FEE’s fourth student seminar of the summer took place in beautiful Orange, CA at Chapman University. The seminar included over 65 college students and young professionals learning about the origins of power and influence and how free markets place the power and influence back in the hands of the individual. Students were given the privilege of hearing from Dr. Dan D’Amico of Brown University, Dr. Abigail Blanco of the University of Tampa, and Dr. Jason Brennan of Georgetown University. All three faculty added unique perspectives that helped cement the importance of free markets in the minds of the students.
Students realized that money is freedom and allows whoever owns it to change and influence the market.Dr. Jason Brennan began the seminar by questioning the source of power. He explained that money is freedom and allows whoever owns it to change and influence the market. Dr. Brennan made the students question who should hold power and over what should they hold that power. His lecture caused students to rethink power structures that they take for granted and apply a critical eye to their governments.
The next morning, Dr. D’Amico explained the concept of the Economist’s Toolbox. Disproving the myth that economically successful countries have achieved wealth through predation on the resources of poor countries, D’Amico explained that productivity and free trade can make countries lacking in resources just as wealthy through productivity. Economic actors from single individuals to massive corporations all act in accordance with self interest; they will only make choices in which the benefits outweigh the costs. It is the job of economists to decipher the seen and unseen benefits and costs in the market.
Dr. Abby Blanco introduced the students to the idea of governance without government, or anarchy. “It’s probably different than what you think of when you hear the word anarchy” Dr. Blanco said, explaining that there can be rules in society without laws. Economic principles like spontaneous order tend to arise within anarchical systems and private companies are better at handling public goods than governments are (answering the age old question of: who will build the roads?).
In a room filled with potential future leaders, Dr. Dan D’Amico lectured on how achieving change through economic means can have a more significant difference than through political means. Cooperation benefits individuals more than defecting, Dr. D’Amico posited, it is only through cooperation that we have advanced as a society. He informed the students that there is an empirical correlation between countries with greater economic freedom and those with wealth. Through entrepreneurship, individuals can add to and change society the most effectively.
Guest speaker, Dr. Randy Simmons led the next talk about local government politics. A former mayor, Dr. Simmons shared his personal experience about affecting change at the city level. He found that private arbitration is a much more effective solution to solving problems than public law. The unintended consequences that accompany public law make it the worse option for resolving disputes. There is no need to involve government in neighborhood or even city disputes and it muddies the waters instead of accomplishing the intended goals.
The room was full of potential future leaders.To conclude day two, Dr. Brennan discussed the issue of greed and asked, “How Much is Too Much?” He demonstrated that socialism can never function, let alone thrive, on a large scale as there is no one knowledgeable enough to facilitate and enforce it. Without the incentives of the free market there cannot be a healthy economy. Dr. Brennan also showed students how, even in a utopian society, capitalism is still the best system. Capitalism provides a lean economy that increases productivity while eliminating waste which allows for knowledge progression, not so for socialism.
Dr. Abby Blanco began the final day of the seminar by talking about interest groups and the classic “Bootleggers and Baptists” example. She added a unique element to this example by discussing drones and their role in foreign affairs. Lobbyists and interest groups have created government contracts to drone companies when in fact drone strikes can be more dangerous, more costly, and more difficult than regular “boots on the ground” military missions.
After lunch, Dr. Dan D’Amico retook the stage to discuss the effects, seen and unseen, of minimum wage. Minimum wage has a wide range of negative effects that only benefit a select group of people. Dr. D’Amico showed students how minimum wage increases prejudice and forces less experienced workers out of a job and out of luck for finding another one. Wage increases shouldn’t arise out of law but rather out of increased productivity.
Dr. Blanco then gave a short presentation discussing the multitude of ways students could positively affect change in society through entrepreneurship. The length of her talk allowed the students to continue the dialogue and ask questions of Dr. Blanco about entrepreneurship.
Students continued the dialogue started by their teachers.To close the seminar, Dr. Jason Brennan discussed the virtues of markets, showing students how free markets promote general welfare. Communist and socialist regimes around the world have led to millions of deaths and poverty for millions more. Through capitalism and free market systems general health has risen, average lifespan has risen, infant mortality has declined, GDP has risen. Contrary to popular argument, capitalism, not socialism, is the compassionate economic system.
Through these lectures, daily discussion groups, shared meals and social events students were fully immersed in information about the benefits of free trade and individual liberty. Students left the seminar with a greater understanding and appreciation for what capitalism, and the ideas that it promotes, can accomplish in our world and how true power and influence arise from liberty.