunity to become better communicators of our ideas through our innovative “Communicating Liberty” seminars.  We have expanded this program to four college-level seminars this summer, and for the first time, one for high school students.

We’re grateful for your support as we inspire and educate freedom’s next generation with these ideas and connect them to the larger network of advocates for liberty.

  • Wayne Olson is the Chairman of FEE's Board of Trustees and a former executive director of the Foundation for Economic Education.