All Commentary
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Strategic Notes from FEE—Reaching New Audiences

April 2014

If we want to grow as a community of freedom-loving people, we need to reach out to people who don’t already share our world-view.  We need to resist the natural temptation to speak in ways that appeal primarily to people like ourselves.

FEE’s seminars are designed for young people who’ve heard little, if anything, about our ideas.  Such students are not hard to find, given the state of education and the media today, but what motivates any of them to give us a listen?

To attract these newcomers, we speak to what they’re emotionally invested in, wherever they’ve gotten to on their own personal journeys.  By definition, they’re not emotionally invested in free-market economics!

Our seminar line-up this summer speaks to themes that resonate with a broad spectrum of thoughtful young people, such as success in the “real world,” economic development, and questions of justice and fairness.  We discuss with them how the principles of freedom apply to these common concerns.

We reach beyond the usual “econ” and “poli sci” majors, because the physical sciences are often home to future entrepreneurs and the humanities to future shapers of popular culture.  We offer programs where students discover how free markets reward creativity and foster innovation in science and the arts.

In short, we exploit the fact that FEE’s “freedom philosophy” isn’t dry-as-dust economics, full of mechanistic models.  At its heart, it’s a philosophy of life, society and culture, of how people flourish.

Within the freedom-loving community, we don’t just take ideas seriously, we take them personally.  If our students can feel a connection between the ideas on liberty that we cherish so deeply and the ideas that THEY take personally, then the FEE seminar can be a truly life-changing experience for them.

As we always have, we teach “the economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society.”  Regardless of its title and its theme, every FEE seminar will address free-market economics, the ethics of capitalism, and principles of law and public choice.

However, we don’t assume that our students arrive on our doorstep eager to study the works of Frederick Hayek.  Instead, we focus on helping our students to take a fresh look at the world they’re passionate about, through the lens of free-market principles.  THEN they can’t get enough of Hayek.  They ask us, “Why hasn’t anyone ever told me this before?”  Music to our ears.


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